How to Build an Animal Shelter

by Cayden Conor

Building an animal shelter takes extensive planning and fundraising. Even if you have personal funds to donate to the shelter, it still takes extensive planning, because everything must be in place before you can open for business. Part of the plan includes determining what type of animals you want to help--whether it is only dogs, only cats or a variety of animals. If you choose to help a variety of animals, including exotics, you must review local and federal laws. Some states have bans on animals, such as ferrets and snakes.

Create a business plan for the shelter. The business plan should include how you plan to raise funds, whether through fundraising or coupling the shelter with a retail outlet, and adoption fees. The business plan, in addition to standard items in a business plan, should also include how many animals you can house at one time and how you will feed and care for the animals (i.e. fundraising, private funds).

Register the business as a nonprofit incorporation with your state. Obtain all licenses and permits that may be required for your state (in addition to typical business permits and licenses). Apply for a 501(c)3 exemption from the Internal Revenue Service.

Purchase property for the shelter. Check local zoning regulations for the type of property before you purchase. Depending on local laws, you may need to purchase property that is zoned agricultural or commercial intensive.

Build an office building. The office building should contain a customer service area, bathrooms, a break room for employees and volunteers, a "meet and greet" room where adopters can interact with the animals, and a set of kennels to hold animals while they are waiting to be met.

Build kennels and housing for the animals. Dogs need large kennels. The kennels should be large enough for the dog to move around in--no less than 3 feet by 8 feet. Kennels should also have a dog house built into the back of the kennel, unless the kennels are located inside. If you are going to be working with exotics, build animal-specific housing. Ferrets should have their own habitat and should be kept separate from snakes and birds. Birds need their own cages--one bird per cage.

Purchase food storage, including refrigerators, freezers and plastic storage bins. Purchase food and water bowls for each kennel or cage. Purchase blankets, pillows and toys for the animals. Even if the animals are staying short-term in the shelter, all animals need something to play with, and interact with, since human interaction is most likely minimal.

Find volunteers to help care for the animals. If your shelter is going to have a training facility, hire a paid trainer or find a volunteer. Research veterinarians. If you are working with exotics, make sure at least one of the vets is certified in that area (i.e. an avian certified veterinarian if you will be working with exotic birds).

About the Author

Cayden Conor has been writing since 1996. She has been published on several websites and in the winter 1996 issue of "QECE." Conor specializes in home and garden, dogs, legal, automotive and business subjects, with years of hands-on experience in these areas. She has an Associate of Science (paralegal) from Manchester Community College and studied computer science, criminology and education at University of Tampa.

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