What Shelter Life Looks Like
Envision an animal shelter full of anxious dogs, crying out for attention. Some howling at all hours of the night, just patiently waiting for their next walk or meal. Imagine the dogs (and cats) at extra-crowded “high kill” shelters, most of whom face the horrible fate of being put down due to lack of space, resources, and homes. These dogs are waiting for someone with a big enough heart like you to come and adopt/rescue them!
The Numbers Don’t Lie
According to the ASPCA, approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year (including 3.3 million dogs, and 3.2 million cats). Conservative numbers state that of those animals, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized each year.
That means that 670,000 dogs — or 20% of dogs that enter animal shelters — and 860,000 cats — or 27% of cats that enter animal shelters — are euthanized annually. The good news is that adoption numbers are encouraging —approximately 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats).
The High Cost of Breeding
So, with pet overpopulation an ongoing issue, why would anyone still purchase a dog through a breeder or pet store? Sadly, breeders’ primary interest is making a profit from breeding animals; in contrast, animal shelters and rescue organizations are dedicated to finding homes for dogs and cats rather than making money.
In fact, adoption fees are minimal particularly in comparison to the high costs charged by breeders and pet stores. Plus, nearly all pet store dogs come from horribly cruel puppy mills, which are rampant with abuse and neglect. Furthermore, just in terms of logistics, why drive many miles to an out-of-state breeder or even ship a dog on an airplane (which is not only dangerous but traumatic for animals), when you can drive just down the street and adopt an amazing pet?
Breaking Down Stereotypes
Despite common misconception, most shelter and/or rescue dogs are perfectly “normal” —happy, healthy dogs. Sadly, dogs and cats end up in shelters for many reasons. Often, their owners can no longer take care of them or are unable to keep them, so they surrender them to an animal shelter.
In the case of rescue groups, the aim is to get animals, particularly dogs, out of “high kill” shelters as soon as possible, giving them a chance at life. Once out of that stressful environment, many dogs thrive in foster homes before getting adopted out to their forever homes. The importance of rescue cannot be underestimated, and the statistics only paint a partial picture of the larger issue.
In terms of placing animals in homes, shelters and rescues do their due diligence to ensure that dogs (and cats) are placed in good, appropriate homes, whereas most breeders and pet stores don’t and will sell a dog to just about anyone for a profit. Not only is this lack of oversight irresponsible, but is also a major safety issue and often ends up leading to MORE dogs in shelters as are owners find they cannot handle a particular type/size/breed of dog.
My Adoption Story
Furthermore, I can tell you from my own experience that it is SO worth it to adopt/rescue a dog. Ten years ago, my husband and I rescued our own dog from a shelter! My own dog came from a shelter ten years ago, when my husband adopted him. Our now 12-year-old pitbull/terrier mix has the same personality and spunk as he did when we first got him and he still has lots of love to give! Plus, he came to us trained with basic commands and a file full of paperwork that included basic health info, vaccination dates, microchip information, etc. Adoption made it easier to make him part of our family.
So, please — adopt, don’t shop. Visit your local animal shelter or rescue organization, in person or online. If you cannot take on the responsibility of adopting/rescuing a dog, you can always help by volunteering. Most non-profits could not function without volunteers, and many (like us!) are actually are 100% volunteer run. Other ways to help include sharing posts on social media or attending a local fundraising event to raise money for a good cause. Together we can help these animals find loving homes!
This post was written by STAR volunteer Kerry Richards. If you are interested in helping with the STAR blog, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.