Pets are family. As an animal lover, you know the truth of that simple statement. Supporting organizations that help pets and other animals is a noble and worthy cause. However, not all animal charities are created equal. In this article, we take a close look at Friends of Animals (FoA) to determine if they deserve your charitable gifts. We’ll examine their history, accountability, and work projects, so you can decide if FoA is worth your time.
What Is Friends of Animals?
Friends of Animals is a charitable foundation that advocates for the rights of non-human animals, both domestic and free-living. Founded in New York in 1957, they began as a provider of low-cost spaying and neutering services. They have expanded over the years to include such projects as the Primarily Primates animal sanctuary in Texas and the Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project in the Gambia. They are also working in collaboration with Senegal’s National Park Agency to restore three endangered African antelope species.
Friends of Animals has a list of basic tenets or beliefs that form the backbone of the work they do. These beliefs help determine how they spend money donations and which projects receive funding. If you choose to donate to Friends of Animals, these are the tenets that you are supporting.
What FoA Believes
Friends of Animals seeks to end the exploitation of fur-bearing animals.
Activities that support this goal include releasing video of animal treatment on a fur farm, campaigns against clothing that uses fur, and an effort to ban fur sales in New York City.
Friends of Animals opposes hunting
FoA advocates to ban wildlife hunting contests and importing the spoils of trophy hunting into the United States. They challenge the idea that regulated hunting is a useful tool in conservation efforts.
Friends of Animals opposes predator control
Killing predators to protect ranching or other special interests is anathema to the tenets of Friends of Animals. They condemn any actions taken by the Wildlife Services branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to cull the natural population of predators.
Friends of Animals believes animals should not be used for human consumption
Asserting that mammals, fish, and birds should not be used for human food, FoA supports a vegan lifestyle by producing vegan cookbooks and giving vegan presentations around the country.
Friends of Animals opposes the roundup of wild horses on public lands
FoA is recognized as the leading organization protecting the wild horses of the US. They pushed the Bureau of Land Management to observe the Wild Free-Roaming Wild Horses and Burro Act of 1971.
Friends of Animals believes that humans have overpopulated the planet
FoA supports family planning, contraception, and the choice to have children or not.
Friends of Animals seeks to establish legal standing for non-human animals
Believing that animals can lead meaningful lives, FoA wants the courts to grant animals personhood, giving them the ability to sue in a court of law.
The Projects Friends of Animals Supports Financially
Friends of Animals supports programs that are attempting to extend “moral consideration to all conscious beings.” The goal here is that animals will no longer be bought or sold for their fur, skin, meat, or other products. It also includes banning cloning and research projects that use animals and opposes the use of animals in TV and film production.
Domesticated and feral animals
One of FoA’s largest programs is affordable spaying and neutering of pets. They also work to stop the collection of wild horses, horse racing, and horse-drawn carriages. They consider the commonly seen carriage rides that tourists enjoy in big cities to be “enslavement.”
Free-living animals and their environment
FoA financially supports various sanctuaries for rehabilitated wildlife. They have sponsored several campaigns to protest the fur industry and any hunting of wildlife, whether for food, sport, or culling practices.
Wildlife Law Program
Founded in 2013 by FoA, this program pays lawyers to defend wildlife and their habitats by utilizing environmental laws governments already have in place. Laws such as the Endangered Species Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act are all wielded to promote the rights of animals.
The Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project was established in the River Gambia National Park in 1979 to care for orphaned and unwanted chimpanzees. It is a working camp, and you can tour the grounds by boat or hiking trail under supervision. Friends of Animals donates money to the project and supports their rehabilitation efforts.
This sanctuary in Texas protects and rehabilitates non-native animals, focusing on apes and monkeys. Friends of Animals gives grants to Primarily Primates to support their operating costs.
Friends of Animals supports a vegan lifestyle as one that respects all sentient beings. It is more than just choosing to eat a plant-based diet. FoA promotes clothing choices that don’t exploit animals and cruelty-free toiletries and make-up. They work for legislation that frees food animals from feedlots, antibiotics, and other modern farming practices.
Chimpanzee Refugee Project
The Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Project was established in the River Gambia National Park in 1979 to care for orphaned and unwanted chimpanzees. It is a working camp, and you can visit and tour it by boat or hiking trail under supervision. FoA donates money to the project and supports their rehabilitation efforts.
Is There a Need for Friends of Animals?
