According to the ASPCA over 6.5 million pets enter a public animal shelter each year. The numbers are almost evenly split between cats and dogs. Almost half of those pets are euthanized.
That’s a sobering thought for a nation as bountiful and charitable as the US.
We’ve made great strides in reducing that number over the last decade with the rise of animal advocacy and breed rescue programs but it’s still too many.
There are 13,600 public shelter facilities in US, run by local municipalities. These shelters take in over 6 million pets each year. The average age is 18 months. The easiest to adopt out are puppies, with black haired, seniors and medically challenged dogs the hardest to rehome and the quickest to go on the euthanasia list.
There are a few ‘no-kill’ shelters in the country such as Best Friends in Utah or the North Shore Animal League America in New York. These shelters do not put a single animal down. The majority of other public shelters do their best to adopt them out or transfer responsibility to a rescue organization, but the volume at times overwhelms them and some pets have to be let go.
In recent years there has been significant growth in rescue organizations. These groups rescue pets from shelters and house them in volunteer foster homes until the can be adopted out. Many of these are breed rescues, specializing in rehoming a specific type of dog or cat breed.
Why should you adopt?
The first and most important reason to adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue is to save their life. But realize that you are not just saving that dog or cat’s life, you are creating space in the shelter for another pet, so it’s actually two lives being saved.
Other reasons to adopt:
- It’s good for your health. Studies have shown that people owning a pet live longer. Both the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have conducted studies showing pet ownership helps reduce stress, lower cholesterol and even reduce weight. They even help combat loneliness.
- Children raised with pets are less likely to develop allergies or asthma and they tend to have stronger immune systems. They also help teach kids compassion and responsibility.
- Pets help you meet people. They are good conversation starters and icebreakers, so whether it’s at the dog park or the local cat café, owning a pet and sharing your experience with other pet owners is fun and good for you.
- It’s cheaper than buying from a breeder or pet store. A Registered breeder is going to charge big bucks for that purebred puppy. Check with your local rescue, they frequently get puppies or young dogs and charge much less. Pet stores should be avoided as they get most of their pets from puppy mills. Many local jurisdictions have even banned the sale of pets in retail pet stores (https://bestfriends.org/resources/states-retail-pet-sale-bans). You can get puppies and a specific breed at a shelter or rescue. Don’t think they only have old and sick dogs – they don’t, they have purebred dogs and cats, of all ages and all breeds.
- Adopting from a shelter usually includes a health check, microchipping and maybe even some training. Most veterinarians will offer an initial shelter pet evaluation for free and there are many companies offering insurance for your pets and they may discount rates for rescued animals.
Save a pet’s life, the rewards will be immeasurable.