What are Several Types of Animal Charities & Why are They Important?

Animal charity, as broadly used in the colloquial sense, encompasses many different kinds of nature-focused nonprofit organizations.  Many of the largest are considered by some to be the best animal charities, existing to protect and conserve the natural beauty of our planet, while advocating on behalf of organisms that cannot defend themselves. They protect natural habitats in which these animals live. Typically funded through a combination of grants, corporate partnerships, and private donations, animal charities convert financial contributions into initiatives that protect animals, plants, and nature. 

Animal charities come in many different forms — from general organizations like pet charities that protect domestic animals to more specific organizations like horse charities that protect a particular species. Some animal charities focus on welfare and treatment standards that benefit multiple types of animals. Other animal charities focus on environments and habitats, attempting to conserve the natural ecosystems that are crucial to the survival of wildlife. Certain animal charities may even have the reach and influence needed to satisfy several of these goals at the same time. 

Despite these numerous variations, animal charities generally feature similar principles and goals. In precise terms, animal charities strive to minimize the impact of human behavior on the natural inhabitants of Planet Earth. Animal- and nature-focused nonprofits often fall into one of three categories — Wildlife Conservation, Animal Welfare, or Zoos and Aquariums.  

Baby sea turtles represent one species at its most vulnerable.
Freshly hatched turtle on the way across beach into sea. Ras Al Jinz, Sultanate of Oman.

Wildlife Conservation

Wildlife conservation refers to the practice of safeguarding natural habitats to ensure the continued survival of their plant and animal residents, including insects. As natural environments continue to dwindle worldwide, it is increasingly necessary to engage in these efforts of animal conservation and wildlife protection. Otherwise, future generations will not be able to experience the full extent of our planet’s natural beauty. 

 

An example of such a conservation charity is the Sand County Foundation. For more than 50 years, this foundation has leveraged ethics, incentives, and science to foster private land conservation by private landowners. By promoting the ethical management of natural resources, the Sand County Foundation makes it possible to advance business and environmental interests at the same time. A second example is the Hawaii Forest Institute, which is a leader in forest and animal conservation in Hawaii. 

 

Although each conservation organization is different, many of the best wildlife charities focus on similar goals to protect the natural environment. They generally take care to address Threats to Wildlife, Species and Habitat Conservation, and Conservation Genetics. 

Threats to Wildlife

In the modern, industrialized world, there are countless threats to animal and wildlife survival. The following categories represent some of the major threats to wildlife on our planet today. 

  • Habitat Destruction occurs when a natural habitat becomes degraded in its ability to  support native animal and plant species, insects included. Typically, habitat destruction occurs when humans attempt to harvest or extract natural resources for commercial gain or urban expansion. At the far end of this spectrum is wholesale habitat destruction, as with mountain-top-removal coal mining, which destroys both mountain tops and the valleys below them. Remember “pave paradise, put up a parking lot”?
  • Habitat Fragmentation occurs when there is disruption to a natural environment. This makes it difficult for native species to survive because they can no longer move freely within their entire range. This would be like a house in which it’s no longer possible to go from the kitchen to the living room to the bathroom to the bedroom. Each element might continue to exist, but no longer in a way that supports the wellbeing of its residents. Habitat fragmentation can result from both human and natural causes: from manmade geographical changes, such as building a major roadway, to environmental changes, such as a river drying up because of climate induced drought. Add to the mix drop in water tables from over_pumping of fossil water reserves. . 
  • Overexploitation occurs when humans harvest animals or plants too quickly, which prevents species from naturally recovering properly. Commonly, this practice affects fish and other marine life, and our forests, as commercial demand often outpaces the recovery rate of these species. (see Sea of Slaughter, by Farley Mowat)
  • Poaching is  the illegal harvesting, hunting and killing of protected plants and animals. This practice has a severe impact on endangered species with economic value, such as the tusks and horns of elephants or rhinos. In this case, the economic value is the very significant one of tourist revenue. However, Economic Value is more often associated with species of animals, fish, birds, and plants that are sold on the open market. Broadening the discussion, we might consider animal welfare organizations that organize, and so they definitely approve of, herd culling. That is the intentional hunting for sport of big game species, the revenue from which is then used to do conservation for the benefit of many more of those species’ individuals.
  • Pollution — This occurs when humans release manmade materials, some of which may not even yet be recognized as pollutants, into the environment with  grave impact on animals (including us) and wildlife. From airborne to waterborne, various pollutants have degraded or destroyed natural habitats across the globe. 

