How many times have you seen somebody advertise on social media about putting their pet(s) up for adoption? Initially, the excitement of getting a puppy or a kitten home knows no bounds. But after a few months or years, these exciting pets suddenly need a new home or are at the risk of being abandoned by their owners. Some common reasons for abandoning pets are illness, (destructive/dangerous) behavior, lack of money, relocation, the birth of a child or worse – boredom. Obviously, not every animal is fortunate enough to find a new home. If the pet is not adopted by somebody, it ends up with the risk of being abandoned. But, fortunate homeless and unwanted animals end up in hundreds of open-admission animal shelters across the U.S. that are staffed by professional, caring people.
Americans’ love for their pets is apparent in dog parks and grooming parlors. Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet, according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.3 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats according to an article published by ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Dogs relinquished to shelters tend to be between the ages of 5 months and 2 years. On a slightly happier note, the number of dogs and cats entering U.S. shelters annually has declined from approximately 7.2 million in 2011. The biggest decline was in dogs (from 3.9 million to 3.3 million). At these facilities, frightened animals are reassured, sick and injured animals receive treatment or a peaceful end to their suffering, and the animals’ living quarters are kept clean and dry.
To be able to offer refuge to every animal in need, open-admission shelters must euthanize unadopted and unadoptable animals. The alternative—turning them away—is cruel and leaves the animals in grave danger. Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats). The number of dogs and cats euthanized in U.S. shelters annually has declined from approximately 2.6 million in 2011. This decline can be partially explained by an increase in the percentage of animals adopted and an increase in the number of stray animals successfully returned to their owners. Of the 1.5 million cats and dogs euthanized in shelters each year, approximately 80% are healthy and treatable and could have been adopted into new homes.
The Humane Society of the United States reports that $2.5 billion are spent annually by humane organizations while animal control organizations spend between $800 million to $1 billion.
What about the future of animals in the shelter? How many of them end up finding a good family to live with? As stated in an ASPCA report, about 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats). About 710,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners. Of those, 620,000 are dogs and only 90,000 are cats.
Second chance pet ownership
There are myths regarding dog shelters that are absolutely harming adoption rates and the dogs looking for forever homes. Adopting a shelter animal is easily one of the best ways that you can go about acquiring a new best friend. However, there are quite a few misconceptions about shelter animals, especially dogs that may turn people away from giving these loving creatures a second chance at life. 1.6 million dogs are adopted from shelters each year by giving them a new chance at life. This is largely due to quite a few outreach programs being created to help shelters have more of a presence in their communities. The Humane Society reports that as of 2014, there were about 3,500 shelters and 10,000 rescue groups/sanctuaries in the U.S. It’s logical to believe that those numbers have increased quite a bit in the years following 2014. This massive amount of shelters does wonders in providing the necessary space to take in and find homes for the 3.3 million dogs entering shelters annually. The Humane Society reports that around a quarter of all dogs in shelters are purebred as opposed to mixed-breed. These purebred pups are frequently rescued from puppy mills or surrendered by families that purchased a pure-bred dog for whatever reason. A very common myth about shelter dogs is that they’re all old and on their last legs. This couldn’t be further from the case! An overwhelming portion of the dogs that they take in every year is 2 years old or younger, and this is a case for most other shelters. Additionally, when you adopt from a shelter, there’s a very good chance that the dog you’re adopting has been seen and thoroughly checked out by a veterinarian. If a problem is identified in a dog, it will either be dealt with at the shelter or will be made very known by the shelter itself. All dogs will develop illnesses or problems during their lifetimes. However, adopting a dog from a shelter is actually one of the safest ways to get a dog since they’ve been inspected – not just raised and sold like puppy mill dogs.
Supporting shelters fights animal cruelty
Many animal shelters do so much more than just finding homes for lost and abandoned animals. Different rescue organizations have worked to pass legislation to stop people from profiting off of horrible practices such as dogfighting and puppy mills. Dogs are social animals that, in the wild, would thrive in packs. Domesticated dogs have a new pack, and that’s you. Pet overpopulation is one of the major issues that communities face, and it isn’t always due to negligence. Shelters always spay and neuter their dogs before putting them up for adoption, too. So, when you adopt a shelter dog, you’re ensuring that you yourself never contribute to the overpopulation problem.
Whether you’re moved by the information above or not, there is one thing certain. By adopting an animal, you’re directly saving a life. Even if the shelter you’re adopting from is a no-kill shelter, you’re still providing that dog or cat with a second chance of finding a loving and safe home and making room for one more animals to be saved at that shelter.