13 Most Inspiring US Animal Welfare Organizations

Dogs are often considered part of the family. In fact, spending time with dogs - whether as a pet owner, friend of a pet owner, or even a volunteer - has been shown to benefit both physical and psychological well-being. Unfortunately, 2.7 million healthy dogs and cats are euthanized each year because shelters are too full, there aren’t enough adoptive homes for them, or there aren’t enough resources to take care of them. Although animal care and education have come a long way over recent decades, many pet owners find themselves without the financial or physical means to give their pets the care they need and deserve, which typically results in animals being abandoned or surrendered to shelters. Thankfully, there are many shelters that, over the years, have transitioned to the no-kill model where healthy animals are not put down, even when the shelter is full. There are many organizations taking part in this no-kill movement, some of which go above and beyond to keep animals and their families together, provide spay/neuter and veterinary services, even daily essentials for pets such as bowls and food at low or no cost. At the top of their lists of priorities is educating the public to help reduce companion animal overpopulation in their communities. Here are some of those pioneers.


Wags and Walks

Founded in 2011, Wags and Walks aims to break the stigma associating rescue dogs with damaged goods.

Wags and Walks is a  "community of dog lovers" working hard to show that you can find sweet, beautiful dogs off all breeds and sizes through rescue. Discrimination has no place here, as they don't select which dogs they take in based on any of the usual criteria like size, age, breed, or special needs. Similarly, adopters aren't selected based on work schedules, or the size of their home. All pups rescued go through temperament evaluations to assure their individual needs are met and make sure they are paired with the perfect humans. Bi-monthly "Paws & Pajamas" is a heartwarming program that brings kids into the elegant Wags and Walks open adoption center where they each spend time engaging with and reading to a shelter dog. Rooted in community, this organization has many open opportunities for animal lovers to get involved. Whether it be fostering a dog, taking shelter dogs for walks, transporting pups to adoption events, or simply sharing social media posts, Wags and Walks makes it easy for anyone to be a part of their loving family.


Richmond SPCA

Founded over 100 years ago, the Richmond SPCA is its community's first and only full-service, low cost veterinary hopsital.

The Richmond SPCA, not associated with other known SPCAs, operates under their principle that "Every Life is Precious", saving the lives of over 4,000 homeless animals each year primarily by rescuing and transferring them from government kill-facilities  all over the state of Virginia. Dedicated to making sure all families have access to medical treatment for their animals, their Susan M. Markel veterinary hospital offers full-service treatment, at low cost for those in the community with modest and or limited financial means. At the adoption center, you'll find endless resources, all free of charge, such as educational programs for both adults and children, and over 30 reward-based pet training classes per week. One of the most commendable traits of this organization is its special focus on taking in animals who are sick and injured. Here, they are provided with extensive medical treatment and behavioral rehabilitation where needed to ensure they are all adopted into new loving homes.


Animal Friends

Established in 1943, Animal Friends is committed to understanding and accommodating the needs of the underserved and homeless pet-owner population.

One of the main goals of Animal Friends, located in Pittsburgh, PA, is to greatly reduce the number of unwanted and unnecessarily euthanized animals in the community. They also strive to understand more about the needs of struggling pet owners, and how they can best assist the pet-owning homeless population. Focusing especially on underserved community members, Animal Friends offers affordable health care services and many resources such as training classes, pet therapy, pet loss support, and veteran services at low or no cost. Also offered are many classes for kids of all ages. From basic dog safety, to veterinary career lectures, Animal Friends has you covered, and even offers a variety of opportunities for scouts to earn badges. One of the most impressive things about this organization is their Humane Investigations Team which is staffed Monday through Friday and receives and investigates hundreds of animal cruelty complaints each year.



Launched in 1987, Red Rover has come to be an emergency safety-net for animals and pet owners in crisis.

The slogan at RedRover is "Bringing Animals and Their People From Crisis to Care", and that is precisely what they are doing. Regarded as an emergency safety net for animals, RedRover provides emergency shelter assistance for animals who have been displaced by natural disasters, rescued from puppy mills and hoarding situations, or are escaping domestic violence. Their focus is helping to provide financial and emotional support for pet guardians who are struggling with economic adversity through grants and numerous resources accessible on site and online. The Urgent Care Relief Grant program helps to fill financial gaps for animals who need urgent and emergency veterinary care , while Domestic Violence Safe Escape Grants aim to provide survivors of domestic violence support to get themselves and their pets out of harm's way. Since people often will not leave an abusive situation if they know they will have to leave an animal behind, RedRover’s Safe Housing grants offer multiple solutions to support domestic violence shelters aiding families in escaping with their animals.


