Make the Holidays Sparkle for Dog Charities

Make the Holidays Sparkle for Dog Charities

In this season of giving, take a moment to make a gift on behalf of those who ask nothing of us — our dogs.

Pet stores are agog with holiday swag, but the money you spend on a toy, a treat or a new collar your dog doesn’t really need could save another’s dog’s life or add comfort to a cage in a shelter or a rescue organization.

Setting Your Giving Goals

So many charities. So few dollars.

What inspires you to give to a dog charity? What problem would you like to solve: preventing cruelty, making spaying and neutering more available, rescuing dogs from euthanasia or helping special people — the elderly, wounded veterans or the homeless, for example — enjoy the pleasures of having a dog?

Idea for Sending Your Gift Dollars to the Dogs

Here’s 10 types of dog charities to get you thinking. There’s plenty more to consider.

  1. The rescue organization where you got your dog. For me, that is the Amanda Foundation. Joey was picked up as a stray and taken to the East Valley Animal Shelter. He should have been a good candidate for a quick adoption because he’s small and cute. But he’s shy.  He hung at the back of the cage and turned away from anyone who tried to get his attention. Nobody wants an aloof dog. He was on the “hot the sheet” until the Amanda Foundation saved him. If you have a rescued dog, you probably have a similar story.
  2. Working dog organizations such as Dogs for the Deaf or Guide Dogs of America. Guide Dogs for the Deaf also has programs for people with autism, anxiety or disabilities. Guide Dogs of America trains dogs to assist people who are blind or visually impaired, increasing their mobility and safety.
  3. Service dog organizations such as the Pet Partners, formerly known as the Delta Society.  These dogs work in hospitals, convalescent homes or schools brightening people’s days, making them feel better or calming stress.
  4. Humane societies such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), which is the oldest and largest animal cruelty prevent organization in North America. It has the legal powers to investigate reported abuse and arrest people for crimes against animals. The ASPCA also does community outreach and education, provides health services to animals and holds adoption events. Another option is the Humane Society of the United States, which works to protect pets, wildlife, farm animals or animals in general.  They conduct research into animal abuse and are active in supporting legislation to protect animals.
  5. Organizations that assist special populations and dogs.  The Pets for the Elderly Foundation, Pets of the Homeless or Angel Canines for Wounded Warriors. These are win-win organizations — dogs get homes and seniors, veterans and homeless people get the joys and comforts of having a dog.
  6. Organizations that support spaying and neutering. It’s impossible to estimate the number of homeless animals in America. The organization, Dogs on Death Row, estimates that an unspayed female, her mate and all of their puppies, if none are ever neutered or spayed, can lead to 16 dogs in a year, 512 dogs in three years and 67,000 dogs in six years. Many organizations provide these services or  vouchers for owners to get the services at a discount.
  7.  No kill shelters or organizations that rescue dogs about to be euthanized. Many rescue organizations are involved in this type of work, but a leading example is HALO (Helping Animals Live On). It takes dogs and cats that are about to be euthanized at animal shelters and provides temporary shelter until a permanent home can be found. Another is Dogs on Death Row
  8. Your local Department of Animal Control. Dog owners often turn these organizations into the “bad guys.” If you own a rescue dog, no matter where you directly got the dog, it likely was picked up off the streets by an Animal Control Officer.  I know that Joey was.
  9. The Animal Rescue Site, which sells a wide variety of items in its store and sets aside 3 to 50 percent of the retail price to be given as grants to its charity partners through Its partners are the Fund for Animals and Humane Society of the United States, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Petfinder Foundation and Rescue Bank.
  10. The gift of time — become a volunteer. There are dozens of organizations in your neighborhood that need volunteers to walk or play with rescued animals or help them connect with people seeking to adopt a dog. All it takes is walking and asking to get involved.

Checking the “Sense” of a Dog Charity Before Giving Your Dollars

The hardest part of making an effective gift to a dog charity is not writing the check — it’s doing the research to make sure that the organization has the track record to do what it claims it will.

Basic questions need to be asked:
•    Is the organization a 501(c)3 nonprofit?
•    How long has it been in business?
•    What has it accomplished in the past?
•    How much of each donated dollar goes to the mission of the organization?
•    How much money is spent on administration, fund raising, executive salaries, etc.?

There are a number of organizations to help making giving decisions more effective.  These include:

  • Animal Charities of America lists “high quality national charities working to protect animals.” Its website gives each charity’s name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, website and purpose.
  • Charity Navigator, which bills itself as “your guide to intelligent giving.” They focus on organizations’ financial health and their accountability and transparency with what they do with the donations they receive. It ranks large charities that have existed for at least four years. Its Animals category has nearly 400 entries; its Animal Rights, Welfare and Services section has just over 250 organizations listed.
  • The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance rates charities on their governance, how they spend their money, the truthfulness of what they represent and their willingness to disclose information to the public. Their rankings focus on national organizations.  They offer a Wise Giving Guide as well. The BBB also collects complaints about charities, which can be checked on their website as well.
  • CharityWatch has an A-to-Z list of charities it rates, which are large, national charities.

As Wall Street Journal blogger Carl Bialik points out in “Evaluating the Charity Evaluators,” there are drawbacks to every rating system. If you’re leaning toward giving to smaller, local organizations the agencies above may not be helpful at all.  But checking them out gives you a foundation for asking your own questions.