Myth: Animal rescues are licensed and regulated at a national level
Animal rescue groups do a lot of advertising to help promote their rescue animals and to raise funding through donations and fundraisers. There must be a government agency at the state or national level that is regulating these organizations and licensing them so you can ensure your donations are being properly utilized, right? Unfortunately not. There is no national entity focused on animal rescue licensing and there are many loopholes that you need to be aware of when choosing who to work with.
Partially true: Animal rescues are licensed
City, state and federal government agencies keep tabs on businesses through regulations and licensing. For example, many people know that you need to be licensed as a business to serve food or alcohol, but they may be unaware that you also need to be licensed to provide services like accounting or even massage in most cities. Animal rescue is a service (albeit a non-profit one) but it is not a safe assumption that animal rescue organizations are licensed in the same way.
The reason we say that animal rescues are licensed is partially true is that there is a wide variety between states in the U.S. as to the requirements for licensing. Here’s just a couple of examples:
An animal welfare organization needs to obtain a license if they adopt out more than 25 dogs within a calendar year. However if they stay below that limit (@2 adoptions per month) then they can avoid the need to be licensed.
They require a license for: “A municipality that operates a housing facility for the impoundment and care of dogs, cats, and other specific animals…” But if the organization is foster based they do not have to be licensed.
The Michigan State University Law School has a great overview page on animal law across the country that is worth reading. You can check it out here: https://www.animallaw.info/article/detailed-discussion-laws-regulating-rescue-and-foster-care-programs-companion-animals
The majority of the states do not even have a definition in their laws for foster based organizations. Managing rescued animals in foster homes is how the majority of animal rescue groups operate so they usually fall through the cracks. At last check only Nebraska and Virginia had any definition for foster care and rescue organizations in their laws or regulations. It is important to note, however, that there may be other laws that cover animal care facilities so we always recommend checking with your attorney to be sure.
Fact: The Animal Rescue Professionals Association has the only national organization rating system.
We covered the discussion previously that relying on a 501(c)(3) designation from an animal rescue organization does not ensure they are reputable or operating transparently. The lack of a state or national rating system for foster based animal rescue organizations was the reason that the ARPA established our rating system.
Every organization that applies for an ARPA rating has their information researched and validated so that you can rely on it. Our focus with the rating system is to provide the transparency on how the animal rescue operates. We do not license animal rescues nor do we recommend relying solely on our rating scale. We consider an ARPA rating to be one element of the research required to determine if you are dealing with a reputable animal rescue organization.
Do you operate your organization transparently?