If you are an animal lover, you will likely think that FoA is doing important work. They are helping wildlife populations around the world, fighting for the legal rights of animals, and have run a successful spay and neuter program for decades. A few things they don’t do include providing no-kill shelters, rescue or adoption services, and veterinary services. There are quite a few animal charities that overlap with FoA’s programs, but their unique vision and list of beliefs fill a slightly different niche.
How Can I Help Friends of Animals?
Primarily FoA wants you to donate money. They don’t have any volunteer opportunities included on their website. They list the following actions you can take:
- Read their Vegan Starter Guide and other materials and share them with friends
- Join them on social media sites
- Share facts about spaying and neutering, and use their low-cost certificate for the procedures
- Invite your vet to join their program
- Buy their t-shirts, cookbooks, etc.
- Join their organization and donate
- Subscribe to their magazine, Action Line
They don’t mention organizing a fundraiser on their behalf, but that would probably meet with their approval as well.
What Is Friends of Animals’ Reputation as a Charity?
Friends of Animals is a highly rated charity with Charity Navigator, which gives it three out of four stars. Out of a possible score of 100, FoA has a financial score of 85.0 and an accountability and transparency score of 82.0 for a combined score of 83.43. It scores somewhat lower than charities doing similar work, such as PetSmart Charities with a combined score of 93.79, and the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Foundation with a combined score of 94.34.
For the year 2017, Charity Navigator calculated that FoA received a total revenue of $4,103,787 with total expenses of $4,838,102. This means they ran a deficit of $734,315 for that year. Program expenses were 88.5 percent of the total, while administrative expenses were 6.5 percent and fundraising was 5 percent. While we is preferred that charities don’t run a deficit, the percentage spent on programs is a very good number, showing that most of the money that is donated is used for the work and not salaries.
Friends of Animals’ financial details
All tax-exempt organizations, nonexempt charitable trusts, and section 527 political organizations must file a Form 990 or 990EZ with the IRS.
Friends of Animals’ most recent IRS Form 990 available is for 2017. We extracted the following financial data from the organization’s most recent publicly available tax return the fiscal year ending April 2017. This information will allow you to make up your own mind as to the worthiness of Friends of Animals.
Percentage of donations spent on services
- Total donations and grants: $2,391,699
- Spent on services and grants: $4,283,585
- Percentage of donations toward grants and services: 179.10 percent
Percentage of revenue spent on fundraising
- Total revenue: $4,103,787
- Fundraising expenses: $240,021
- Paid to professional fundraisers: $0.00
- Percentage of total revenue spent on fundraising: 5.84 percent
Administrative and overhead costs
- Overhead expenses: $314,496
- Property assets: $246,200
- Investment assets: $4,027,727
- Paid to officers/directors: $474,816
- Highest paid officer/director: Program Director $133,825
- Percentage of total revenue spent on officers/directors salaries: 11.57 percent
Friends of Animals is a politically active charity. They frequently make the news for uncovering documents with the Freedom of Information Act or for filing lawsuits for misuse of government lands, for example. While their reputation is not as extreme as some animal support groups, such as PETA or Sea Shepherds, they do have a knack for entering the fray. They are law-abiding and do not stage protests or other activities that turn violent. Most of their political activity takes place in the courtroom.
Should You Give to Friends of Animals?
If you think animals should have rights, this is a good charity for you. This charity asks that you make tough choices, such as becoming vegan, not just vegetarian, and giving up leather shoes, etc. If these are lifestyle choices you were already considering or have already made, then you will fit into the FoA culture well.
For animal lovers who are more interested in helping abandoned or unwanted pets, volunteering with or donating to the SPCA is a better option. Friends of Animals has a much broader focus that includes the diversity of wildlife found all over the world. Their only real program for domesticated pets is the affordable spaying and neutering program.
FoA is responsible with its donations. Compared to other charities, their CEO receives a modest salary, and their administrative costs are reasonable. There are other charities with higher ratings, but you can still be confident that your money will be spent correctly at Friends of Animals.
The main drawback to FoA is their slightly fanatic side. Reading their materials gives the distinct impression that they are not good at acknowledging different points of view. For example, in their article about the exploitation of animals in the film industry, they mention the often repeated “fact” that nearly 100 horses were killed in the filming of the movie Ben-Hur. The truth is that in the filming of the original Ben-Hur, a 1926 silent film, some horses died. No one knows how many. This is not true of the more famous 1959 version, which is what they are clearly implying. Their willingness to fudge facts for propaganda is a bit concerning.