Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.
When you’re thinking about getting a pet, you have two main options: to buy from a breeder or adopt from a shelter. While buying from a breeder is a good way to get the exact pet you want, there are millions of animals in shelters all over the country and the world that need a loving home.
If you’re unsure what kind of pet you want, or you just want to give a deserving animal a second chance at having a good life, you should definitely consider paying a visit to a local animal shelter and adopting. But don’t just take our word for it, check out these statistics and facts that can help you understand how big of an impact you can make by adopting.
The 17 Pet Adoption Statistics and Facts
- Around 810,000 stray animals that enter shelters are returned to their owners each year.
- About 920,000 cats and dogs were euthanized in animal shelters in 2020.
- The number of no-kill animal shelters has doubled from 2016–2021.
- Most pets are surrendered for adoption due to no fault of their own.
- Almost 55,000 pets were fostered in 2020.
- Approximately 3.1 million dogs enter animal shelters each year.
- In 2019–2020, the number of dogs adopted from animal shelters decreased.
- Dogs of puppy age are the most likely to be adopted.
- There are six dog breeds that are more likely to be found in shelters.
- Approximately 3.2 million cats enter animal shelters each year.
- In 2019–2020, the number of cats adopted from animal shelters decreased.
- Black cats are less likely to be adopted than other cats.
- Almost 50% of all cats that are adopted are kittens.
- There are approximately 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S.
- One-fourth of dogs in shelters are purebred.
- More dogs are purchased from breeders than are adopted.
- More cats are adopted than purchased from breeders.
General Animal Shelter Statistics
1. Around 810,00 stray animals that enter shelters are returned to their owners each year.
Of those animals, dogs are more likely to be returned to their owners than cats. Around 710,000 dogs are returned to their owners as opposed to 100,000 cats.
2. Around 920,000 cats and dogs were euthanized in animal shelters in 2020.
Of the animals that weren’t adopted, about 20% of them were euthanized due to disease, illness, or overcrowding. This number has decreased every year, from 2 million in 2015. Shelters in six U.S. states (TX, CA, NC, FL, AL, and LA) accounted for over 50% of the total number of animals that were euthanized.
3. The number of no-kill animal shelters has doubled from 2016–2021.
In 2016, the percentage of no-kill shelters in the United States was 24%. In 2021, the percentage of no-kill shelters grew to 48%.
4. Most pets are surrendered for adoption due to no fault of their own.
About 75% of animals are surrendered for adoption due to human circumstances. Leading causes for the surrender of animals include the owner having too many pets (16.1%) and housing reasons (13.7%). The behavior or personality of the animal only accounts for 8% of surrenders.
5. Almost 55,000 pets were fostered in 2020.
Fostering a pet means providing temporary care to shelter animals in your own home prior to them being adopted. In 2020, 54,500 pets were fostered. The rate of fostering for both dogs and cats increased in 2020, with 17% of dogs being fostered compared to 8% of cats.
Dog Adoption Statistics
6. Approximately 3.1 million dogs enter animal shelters each year.
Of the 6.3 animals that enter animal shelters each year, 3.1 million are dogs. This is down from 3.9 million in 2011. Of those 3.1 million, only about 2 million of them are adopted.
7. In 2019–2020, the number of dogs adopted from animal shelters decreased.
(The Humane Society of the United States)
Based on the 2019–2020 American Pet Products Association (APPA) survey, the number of dogs adopted from animal shelters or rescues as opposed to other acquisition methods was 39%. This is down from 44% in the 2017–2018 survey.
8. Dogs of puppy age are the most likely to be adopted.
In 2020, puppies were the most adopted dogs from animal shelters, at 42%. Roughly 28% of dogs adopted were adults, while 26% were considered to be young adults. Senior dogs are the least adopted, at only 5%.
9. Six dog breeds are more likely to be found in shelters.
The main reasons for these being the most common dog breeds in shelters are stereotypes, overbreeding, or requiring more care than other breeds. Of those two breeds, Pit Bulls and Chihuahuas are most likely to be euthanized.
Cat Adoption Statistics
10. Approximately 3.2 million cats enter animal shelters each year.
Of the 6.3 million animals that go to animal shelters each year, over half of them are cats. Of that 3.2 million, only about 2.1 million cats are adopted each year.
11. In 2019–2020, the number of cats adopted from animal shelters decreased.
(The Humane Society of the United States)
Based on the 2019–2020 APPA survey, the number of cats adopted from animal shelters or rescues as opposed to other acquisition methods was 43%. This is down from 47% in 2017–2018.
12. Black cats are less likely to be adopted than other cats.
Black cats are more than 50% less likely to be adopted compared to other cats. The majority of the cats that are euthanized are black cats. This has to do with the negative stereotype surrounding black cats (bad luck) in addition to them being generally less noticeable in shelters.
13. Almost 50% of all cats that are adopted are kittens.
In 2020, 48% of the cats that were adopted were kittens. Young adult cats accounted for 19% while adult cats accounted for 20%. Senior cats are the least likely to be adopted, accounting for only 3% of cat adoptions in 2020.
Adoption vs. Breeder Statistics
14. There are approximately 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S.
(Puppy Mill Project)
This number includes both USDA-licensed and unlicensed mills. A total of over 2 million puppies are bred in puppy mills each year. Most pets from puppy mills are sold either online or in pet stores.
