Do charity events really help pets?

A French bulldog at the Tompkins Square Halloween Parade, New York. Credit: istolethetv / Flickr

Dear Paws: A local pet charity is going to hold a Halloween-themed pet walk, where participants bring their dogs in costume to parade along a local street. My question is, do these kind of charity events really help pets in need? They just seem like chi-chi see-and-be-seen social gatherings without any real purpose. – Dan in Long Beach, Calif.

Dear Dan: Charity events can do a tremendous amount of good for pets in need. Most shelters and nonprofits need, besides donations of food, blankets and other items, cold hard cash in order to function. These events can raise quite a bit of money.

Many pet owners join in walks like these just for fun, and I think that’s just fine: they’re proud of their pet and want to show him or her off, and it’s a great chance to socialize (as long as the dogs can handle large crowds).

However, if you’re also concerned about how your donation will be used, it doesn’t hurt to do some research before contributing to a charity or participating in an event. What exactly does the charity support? (Some fund pet rescues or local shelters; others advocate for seniors and their pets; and so on.) How much of their funding goes directly to the cause being supported?

You can find the answer to this question through watchdog groups like Charity Navigator (http://www.charitynavigator.org/), Guidestar (http://www.guidestar.org/Home.aspx) or the Wise Giving Alliance (http://www.give.org/). You can also check an approved nonprofit’s 990 tax forms from the IRS to see how efficiently donations are used.

If you’re still skeptical, save those funds and donate them directly to your local shelter – you can ask them directly how that money is used, and it generally travels the shortest path toward directly helping animals in need.

Send your questions or tips to ask@pawscorner.com.