The State of Things…

According to the latest research and data, the United States is more popular than ever, with some 65.1 million US households owning at least one canine companion which accounts for 49.5% according to a recent study by the Insurance Information Institute. In total, there are over 100 million dogs that are owned in the United States, and that number figures to continue rising in the coming decades. The American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Surveys found that pet expenditures more than doubled between 2012 ($53.3 billion) to 2021 ($123.6 billion). From a dog’s perspective, it is seemingly a great time to be alive-owners are dishing out substantial amounts of money to provide their dogs with comfortable, enjoyable lifestyles. Sadly, not all dogs are fortunate enough to find a loving home to spend their lives in.

Treatment of dogs that end up in animal shelters has long been a topic of controversy in the United States, and though much of the criticism the country has received is warranted, there has been considerable progress made in the past decade. Overall, fewer dogs are being housed in shelters, with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reporting that the number decreased from 3.9 million dogs in 2011 to 3.1 million dogs in 2019. Likewise, the United States has made drastic improvements in reducing the number of animals euthanized by shelters, dropping from 2,000,000 per year in 2015 to 347,000 in 2020—a whopping 83% reduction in animals euthanized! While these numbers are encouraging and certainly worth celebrating, there remains much work to be done when it comes to the treatment of dogs in shelters.

Dogs in Shelters

Though more households in the United States own dogs than ever before, this does not necessarily correlate to greater numbers of dogs being adopted from animal shelters. A recent ASPCA study found that only around 23% of new dog adoptions are from animal shelters, while a Best Friends National Shelter Data study from 2020 found that number to be closer to 39% of new dog adoptions being from animal shelters. In either case, there is room for improvement regarding both public perception of animal shelters and the adoption process used by animal shelters.

Common barriers that prevent individuals from adopting from shelters include poor communication from an animal shelter, strict requirements or invasive questions during the adoption process, delays during the adoption process, and rejection of adoptions. While some barriers such as questioning an applicant are necessary to ensure that a dog goes to a safe environment, others such as poor communication and delays during the application process can easily be prevented with timely responses and transparency during the adoption process.

Public Perception of Dogs from Shelters

There is a significant amount of misinformation that exists when it comes to adopting dogs from animal shelters, so knowing how to discern the accurate information from the inaccurate is a good place to start when considering a shelter dog. As stated by the Best Friends National Shelter Data study from 2020, about 56% of households that own dogs have a purebred dog. Unfortunately, many of these households never considered adopting their purebred from a shelter because a common misconception about animal shelters is that every dog that they have is a mix of some sort. The reality is that about 25-35% of pets that can be found in shelters are purebred. Breed-specific rescue groups also exist throughout the country, and they can provide ample opportunities to find a specific breed that you may have your heart set on. Adopting purebred dogs from animal shelters or accredited rescue groups can negate the demand for such dogs from puppy mills or other locations that do not raise dogs in a responsible manner.

Health considerations

Another common misconception about adopting a dog from a shelter is that they will be in poor health and require substantial amounts of money to be invested into them. While the prospect of spending thousands of dollars on a new dog that was adopted from the shelter is undoubtedly daunting, it is an irrational fear to have. The fact of the matter is that dogs from shelters are typically healthier compared to those from breeders because they have fewer inherited genetic conditions. Moreover, the majority of dogs that come from shelters are already spayed or neutered, so pet owners could potentially save considerable amounts of money by adopting a dog from a shelter.

When it comes to improving public perception of dogs from animal shelters, there are a number of tried and true methods that can be employed. Having a website that features the animals at a shelter is paramount to animal adoption, but other methods that have been known to boost adoption rates include the creation of infographics or flyers relating to an individual dog, making a video, or generating an illustration-anything that makes a dog seem more personable to the public will increase their chances of being adopted.

Adopting your canine companion from a shelter can be an immensely rewarding experience. Not only does it have the potential to save you money compared to a purchase from a breeder, but you can also have the satisfaction of knowing that you are making a meaningful, life-changing difference for the dog that you choose. With more people owning dogs than ever before, now is a fantastic time to visit your local shelter and find your best friend!