15. One-fourth of dogs in animal shelters are purebred.
Purebred dogs are most often purchased from breeders or puppy mills. Of the total number of dogs in animal shelters, 25% of them are purebred, proving that you don’t have to shop for a purebred, you can find lots of good opportunities to adopt as well.
16. More dogs are purchased from breeders than are adopted.
Around 34% of dogs that have forever homes were purchased from breeders, while 23% were adopted from a shelter. About 20% of dogs are acquired from a friend or family member, while only 6% are taken in as strays.
17. More cats are adopted than purchased from breeders.
Around 31% of cats that have a home are adopted from animal shelters. Only 3% are purchased from a breeder. About 28% of cats are acquired from friends or family, and 27% are taken in as strays.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pet Adoption
How many pets are adopted each year?
According to the ASPCA, approximately 4.1 million animals are adopted from animal shelters each year. Two million dogs are adopted and 2.1 million cats are adopted each year on average. As mentioned above, more cats are adopted than are purchased from breeders as opposed to dogs, who are more often purchased from breeders than adopted.
The adoption of 4.1 million animals per year may seem like a lot. But when you consider that between 6.3 and 6.5 million animals enter into shelters each year, that leaves around 2 million animals that aren’t adopted, many of which get euthanized or die in the shelter due to sickness or old age.
What is shelter life like for animals?
Due to social media and other technologies that we have today, animals that are taken to a shelter are usually scanned for a microchip and/or posted on social media platforms in an attempt to locate the owner. If an owner can’t be located within a certain period of time (which varies depending on the shelter), the animal will be housed in a kennel either by themselves or with other animals.
Usually, the animals are checked by a staff veterinarian or one that they hire as a private contractor. Animals are treated if possible and are fed, bathed, and cared for by shelter workers and volunteers until they are either adopted or have to be euthanized. Even though the animals are loved by the shelter workers, sometimes they have to make tough decisions.
Animals are usually euthanized due to overcrowding in the shelter, old age, or an illness that can’t be treated or is expensive to treat. This is one reason why adoption is so important. Not only can adoption prevent overcrowding, but it can give many animals a second chance at having a loving home and lower the chances of them being euthanized.
Many shelters will post animals on their website or social media page, complete with pictures and other information so that you can see them and decide if you want to adopt one of them. If you are wanting to adopt, consider an older cat or dog. As you learned from the above statistics, these are the least likely to be adopted.
How long does an animal stay in a shelter before being euthanized?
The amount of time that an animal stays in a shelter before being euthanized depends on the particular shelter and the state the shelter is in. There are laws in place in each state that determine how soon an animal can be euthanized in order to give the shelter time to find the animal’s owner. Some states allow the animal to be euthanized within 48 hours under certain conditions, while others require at least 7 days.
But, the rates of euthanasia are causing shelters in some states to become no-kill. No-kill shelters try to do everything they can possibly do to save animals and aim for a 90% save-rate benchmark. While most states have at least one no-kill shelter in them, there are only two states in which all of their shelters are no-kill. Delaware was the first state to do so, followed by New Hampshire. Granted these are small states with fewer animal shelters, but these two states have managed to save every animal that enters a shelter, with other states taking measures to become no-kill as well.
What is pet fostering?
In some cases, animals are brought into shelters that the shelter can’t care for.
This is where fostering an animal comes in. With fostering, an animal is placed into your home for temporary or long-term care. The foster can help socialize, care for, or serve as a companion to a shelter owner until they are ready to go to another home. In some cases, the foster becomes attached to the animal and ends up keeping them permanently.
If you want to foster shelter pets, you can reach out to your local animal shelter. Each shelter may have its own requirements for fosters, such as undergoing training or being a certain age. If you have other pets, they may also require that your pets be spayed or neutered and up-to-date on their vaccinations.
If you can’t adopt or foster, what else can you do to help shelter pets?
Some people just can’t adopt a pet due to housing, finances, age, allergies, or other circumstances. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t contribute to helping shelter pets in other ways.
One of the biggest areas in which a lot of shelters need help is funding. A lot of animal shelters receive funding through grants or donations from certain organizations or the city that the shelter is in. But sometimes this funding isn’t enough, especially for non-profit shelters who often don’t receive city funding. It can cost hundreds of dollars to care for one shelter pet when you consider vet care, vaccinations, and the supplies needed to keep the animal, especially in no-kill shelters. Monetary donations or fundraisers can make a big impact on the shelter’s finances.
If you can’t donate money, you can also donate supplies to help cut down on the supplies that the shelter has to buy. Blankets, dog and cat food, cat litter, bowls and litter boxes, and even toys are all things that you can donate to a shelter that will help tremendously. Any food or litter that you donate should be new and unopened, but you can donate dog beds and blankets that are used.
If you want to help but can’t help in any other way, you can consider volunteering. Many animal shelters are also understaffed due to lack of funding, or they have too many animals for the amount of staff that they have to care for. By volunteering in your free time, you can help care for and play with the animals so that they can feel loved while they wait to go to their forever home.
Millions of dogs and cats end up in animal shelters every year. A large percentage of those animals do get adopted, but there are still millions that don’t, or they get euthanized before they have the chance to get adopted. If enough people were to adopt an animal it could take a huge load off of animal shelters, many of which are overcrowded and underfunded. Even if only a few more people decide to adopt instead of shop each year, it can make a huge difference in those animals’ lives.
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Featured Image Credit: Susan Schmitz, Shutterstock