Quincy Animal Shelter

The Quincy Animal Shelter values the importance of pets in the community and society, and strives to be a leader in community resources for animal welfare.

The Quincy Animal Shelter, in Quincy, MA, is committed to providing safety, shelter, and adoption to homeless and abandoned animals. Their main goal is to make sure each animal is adopted into the best fitting and loving, lifelong home, and to promote humane care and treatment of all creatures. Every animal that is taken in is examined by a veterinarian, vaccinated, and micro-chipped before they are made available for adoption. One of the most special things about the Quincy Animal Shelter is their Hospice Care program which, similar to foster programs, places animals nearing the end of their lives (therefore not ideal candidates for adoption) into loving homes to live out their days. Plans for the future include an annual public micro-chip clinic, public pet First Aid classes, and a pet "food pantry" for low income community members.



Founded in 1903, Bidawee holds the strong belief that companion animals are remarkable, contributing family and community members and should be given the best quality of life possible.

At Bideawee, the belief is that it is their primary responsibility to help every pet parent be the most caring and knowledgeable version of themselves possible. One of America's first no-kill shelters, the mission here is to be Greater New York's leader in rescuing and placing animals in need with loving forever families. Matchmakers at Bideawee take time to get to know potential adopters so as to make the very best match for their lifestyle and living situation, and all of the animals they have in their care who are ready for adoption can be seen on their website. A couple of the more unique things about Bideawee are the Pet Memorial Parks, and the Young Professionals Committee. In honor of celebrating the relationships between humans and animals in both life and in death, the Pet Memorial Parks, established in 1916, serve as a dignified resting place for over 65,000 pets and companion animals. The Young Professionals Committee is comprised of professionals in their 20s and 30s who host outreach efforts, and fundraising events, and since its inception in 2014, has raised over $35,000 for the cause.


Social Tees

Around since 1991, Social Tees Animal Rescue rehabs and re-homes dogs, cats, birds, and exotic animals.

One of the things that immediately stands out about Social Tees Animal Rescue is that they not only rescue and rehabilitate homeless cats and dogs, but hold space for birds and other exotic animals as well. Located in the East Village of NYC, this organization rescues abandoned animals from kill shelters and provides them with protection and medical care - including spay / neuter procedures, micro-chipping, vaccines, and medical testing, ultimately adopting them in to forever homes. Over 3,000 such animals are rescued, rehabilitated, and placed into homes each year. Also worth mentioning are the special programs Social Tees employs which are specially designed for those animals most difficult to adopt. Underdogs & Undercats is a program through which animals who are sick, injured, and have special needs are placed in loving homes with experienced guardians. The Mutternity Ward takes in and cares for pregnant animals, new mothers, and bottle babies, and GrandPaws specifically cares for and places senior animals who are among the most difficult to adopt.


Dumb Friends League

Started in 1910, the Dumb Friends League emphasizes community partnership, and has become the largest such organization in the Rocky Mountain Region.

Named after the London, England animal welfare group "Our Dumb Friends League", Dumb Friends League was founded over 100 years ago when the term "dumb" was used to describe animals simply because they lack the capacity for human speech. Located in Denver, CO., Dumb Friends League is the largest community-based animal welfare organization in the entire Rocky Mountain Region, and has one of the highest placement rates for homeless pets in the country with numbers in the 18,000s for 2018 alone. Not only does DFL rescue injured, neglected, and sick animals (including horses!) and place them in loving forever homes, but they make a strong effort to reduce overpopulation via mobile spay / neuter services employed in underserved areas of the community. Another standout feature of the DFL is their Behavior Helpline which provides phone consultations, management strategies, and customized plans to help modify pet behavior, and is free to all pet owners, even those who haven't adopted from DFL.


The Pet Fund

Established in 2003, The Pet Fund passionately strives to keep animals with treatable medical conditions out of shelters, and at home where they belong.

The Pet Fund was started as a national non-profit devoted to helping fund veterinary care for those who couldn't afford it. Statistics across the country show staggering numbers of animals being dropped off at shelters or suffering at home because of treatable medical conditions pet owners simply can't afford. Not only does The Pet Fund help with medical costs, they also provide a wealth of resources and helpful hints for getting outside financial assistance. In addition to offering programs to pet owners who need assistance with medical expenses, TPF offers programs for veterinarians who want to provide their clients with funding assistance. The Pet Fund website even has a "Recommended Reading" page full of literature to help pet owners understand their pets and deal with issues such as terminal pet illness and loss.