Species & Habitat Conservation

In order to combat threats to animal and wildlife survival, it is vital to engage in species and habitat conservation. These two approaches protect nature in different ways, but each can be extremely valuable for animal and plant species as well as their natural habitats. 

  • Species Conservation  refers to the practice of singling out and protecting specific species that are threatened or endangered. By placing these species on endangered lists or creating protected sanctuaries to foster their continued existence, it may be possible to stave off potential extinction.
  • Habitat Conservation  refers to the practice of protecting an entire natural habitat, rather than a particular species. By focusing on the preservation of an entire habitat, it is possible to protect most, if not all, of the species within that habitat. 

Conservation Genetics

Genetic diversity is crucial to the long-term survival of animal and wildlife species. When an animal or wildlife population has a low diversity of genes, there is an increased risk of potential extinction. This is because species with high levels of genetic diversity are better equipped to evolve and adapt to changing environments. 

The practice of conservation genetics aims to address this risk by preserving and restoring genetic diversity in various species. Using a multitude of techniques, it is possible to increase the genetic diversity of many species, helping to ensure their continued survival. 

Domestic animals deserve humane treatment
Abandoned dogs in a cage

Animal Welfare

Animal welfare organizations recognize the sentience of nonhuman animals, accepting that they have the ability to feel and perceive emotions. Accordingly, these organizations advocate for the ethical treatment of animals, ensuring that all creatures receive humane treatment, respect, and dignity. Anything less would qualify as abusive treatment in the eyes of animal welfare organizations and their supporters. 

An example of an animal protection society is PAWS Chicago. Since 1997, this organization has fought tirelessly to transform animal welfare standards. By advocating against the needless killing of domestic animals, PAWS Chicago stands up for the life and dignity of domestic animals. This organization also works to end the overpopulation of homeless animals through a variety of policy, practice, and education endeavors. 

Even though each animal rights organization is unique, many share and promote  the same values, including Welfare Standards, Animal Rights, and concern for humane Breeding and  Overpopulation prevention. 

Welfare Standards

The promotion of universally accepted animal welfare standards is a central aspect of many animal rights organizations. Although there is often disagreement as to the relative importance of certain standards, the categories below represent commonly held beliefs for the ethical treatment of animals. 

  • Animal Care — Humans should provide animals in their care with adequate food, water, medical treatment, and a safe environment.
  • Respect & Dignity — Humans should treat animals with respect and dignity, minimizing any potential distress, pain, or hardship. 
  • Responsible Use — When humans use animals for recreational, nutritional, or other purposes, it should occur in an ethical and humane fashion. 
  • Scientific Knowledge — Decisions concerning animal care and treatment should have the backing of scientific research and professional evaluation. 
  • Continuous Evaluation — Humans should continuously evaluate the rules and regulations relating to housing, management, care, and use, adjusting those standards as necessary to safeguard and promote animal welfare. 
  • Animal Conservation — When attempting to conserve animal populations, humans should do so in an ethical, responsible, and prudent manner. 

Animal Rights

Animal rights embodies the idea that nonhuman creatures are entitled to many of the same rights as their human counterparts. More specifically, animals have the right to basic necessities, including food and water, shelter, and freedom from pain or suffering. Several of the leading animal rights philosophies are summarized below. 

  • Utilitarianism — This philosophy argues that humans and animals should receive equal consideration, as neither would normally elect to go through pain or suffering. 
  • Subject-of-a-Life — This ideology maintains that certain animal species have emotional  abilities similar to humans and should receive the same treatment and consideration.
  • Abolitionism — This doctrine posits that animals need to have freedom from human ownership to satisfy moral and ethical standards. 

