The Humane Society of the United States

Shelters and Rescues: Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to some common questions about The HSUS, animal shelters and rescue groups.

  • The HSUS doesn't operate shelters or rescue groups, but we do work with them and offer many services, including operational assistance, training and legislative resources. iStockphoto

How does The HSUS help local animal shelters and rescue groups?

The HSUS, a national animal advocacy organization, complements the work of local groups by focusing on national-level issues like ending the puppy mill industry, strengthening cruelty laws and eliminating large-scale animal abuses. We also run programs and spearhead campaigns designed to ease the burden on local sheltering groups. For example, Animal Care EXPO and Animal Sheltering magazine provide superior educational and training opportunities, while Pets for Life keeps pets with their families and reduces the number of homeless animals. The Shelter Pet Project, a national media campaign that The HSUS runs in partnership with the Ad Council and Maddie’s Fund, encourages people to adopt from shelters and rescues. And The HSUS provides rescue groups with training opportunities and important resources through Rescue Central.

Finally, although The HSUS does not run or oversee local animal shelters or rescues, we do operate rescue teams, community-based programs and five wildlife sanctuaries and care centers that directly assist tens of thousands of animals each year. 

Looking for our resources for shelter and rescue staff and volunteers?

As a national animal advocacy organization, The HSUS doesn’t operate or oversee local shelters or rescue groups. We are neither a parent or chapter organization for any group, nor an inspection agency. Each shelter and rescue group is an independent organization governed by its own board of directors or local officials, and each group sets its own policies and rules. If you have a complaint about a local group, bring your concern directly to the person in charge of that organization, since they are in the best position to understand the issue and make change. If that doesn’t resolve the matter, visit Concerned About Your Local Shelter? to learn how to address concerns about your local shelter or rescue in a positive, productive manner.

Thank you for wanting to adopt a new pet! As a national animal advocacy organization, The HSUS does not operate local shelters nor have pets available for adoption. However, we do collaborate with Maddie’s Fund and the Ad Council on The Shelter Pet Project, helping to ensure that all healthy and adoptable pets find loving homes. Visit to find your new family member, and see Adopting from an Animal Shelter or Rescue Group for more advice.

Thank you for your interest in volunteering! Because The HSUS isn't affiliated with your local shelter or animal welfare agency, we can't give you specific information about opportunities there, but we can help you connect with them.

To see a list of current volunteer opportunities with The HSUS, please visit Volunteer or Intern with The HSUS.

We are so sorry to hear that you are struggling to keep your pet. We know it's a hard situation! While we do not operate local shelters, we have resources that may help you keep your companion at home.

Money issues
• Are You Having Trouble Affording Your Pet? »
• Having Trouble Affording Veterinary Care? »

Behavior issues
•  If you are having difficulty with your cat's behavior (scratching, litterbox issues, etc.), visit our Cat Answer Tool »
•  If you are having difficulty with your dog's behavior, try out our dog behavior tip sheets »

If you have no option but to rehome your pet, you'll find helpful information here: Finding a Responsible Home for Your Pet »

The HSUS has long been committed to achieving an end to the euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals (Setting Aside Semantics: Not Killing Pets Must Be Our Goal) and believes that it is vital for shelters, rescue groups, TNR groups, community leaders, and citizens to work together toward that goal. Through efforts like Animal Care EXPOAnimal Sheltering magazine and The Shelter Pet Project, The HSUS works ceaselessly to help shelters reduce the need for euthanasia, all while striving to identify and address the root causes of pet homelessness through our puppy mill workPets for Life and other initiatives. 

The HSUS is actively working to end the use of gas chambers in shelters across the country. For the latest updates and information about our progress, please visit

Thank you for wanting to help animals in your community! Before embarking on this effort, please take a moment to consider what the animals in your community need most. What will have the greatest impact, a shelter or efforts focused on preventing pet homelessness in the first place? We encourage you to review the Pets for Life Toolkit to learn how to assess the needs of your community, and to best determine where there are voids to be filled. If you determine that a shelter or rescue group is most needed, see the Association of Shelter Veterinarian’s Guidelines for Standards of Care to learn about basic standards for humane shelter operations, and visit Rescue Central for information on starting and operating an effective, humane rescue group.

If you have a question about The HSUS's programs for shelters or rescue groups, please email us at Please understand we receive a very high volume of public inquiries, and while we read all emails submitted, we may not be able to respond if the question has been addressed on this page or if it involves a complaint about a local shelter or rescue organization.

Where can I lodge a complaint about a local shelter or rescue group?

Where can I adopt a pet?

How can I volunteer to help animals? 

I need to find a new home for my pet. Where can I turn?

What is The HSUS position on "no kill" shelters?

What is The HSUS position on use of the gas chamber for euthanasia in animal shelters?

How can I start my own animal shelter or rescue group?

I have a question not answered here

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