They usually get their money from donations both from private individuals and from corporations. Some facilities also get money from the county and other government agencies because the shelters are in charge of animal control.
Many animal shelters are desparately in need of funding. They often have just volunteers or students for staff and receive much of their funding from private donations. They may hold annual fundraisers or have a list of people who regularly give.
You can help out your local animals shelter by donating money or food for the animals. If you purchase a bag of dog or cat food you can drop it off at the shelter. They often have a list on their website or at the office of other things they could use, like bedding for rabbits, toys, and medicines.
Most animal shelters charge a small fee for animal adoption. The fee helps fund the shelter and makes sure the person adopting the animal is really serious about being a responsible pet owner. If someone is not willing to spend the $150 or so is costs to adopt a dog, they are probably not willing to spend much time or money taking care of the dog after it is adopted.
Animal shelters can apply for funding via grants. As greenjellybean said, these grants can come from the county the shelter is located in or other government sources.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) also notes various funding and discount options available for shelters. These include:
Although it may seem like there are a number of options available, like natricine3 said, shelters really are in desperate need of funding. The medical procedures that they perform on all of the animals that come their doors are astronomical, not to mention just the basic upkeep of the shelter including the food, toys, support staff, etc.
If you’re looking for funding, check out the citation included at the bottom of the page as there are a number of grant options that I didn’t list above (along w/ their contact information and requirements).
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