Breeding & Overpopulation

Inhumane breeding and overpopulation of certain species with economic value, including nutritional and recreational value, are a serious threat to animal welfare. Problems arise due to human demand for these animals – demand that is impossible to satisfy through natural reproduction or humane breeding. 

A puppy mill is an  example of these problems. Such breeding facilities are commercial enterprises that prioritize profit maximization over the ethical treatment of animals. In order to satisfy human desire for certain breeds or cross-breeds of dogs, puppy mills often disregard animal welfare standards. 

Zoos and aquariums are important beyond the enjoyment they bring to people.
Cute young boy watches fishes in aquarium

Zoos & Aquariums

Zoos and aquariums are organizations to maintain protected environments for various species of animals and aquatic wildlife. These organizations play a crucial role in the conservation and protection of these species. Although certain zoos and aquariums have a bad reputation for mistreating animals, most subscribe to high standards for animal welfare.  Such institutions also advance education and research to assist in safeguarding species from extinction. 

While not involved with what we think of as wild animals, the Critter Barn is in the business of educating people around the issues of farm animals. Since 1984, this organization has developed awareness of sustainable farming and agricultural practices. Maintaining and nurturing a diverse family of farm animals, the Critter Barn enables visitors to engage in interactive learning experiences. This type of hands-on approach enables the Critter Barn to show visitors the wonder of animals and agriculture. 

Despite the fact that zoos and aquariums are separate and distinct entities, many endeavor to achieve the same goals, including Protection, Research, and Education.

Protection

Given the many survival challenges that land and marine wildlife face in the modern world, it’s no wonder there are so  many “threatened” and “endangered” species. And research suggests there are countless others on the brink of extinction, whose global range might be only a hectare in size. Consequently, protection and conservation is a central goal for zoos and aquariums. Increasingly, the objective is to place in the wild individuals that have been bred in captivity, in zoos and aquariums. This takes remarkable effort, so that the captive-bred will prosper in their wild homes.

Zoos and aquariums attempt to minimize the impact of removing animal species from their natural habitats by focusing on the following measures. 

  • Natural Habitats — Blocking off and preserving natural habitats and ecosystems helps prevent negative human interference like poaching. 
  • Sustainable Populations — Examining and modeling natural growth patterns within animal populations can provide insight into ideal breeding and expansion techniques. 
  • Health Improvements — Monitoring and measuring animal health can help scientists and veterinarians improve health conditions and lessen the impact of disease. 
  • Behavioral Awareness — Observing and cataloging animal behavior in their natural habitats and in a  manmade environment helps improve awareness of how these creatures live, adapt, and survive. 

Research

Zoos and aquariums enable valuable research into the needs of various land and marine species. Whether this research occurs in the “wild” at a protected sanctuary, in their natural habitat or within the artificial confines of zoos and aquariums, it furthers  understanding in many different areas of interest, including those outlined below. 

  • Needs & Welfare — Zoo and aquarium research into animal needs and welfare, physically and psychologically, advances standards for animal care and treatment.
  • Reproduction & Population — Zoo and aquarium research into animal reproduction and population behaviors fosters a greater understanding of effective breeding and conservation techniques. 
  • Habitats & Ecosystems — Zoo and aquarium research into animal habitats and ecosystems advances the importance of sustaining natural animal environments.

Education

Zoos and aquariums play a unique educational role for scientists, veterinarians, and the general public. Visitors and researchers can learn about wildlife from exotic habitats. For example, urban visitors might only have the ability to see, interact with, or learn about animal species in a zoo or aquarium environment. Further, zoos and aquariums provide insight into reproductive and nutritional behaviors. 

Without zoos and aquariums, and field research, it would be even more difficult to learn about animal behavior, enabling us to promote their welfare. Such research and studies in controlled environments can shed light on the innate behaviors of wild animal species. 

Do You Want to Help Animal Charities Protect Natural Wildlife?

If you have a passion for animals, plants, or nature, you can make a real difference by finding animal charities to support. These charities rely on contributions large and small to protect wildlife and safeguard their habitats. Without donations from individuals like you, animal and nature charities would be hard-pressed to accomplish their organizational goals. So if you care about preserving the wonders of our planet, step up to the plate today and help animal and nature charities conserve animals, plants, and nature.