Published December 21, 2021. Updated April 5, 2023.
Welfare organizations nationwide seek to protect, heal, socialize, and rehome animals in need of a loving home. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, ‘pawsome’ organizations are making a big difference in the lives of animals.
AnimalBiome shares the mission to help ensure these beloved pets have long, healthy, and happy lives. That is why AnimalBiome’s team donates hundreds of thousands of dollars, including our time, research expertise, and products, to dozens of organizations in the Bay Area and several more across the country.
Keep reading to learn about some of the local nonprofit organizations AnimalBiome supports, as well as other Bay Area animal shelter and rescue groups who improve the lives of animals every day. There are many animal welfare organizations that haven’t made this list, so we encourage you to look up your local shelters and rescues to find out how you can get involved.
What Is The Difference Between Shelters and Rescues?
The two terms are often used interchangeably. Here are the differences.
Where An Organization Keeps Their Animals
The term ‘animal shelter’ is technically used to describe any animal welfare organization that has a physical facility where they house animals for adoption. Rescue organizations are foster-based, meaning they may have some space for animals, but a majority of them are being cared for in the homes of volunteers.
City and county animal shelters receive public funds from the local municipality to provide animal care and control services. Rescues are privately owned and operated and often hold a not-for-profit status. All types of animal welfare organizations depend on the generosity of donations and volunteer efforts.
Animal Intake and What “No-Kill” Means
Municipal animal shelters are open admission shelters, meaning no animal will get turned away even if they don’t have enough space. Conversely, rescues can select which animals they take in, the majority of which come from local city and county shelters.
Animal shelters take in all kinds of animals and begin the important work of getting them socialized, while rescues help pets get adopted. Some shelters may need to euthanize animals that are too sick, injured, aggressive, or otherwise un-adoptable, which some people call a “kill shelter”.
Shelters work hard with the assistance of volunteers, humane societies, and rescues to improve live release rates and greatly reduce euthanasia rates.
You Don’t Have to Adopt to Save Lives
Some people think that shelters and rescues are just for pet adoption. But they also can provide lifesaving care, community veterinary hospitals, foster programs, no-cost spay/neuter procedures, education services, advocacy work, and so much more.
Animal rescues rely on community support to operate, which is why it is so important that we all do our part.
Here are easy ways you can support your local group:
- Give a tax-deductible donation
- Donate pet food and supplies
- Pass on your old towels
- Volunteer your time
- Foster animals
- Attend local fundraising events
- Spread awareness
- Adopt your new best friend (our favorite!)
Did you know? Adoption fees rarely cover the full cost of food, shelter, and care that animals need while at an organization.
Bay Area Rescues & Organizations
Muttville believes the human-animal bond is more important than ever in the golden years. They make it easy for senior dogs and senior people to connect. Muttville organizes a Cuddle Club, where senior people who aren’t able to take on the responsibility of becoming a pet parent can still care for older dogs that are waiting to be adopted. Muttville waives adoption fees and provides supplies for anyone over the age of 62 years old who adopts from them.
The San Francisco SPCA, founded in 1868, is one of the oldest rescue organizations in the bay area. Their Vision 2030 program improves animal welfare through advocacy work, prevention-based care, and reduced-cost veterinary services. The SF SPCA is known for their exceptional positive reinforcement dog training, offering numerous classes to the local community.
FDR takes in dogs from municipal shelters to street dogs of Mexico. They invest in the medical and behavioral needs of dogs of all ages, breeds, and abilities to give them the best chance at finding a loving home. They offer many awesome programs, including The Kern Project, which provides free spay, neuter, and vaccination services to low income families in Kern County.
RDR’s impact reaches far and wide with their mobile dog adoptions and numerous monthly outreach events. Their Urban Sanctuary for dogs in Oakland serves many needs of the local community.
Cat Town focuses on older, scared, stressed, sick, or injured cats that are deemed hard-to-adopt and at-risk for euthanasia. Since its start in 2011, Cat Town has found permanent homes for more than 1,800 cats and helped reduce the euthanasia rate at the local municipal shelter, Oakland Animal Services, by more than 70%. You can enjoy the company of some of these adoptable cats and a cup of coffee at Cat Town’s RAWR coffee bar.
The East Bay SPCA helps thousands of animals find homes and is very involved in the local community. They offer many great programs, such as the Seniors 4 Seniors program, where they waive adoption fees for anyone over the age of 62 who adopts an animal that is older than 7 years old.
ICR is known for their trap-neuter-return projects, which has spayed or neutered tens of thousands of “community” cats (i.e. stray or unowned). ICR is a small but mighty force in the local community, with very limited resources and run completely by volunteers. They host regular adoption events in Alameda and are big on community education.
BH has been helping animals for over 90 years, and supports the wellbeing of local animals with low-cost veterinary care services and dog training programs. They are a staple to their community and make it easy to volunteer with them. And they host really fun fundraising events!
MF has an adoption center in Point Richmond and a 283 acre Sanctuary in Mendocino County. This allows MF to take in far more than cats and dogs; the Milo Horse Rescue Program has the capacity to look after all types of farm animals.