Founded in 1976, NEADS trains and provides top-notch service dogs to people with hearing impairment and a variety of other disabilities.

A stand-alone on this list is NEADS, training and providing top of the line service dogs nationwide for the hearing impaired, and otherwise disabled. Veterans, children with autism, children with physical limitations, and adults with physical disabilities all benefit from the outstanding dogs who come out of the NEADS program. You can even find NEADS certified service dogs in hospitals and courtrooms. Almost all of the dogs trained as hearing dogs come from animal shelters and rescue groups where dogs who are high-energy and alert are preferred. It was recognized by NEADS long ago that these dogs, who most often wind up in shelters due to pet owners losing patience with them, simply need to channel all of their energy into something productive. Pups who aren't rescued from shelters come from purebred breeders and are labrador retrievers who begin their training at 8 weeks old. One of the coolest facets of NEADS is the Prison PUP Program which places 90-95% of pups in training at 7 correctional facilities throughout New England where puppies live with their inmate handlers.



Started in 1967, Paws safeguards and re-homes homeless dogs and cats as well as orphaned wildlife.

Champions for animals, the people at PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society) are committed to sheltering and adopting abandoned and homeless cats and dogs, rehabilitating orphaned and injured wildlife, and educating people toward recognizing the intrinsic value of all animals. Their passion for animal welfare and can be seen across their website, particularly in the PAWS "Core Organizational Positions on Animal Issues" which addresses and expresses their views and stances on topics such as animal testing and unnecessary euthanization. One of the major stand-outs about this organization is their committment to the preservation of wildlife and wild habitats. The PAWS Wildlife Center, which opened in 1981, has cared for around 130,000 wild animals with the ultimate goal being returning them to the wild as functioning community members. PAWS is also one of two centers in the state to rehabilitate marine mammals. More than 3,000 dogs and cats are cared for and adopted each year, many of whom are picked up as strays. Additionally, the PAWS Rehoming Program takes dogs and cats in from pet owners who are no longer able to keep them, and rescues animals from other shelters.


BARC Shelter

Around since 1987, BARC is an animal safe haven that implements top of the line air sanitizing technology.

The mission at BARC Shelter is simple: to provide a safe space for abandoned animals and to find them loving permanent homes. In the interest of safety, and unique to this organization, BARC Shelter is equipped with PetAirapy - UV air sanitizing technology designed especially for the animal care industry. Installed within the HVAC system, PetAirapy has been tested and proven to kill 99% of airborne pathogens often found in animal environments including Canine Flu, Parvo, Feline Calcivirus, Kennel Cough, and Distemper. Odor control is an added benefit of the PetAirapy system. Online, BARC Shelter offers a bevy of useful links and resources, as well as infographics designed to help the public do the right thing when encountering stray, pregnant, or mother animals. Committed to community engagement, many volunteer opportunities are available for individuals (such as dog-walking), and large groups or corporations which are so popular they must be booked at least a month in advance.


Little Shelter

Established in 1927, Little Shelter is the first animal rescue not located in NYC to be included as part of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC Animals

"Rescue, Nurture, & Adopt". Located on six beautiful wooded acres in Huntington, Long Island, Little Shelter has been caring for homeless and abandoned dogs and cats for over 90 years. It is the first shelter not located in NYC to be a member of the Mayor's Alliance for NYC Animals. One of the major goals at Little Shelter is to end overpopulation which they work toward by rescuing animals from kill shelters, rehabilitating sick animals and those with behavior problems, and their 100% spay/neuter program. Especially commendable at Little Shelter is the A.S.K. Program. A.S.K (for Animal Soup Kitchen) is designed to do as much as possible to keep animals and families together. It is the first program on Long Island to offer free vaccinations, spay/neuter services, medical treatments, and pet food for disabled, sick, impoverished, or elderly pet owners who lack the resources to take proper care of their companions.

If you are looking to adopt a companion, it is important to consider a rescue animal. Not only are there many beautiful animals in shelters who need forever homes, adopting from a shelter will help to make space for another animal in need. If adoption is not an option, there are many ways to support your local shelters such as: donations - these can be in the form of money, dropping off pet supplies, pet food, or blankets, volunteering - taking dogs for walks, spending time with them at the shelter, helping to transport animals to events, hosting fundraisers, or outreach efforts. Even seemingly small efforts like sharing social media posts can make an impact and help to educate the online community about the value of pets and their well-being.