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What is the biggest animal charity?

When it comes to helping animals in need, there are many worthy charities doing great work around the world. But when looking at the biggest and most impactful animal charities, a few organizations stand out for their scale, reach, and effectiveness in improving animal welfare.

The Humane Society of the United States

One of the largest and most established animal welfare charities in the world is The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Founded in 1954, HSUS focuses on a wide range of animal protection issues across all 50 states. Their major initiatives include:

  • Preventing cruelty to farm animals, pets, and wildlife
  • Rescuing and caring for thousands of animals each year
  • Providing veterinary care to animals in need
  • Advocating for animal protection policies at state and federal levels
  • Educating the public about animal welfare issues

With over 11 million supporters, HSUS runs pet adoption centers, animal care facilities, equine and wildlife sanctuaries across the country. They also have an affiliated 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, that provides veterinary services to animals in underserved communities. Key facts about The Humane Society of the United States:

Year founded 1954
HQ location Washington, D.C.
Areas of focus Companion animal issues, farm animal protection, wildlife rescue, animal cruelty prevention
Revenue (2019) $180 million
Expenses (2019) $151 million

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)

Founded in 1866, the ASPCA was the first humane organization in the Americas. This New York-based charity aims to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. The ASPCA’s major efforts include:

  • Operating adoption centers and animal hospitals in New York City
  • Providing municipal animal care services to New York City
  • Offering grants to support animal welfare groups across the country
  • Enforcing anti-cruelty laws and investigating cases of animal abuse
  • Advocating for stronger animal protection legislation

In addition to hands-on animal care and rescue, the ASPCA provides educational programs and behavior intervention services. They work closely with law enforcement to stop animal cruelty and help MAP abused animals. Key facts about the ASPCA:

Year founded 1866
HQ location New York City
Areas of focus Animal cruelty prevention and investigation, animal health services, adoption and rehoming, advocacy
Revenue (2019) $300 million
Expenses (2019) $270 million

Best Friends Animal Society

Operating the largest no-kill animal shelter in the United States, Best Friends Animal Society works to end the killing of dogs and cats in shelters nationwide. Through its programs, networks, and advocacy, Best Friends provides:

  • Adoption services that find homes for over 6,000 pets each year
  • Outreach initiatives that support over 1,600 rescue groups and shelters
  • Advocacy campaigns for statewide pet adoption mandates and improved spay/neuter access
  • Resources to help shelters achieve no-kill benchmarks

Based in Kanab, Utah, Best Friends runs lifesaving programs across the country with staff in multiple states. They also operate animal sanctuaries for deserted pets needing specialized care. Key details about Best Friends Animal Society:

Year founded 1984
HQ location Kanab, Utah
Areas of focus No-kill initiatives, adoption, community programs, sanctuaries
Annual budget $80 million
Lives saved yearly Around 6,300

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

Known for its sensational media and protest campaigns, PETA is the largest animal rights organization in the world. Since its founding in 1980, PETA has prioritized exposing cruelty to animals in laboratories, the food industry, clothing trade, and entertainment. Their main initiatives include:

  • Undercover investigations of factory farms and laboratories
  • Advocating for animal rights through media stunts and celebrity involvement
  • Campaigning against the use of animals for food, clothing, experimentation
  • Providing vegan food and cruelty-free product endorsements

Headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, PETA operates international offices in the UK, France, India, and the Netherlands. Though sometimes controversial, the group has influenced many corporations to implement animal welfare policies. Key facts about PETA:

Year founded 1980
HQ location Norfolk, Virginia
Focus areas Animal rights, anti-cruelty campaigns
Revenue (2019) $49 million
Membership 6.5 million members and supporters

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

When it comes to wildlife and habitat protection, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is the world’s largest conservation organization. WWF conducts critical work across nearly 100 countries to preserve nature and reduce threats to the environment. Their initiatives include:

  • Protecting endangered species and habitats
  • Halting deforestation and land degradation
  • Establishing nature reserves and national parks
  • Promoting sustainable approaches to resource use
  • Supporting vital scientific field research

Founded in Switzerland in 1961, WWF takes a science-based approach to conservation challenges and partnerships with local communities. They advocate for environmental policies on the global stage. Details about the World Wildlife Fund:

Year founded 1961
HQ location Gland, Switzerland
Focus areas Habitat protection, species conservation, environmental advocacy
Revenue (2020) $248.7 million
Countries of operation Nearly 100 countries globally

International Fund for Animal Welfare

Focused on improving animal welfare and wildlife conservation worldwide, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) conducts programs across dozens of countries. Founded in 1969, IFAW runs initiatives like:

  • Animal rescue operations
  • Disaster response for animals
  • Reducing commercial exploitation of wildlife
  • Protecting seal populations and whales
  • Curbing illegal wildlife trade
  • Veterinary care for animals in need

