An estimated 6–8 million pets end up in shelters each year. Approximately 61% of dogs and 75% of cats that enter shelters will be euthanized1. Despite these horrific numbers, there is hope. In 1973, approximately 13 million animals were euthanized by shelters1, before the onset of public awareness and spay/neuter programs. By considering pet adoption, you can make a difference in continuing to reduce these numbers.
Shelters large and small always have a great selection of animals looking for new homes, from cats and dogs to birds and small animals, to horses and livestock. In fact, any type of animal available for sale at your local pet store or breeder is probably waiting for adoption in a nearby shelter. As 25% of pets in shelters are purebreds2, people looking for a specific breed can also find a pet through adoption. Many breed-specific rescue groups exist to pair up dogs and puppies with new homes.
Consider the positives of adopting a homeless pet:
- Adoption Saves Lives. Some animal shelters are so chronically overcrowded that they automatically euthanize newcomers. Adopting a shelter dog or cat vacates a spot for one more.
- Adoption Is Affordable. Once you’ve determined that family finances can provide for a pet, you can adopt for a fraction of the cost of pets purchased from breeders or pet shops. Adoption fees usually include neutering, microchipping, deworming, and first shots.
- Adoption Rehabilitates. Not all homeless pets are strays. Many are rescued from horrendous neglect and abuse. Adopting a rescued pet may be the only kindness he’s ever known, and the love you receive in return is boundless.
Before bringing any kind of new pet into your home, ask yourself these important questions:
- Do I have the necessary time and resources? Dogs, cats, and other animal companions cannot be ignored just because you're tired or busy. They require food, water, exercise, care, and companionship every day of every year. Many animals in the shelter are there because their owners didn't realize how much time it took to care for them.
- What type of pet is right for me and my family? The question isn’t just “Dog or cat?” Pet size, temperament, and energy level should all factor into your decision. For example, some small dogs such as terriers are very active—they require a great deal of exercise to be calm, and they often bark at any noise. On the other hand, some big dogs are laid back and quite content to lie on a couch all day. Am I willing to commit? Pets are not disposable, so you should be ready, willing, and able to regard adoption as a lifelong commitment. Don’t adopt a pet on a trial basis or as a passing fancy. A pet may be with you 10, 15, even 20 years.
Before adopting a pet, do your research—surf the Internet, talk to pet-owning friends and neighbors, and use shelter staff as a resource. That way, you'll be more likely to choose an animal who fits your lifestyle and living arrangements.
Ready to adopt? Excellent pet adoption resources abound:
- Rescue Organizations/Shelters. Animal shelters, municipal animal control departments, and breed-specific rescue organizations are eager to adopt out their dogs and cats to loving homes. A simple Internet search will turn up dozens of options.
- Adoption Events. Animal organizations frequently hold events at various community locations where folks can interact with some of the available animals. While no one can take home a pet on the spot, many adoption applications are initiated at these events.
- Networking. Sometimes putting the word out is all it takes. Tell coworkers, friends, and social media followers that you want to adopt a pet. Somebody may know of an animal who needs you.
Many owners say their adopted furry friends make the best pets. Perhaps adopted pets give back extra love in gratitude for their forever homes. So if you’re thinking of acquiring a furry family member, think adoption!
Humane Society Animal League for Life. “Importance of Spay and Neuter.” Accessed February 21, 2014.
The Humane Society of the United States. “Adopting from an Animal Shelter or Rescue Group.” Accessed February 21, 2014.