The Milo Foundation holds a special place in the heart of AnimalBiome co-founder, Holly Ganz, PhD. Of the 1,400 animals MF finds homes for every year, one of them was her beloved dog, Darwin and they have been inseparable since.
ARF is exceptional at supporting both humans and animals in need. For example, their Pets and Vets program connects veterans with service animals and their Pet Hug Pack brings therapy animals to those in need of succor. If you’re local, make sure to check out their training programs and workshops.
HRS has rescued tens of thousands of rabbits, which often end up in shelters because their care is not as easy as some people thought it would be. HRS is big on bunny activism and education about this very common and adorable pet.
JP works to save as many cat and dog lives as possible by avoiding euthanasia, providing veterinary care for sick and injured animals, and saving cats and dogs from the meat trade. There are plans to build a freeway through their current location in 2025, so they are looking for extra support from the community to weather big changes ahead.
CCHS is best known for their homely, free-roam cat shelter, called Kitty Corner. They offer many services and resources to the community, including their AniMeals program that helps provide supplemental pet food to families in need.
OHS does a great job at connecting residents with animals by running programs in a wide variety of community locations. They are committed to the well being of all animals in the community, including pets and wildlife. The volunteer-run organization is one of the few humane societies to maintain a wildlife rehabilitation center in addition to their companion animal rescue efforts.
Hopalong Animal Rescue is 100% foster-based, and often connects a shelter animal to a home in less than a day. Hopalong plays a big role in emergency relief by providing temporary homes for animals from families and rescues during natural disaster evacuations.
Rancho Compassion is a sanctuary for dozens of rescued farm animals. RC is big on hands-on education, which you experience when you visit their sanctuary. They have also co-founded Leaders for Ethics, Animals, and the Planet (LEAP), a high school agricultural education program designed to prepare future leaders for challenges facing the next generation.
Humane Society of the North Bay provides shelter and compassionate care to local animals in need. They offer programs that improve their lives, aim to strengthen the life long commitment between animals and people, and strive to protect animals from cruelty or neglect.
HSSV takes a lot of pride in being the first Model Shelter in the country. They offer a wide range of services for local residents, such as free spaying and neutering and affordable end of life services.
Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA (San Mateo)
PHS/SPCA, although a privately owned nonprofit, is an open admission shelter that saves thousands of lives each year. In addition to pets, they also accept injured and orphaned native wildlife. Their Hope Program provides specialty care to animals who may be refused at other shelters due to their age, injuries, or medical needs.
Silicon Valley Pet Project (San Jose)
SVPP is a relatively new and fast-growing rescue. The volunteer-run organization helps rehabilitate and rescue animals from the San Jose Animal Care Center, the Tri-City Animal Shelter in Fremont, and the County of Santa Clara Animal Services. In addition to managing a 100% foster-based rescue, they are working on ambitious community outreach efforts.
Bay Area City Shelters
OAS is Oakland’s only open admission shelter and has a nationally-recognized rabbit program. In partnership with Friends of Oakland Animal Services, they saved thousands of animals last year. They offer numerous services to their community, including a free spay/neuter program.
FAAS is a unique public-private partnership that helps manage the intake at the City of Alameda Animal Shelter. For seven consecutive years, they are recognized as the community’s Best Nonprofit Group by the Alameda Magazine. In addition to innovative programs and community partnerships, they provide helpful resources to the community, such as their I Found Kittens! Now What? page.
SFACC is San Francisco’s only open admission shelter, taking in over 10,000 animals every year. Despite the extremely high volume of animals coming in, SFACC has an impressive live release rate. This is largely in part of the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and dozens of partnering organizations.
CCAS is an open admission shelter in Contra Costa County provides invaluable animal services to the community. They take in animals from guinea pigs to horses on their two-acre shelter complex, complete with a six-stall barn and open corral area.
SJACC is Silicon Valley’s largest municipal animal shelter. Completed in 2004, their center provides field services, shelter, and medical care for animals in need from San Jose, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Milpitas, and Saratoga.
The Berkeley Animal Shelter is an open admission shelter that takes on the unique challenges of their community. They help with stray population control by offering free or low-cost spay/neuter vouchers for Berkeley residents’ dogs and cats. They also board pets belonging to the unhoused people from Berkeley, Albany, Piedmont, and Emeryville.
Not in the Bay Area?
That’s OK! Rescues and shelters are great at catering to the needs of their local community. Look up your local animal welfare organization(s) to see what they do and how you can help them. Chances are they are in need of funding, supplies and volunteers!
Online Adoption Services
Online adoption services have revolutionized the way people find and adopt their new furry friends. Adoption websites like PetFinder.com and AdoptaPet.com work with local rescues and shelters to connect people with a large number of animals that are in need of loving homes.
Adoption websites provide potential pet parents with filters to search based upon their preferences. Additionally, many offer resources and information on pet care and training, to ensure that adopters are well-prepared to welcome their new companion into the family.
Easy Ways To Support Animals In Need
There are many animals who don’t have access to some of the amazing resources we mentioned above, but you can still help out animals in need all over the country through Waggle.org.
You can also support any non profit organization by using GoodSearch, GoodShop, or Smile.Amazon.com with your regular online activities and shopping. It won’t cost you anything, you give back, and you may even get a discount!