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The Benefits of Adopting a Shelter Pet

In January, more than 700 animals were found living in appalling conditions and without proper care at an unlicensed facility in Raeford, North Carolina. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) stepped in, performing the largest companion animal rescue in the organization’s 150 year history.* Several months later after the dogs, cats (and horses) had received proper care and evaluation, a weekend-long adoption event drew thousands of people hoping to be able to find a match for a pet and provide them a forever home.

Pet ownership in the United States is at an all-time high. According to WebMD, owning a pet may offer certain health benefits like a decrease in blood pressure, cholesterol and allergies, as well as lessening anxiety and depression. Pet owners also tend to be happier due to elevated levels of serotonin and dopamine, and of course, may get more exercise by walking and playing with Fido.

Most people consider pets to be members of the family. They offer unconditional love, and while they can sometimes drive you crazy, they can also make you laugh and cheer you up when you’re down. We all know someone who is the parent of a “fur baby” who cares for their charge by wiping eye boogies or a runny nose, turns pot handles on the stove for safety, and thinks nothing of sharing the same ice cream cone (don’t judge). For many, the love (and loss) they experience for a pet can be profound.

When a pet first wakes up or greets you, they often have a sense of sheer joy and excitement. Whether it’s just seeing their owner, the potential of going for a walk (or of course, being fed). Just imagine, as humans, how lucky we would be if we could harness a tiny portion of that as we face our days.

Now think of how many dogs or cats awaiting adoption don’t get to share that with anyone in particular. Animals may end up in shelters for any number of reasons, but unlike pure bred or specialty animals, they are at a disadvantage when it comes to finding a permanent home.

While the statistics vary, the numbers of pets awaiting homes is staggering. The ASPCA currently estimates that:

  • Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters annually (3.9 million dogs and 3.4 million cats).
  • Of the dogs entering shelters, approximately 35% are adopted, 31% are euthanized and 26% of dogs who came in as strays are returned to their owner.
  • Of the cats entering shelters, approximately 37% are adopted, 41% are euthanized, and less than 5% who came in as strays are returned to their owners.

National Adopt A Shelter Pet Day is April 30th. If you’re thinking about pet ownership, please consider adopting an animal from a reputable local facility or organization. If animals could talk, they would probably tell you that they’re grateful.


*, March 23, 2016.