The Elephant Sanctuary is home to some 20 rescued elephants in Tennessee—and $30/day can provide one of them with food.© The Elephant Sanctuary
Adopting" an Animal for the Holidays

Looking for a last-minute present for the animal-lover on your holiday gift list? Needless to say, actual animals are never wise gift ideas. Companion animals are a lifetime commitment that shouldn’t ever be acquired on a whim or for someone else. But there is a myriad of "adoption" programs that offer a perfect way of both acknowledging your loved one’s fondness for animals and supporting just about any animal imaginable. (And, all organizations listed here are 501(c)(3) nonprofits, so your gift is even tax-exempt.)

Dylan, the veal calf: one of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary"s many rescued residents.© Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary


Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary

Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, which has been providing a home for rescued livestock since 2004, offers a sponsorship opportunity in which the gifter’s credit card is charged monthly over the course of a year. The recipient receives a personalized photo card of the selected animal, including "a description of that animal’s rescue story and personality," plus an optional personalized note from the gift-giver. The recipient may also visit their animal any time of year at the organization’s facility in the Catskills region. Prices range from $10/month for a chicken or rabbit to $50/month for a cow.


Farm Sanctuary

A true way to pardon a turkey this holiday season is to "adopt" one of the turkeys living at the Farm Sanctuary shelter for farm animals, either in Watkins Glen, New York, or Orland, California. A one-time $25 adoption fee earns your gift recipient an Adopt-A-Turkey certificate with a color photo and details about their feathered friend; a one-year Farm Sanctuary membership and a subscription to Sanctuary, the organization’s quarterly newsletter. Adopt a turkey online or by phone at 1-888-SPONSOR.


Best Friends Animal Society

This Utah shelter has gotten a lot of attention since the premiere of the series DogTown on the National Geographic channel, and also as the rehab center for 22 of the rescued pit bulls from NBA quarterback Michael Vick’s dog-fighting operation. But this sprawling oasis has, for 25 years, been quietly rehabilitating for adoption—or providing a permanent home—for those critters considered the hardest-luck cases: abused, abandoned and special-needs animals who are considered unadoptable in shelters due to age, behavioral troubles or medical needs. Nearly 2,000 animals from around the country live at Best Friends. Cats, dogs, birds and "barnyard pals"—including horses—are listed by photo and bio, and a $25 gift sponsorship includes a personalized e-greeting sent to your recipient; a link to a bio and high-res photo of their sponsor animal; a subscription to Best Friends magazine; quarterly newsletters; and area discounts for you or your gift recipient if visiting Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.


The Jane Goodall Institute

A gift of a Chimpanzee Guardianship helps the Jane Goodall Institute care for 160 chimpanzees at four different sanctuaries in Africa who have been orphaned in the bushmeat trade. They are provided with food, shelter and socialization, and are expected to remain in the protective sanctuaries for the remainder of their lives (chimps can live to be 60 years old). The Guardianship opportunities range in price from $25 to $250, with varying perks including stuffed-animal chimps, a guardian certificate and a signed photo of Jane Goodall.


Australian Koala Foundation

According to the Australian Koala Foundation website, the funds raised through the fostering of one of these marsupials who live in various wildlife parks throughout Australia contribute directly to the conservation of Australia’s wild koalas. A dubious plus to this program is that sponsors traveling down under may visit and "cuddle" their koala—whether koalas are fans of such shows of endearment remains in question. For $20/month, sponsor a joey or a mother, or sponsor a mom-and-kid pair for $30/month. Foster-a-Koala perks include: a welcome letter describing your gift-recipient’s koala, a photo of the koala, a personalized Foster-a-Koala certificate with the koala’s name, stickers, an AKF supporter card and AKF newsletters and bulletins.


New England Aquarium Right Whale Sponsorship Program

It’s a pretty safe bet that you will never cuddle your whale, making this animal-sponsor holiday gift all the more altruistic. There are fewer than 400 Northern right whales—a species of baleen whales that were considered "right" for commercial whaling—making them the most endangered of all large whales. Sponsorship opportunities range from $45 to $250. All include a 4×6 photo of your chosen whale, a sponsorship certificate, a composite drawing and sighting map for your whale and a subscription to Right Whale Research News. Higher-end donations also include books or T-shirts. Your donation helps offset the aquarium’s yearly cost for field research and data analysis.


The Elephant Sanctuary

You can’t visit your chosen elephant sponsee, either, but you just may be able to spot them on the EleCam, which follows the wanderings of The Elephant Sanctuary’s 20 residents around their 2,700-acre natural-habitat preserve in Tennessee. "The Girls," as the Sanctuary’s founders affectionately call their Asian and African elephant residences, have been retired from the entertainment industry or confiscated by the USDA due to negligence. Feed an elephant for a day for $30 in your giftee’s name, and they will receive a picture, bio, certificate and one-year membership to the Sanctuary.

Want more animal-themed, gift-giving options? is an online database of charitable organizations that provides the opportunity to donate to over 75 animal-related charities. And there’s the option to give in someone else’s name. Happy holidays!

JESSICA RAE PATTON is a contributing editor at E.