In addition to boots-on-the-ground projects, IFAW advocates for animal welfare through international policy channels like the United Nations and World Organization for Animal Health. Key IFAW details:

Year founded 1969
HQ location Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts
Focus regions Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe
Revenue (2020) $160 million
Countries of operation 15 key countries across 4 continents

Animal Equality

Animal Equality is an international farm animal welfare charity with offices in 8 countries across Europe, the Americas, and India. Using investigations, corporate outreach, and education, Animal Equality engages in:

  • Exposing factory farming cruelties through undercover videos
  • Convincing food companies to implement animal welfare policies
  • Changing public attitudes about farm animals through media and online ads
  • Influencing legislation to end extreme animal confinement

Founded in 2006, Animal Equality has grown into one of the largest farmed animal advocacy groups. Their unique focus on farm animals sets them apart from many other animal protection charities. Key facts about Animal Equality:

Year founded 2006
HQ location Los Angeles, California
Focus area Factory farming/farm animal welfare
Revenue (2019) $3.4 million
Countries of operation US, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, India, Mexico, Brazil

Top Animal Charities by Revenue

Based on total revenue from donations and grants, these are the top animal welfare nonprofits worldwide:

  1. The Humane Society of the United States – $180 million (2019)
  2. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – $300 million (2019)
  3. World Wildlife Fund – $248.7 million (2020)
  4. International Fund for Animal Welfare – $160 million (2020)
  5. Best Friends Animal Society – $80 million (estimated)
  6. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – $49 million (2019)

This gives a view of the largest animal charities strictly in terms of overall funds raised. However, charity evaluator Animal Charity Evaluators uses specialized criteria to identify the most effective animal welfare groups. Their standout charities making the biggest impact for each dollar donated are:

Most Effective Animal Charities

  • The Humane League
  • Albert Schweitzer Foundation
  • Anima International
  • The Good Food Institute
  • The Nonhuman Rights Project

Using a thorough framework assessing factors like transparency, cost-effectiveness, strategy, and room for funding growth, ACE designates these highly-rated charities as the top picks for donors wanting maximal impact from their contributions to help animals.

How the Biggest Animal Charities Help

The largest animal welfare nonprofits utilize varying strategies and programs to further their mission of protecting animals from harm and suffering. Here’s a look at how some of the top charities make a difference:

Rescue and Direct Care

Groups like HSUS and ASPCA directly rescue thousands ofcompanion animals and livestock from abuse each year. Their shelters, veterinary clinics and disaster response units provide critical hands-on care to save animal lives. The Best Friends Animal Society’s no-kill initiatives also fall into direct animal rescue and care.

Habitat and Wildlife Protection

Conservation charities like the World Wildlife Fund purchase and maintain nature reserves with habitat critical for endangered species. They also work with governments to protect wildlife and prevent practices like illegal poaching that threaten native animal populations.

Undercover Investigations

Through undercover operations at factory farms and research labs, organizations like PETA and Animal Equality expose hidden cases of animal cruelty to the public. Their disturbance of these industries can lead to stronger legal protections for institutionalized animals.

Corporate Reforms

By pressuring food and retail companies to implement animal welfare policies, groups like Animal Equality, HSUS and Mercy for Animals are able to spare millions of animals from the cruelest factory farming practices.

Legal Advocacy

Filing lawsuits, petitioning agencies and backing legislation at all levels, legal advocacy groups like the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Nonhuman Rights Project push for stronger anti-cruelty statutes and recognition of animals’ legal rights.

Education and Outreach

Public information campaigns by The Humane Society, ASPCA and other large charities help make people aware of animal issues and build support for their advocacy goals. Their messaging reflects in public attitudes and political priorities.

Choosing an Animal Charity

With many worthwhile animal welfare nonprofits to choose from, it can be hard deciding which group deserves your support through donations or volunteering. Here are some factors to consider when selecting an animal charity:

  • Cause area – Companion animals, wildlife preservation, farm animal welfare, habitat protection, advocacy, etc.
  • Geographic focus – Local, national or international; regions served
  • Reputation and transparency – Established track record; accountable operations
  • Financial efficiency – Program spending vs. overhead costs
  • Alignment with your values – Issue importance; approach and tactics
  • Urgency of need – Crises requiring immediate response

Researching animal nonprofits’ operations and effectiveness using resources like Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, and Animal Charity Evaluators can also guide your decision. Ultimately, choose based on your passion and the impact you hope to make for animals.


Animal charities exist to promote the welfare of a wide range of species, from abandoned pets to mistreated livestock to threatened wildlife. The largest of these nonprofits have sophisticated operations and substantial funds to drive positive change for animals. With responsible stewardship of donations and dedicated volunteers, they are able to rescue countless animal lives, advance animal-friendly public policies, and protect vulnerable wild creatures across the planet. By supporting one of these big charities or a local up-and-coming effort that aligns with your values, you can contribute to meaningful animal advocacy.