According to the ASPCA, every year, more than 7 million dogs and cats enter animal shelters all over the country. Approximately 2.7 million are lucky enough to be adopted. Another 2.7 million are euthanized. The reasons for putting down an animal in a shelter can vary, but the main culprit is this: there are too many animals compared to the number of homes willing to consider adoption.
Over the last decade, the roughly 13,600 animal shelters have been overrun by animals left behind from natural disasters, most notably Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Too many stray animals haven’t been spayed or neutered (only 10% of animals are when taken in by a shelter), which, under the tragic circumstances, led to exponential growth of wild dogs roaming New Orleans.
The problem was exacerbated by the Great Recession and related foreclosure crisis in 2008 and beyond, as the fallout led to millions of Americans losing jobs and homes. Losing jobs meant not enough money to feed all mouths, and losing homes meant families moving into apartments and rental units, many of which don’t allow pets.
Millions of pets join their new household every year, but even with so many animals just waiting for someone to open their heart and visit a shelter, only 29% of dogs and cats find their forever home through adoption.
I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to take one of these home?
There’s no point in dressing it up. Owning a pet is not always easy. They need exercise, which isn’t always easy to provide depending on your space or climate. They need attention; they so badly want to connect and bond with us. They need maintenance, including yearly checkups, vaccinations, etc., as well as the occasional visit when they get into something they aren’t supposed to (hint: if you chew sugarless gum, either stop, or keep it far away from them).
But there is no forgetting the look on their face the day you adopt them, the warmth in your heart to see them slowly start to understand that they get to stay with you, and the unconditional love every time you walk in the door. Sometimes that love is so great that you end up needing a new kitchen floor. It’s all relative.
Rather than talk about the difference an adoption can make for a stray pet, I would prefer to just show you.
These are my three dogs, all from the same shelter. Two of them were picked up as strays. Mille was picked up by local police in my town, who turned her over to the shelter. A few months later, she came home with us, and our lives have never been the same. Lincoln was picked up as a stray in Texas, and eventually made his way to the same shelter in Wisconsin. We adopted him just five months ago, when the shelter had to abruptly close and place 100 animals over a weekend. Because of their breeds (Mille is a pit bull mix, Lincoln is part German Shepherd), in a bigger city, they likely would have been euthanized within weeks, if not days.
Don’t forget about the fringe benefits that you may not have originally considered. For example, they can also be very good at protecting your home and family. I mean, who needs a gun with these two on the lookout, aided by my Pomeranian alarm siren?
This is not an attempt to guilt anyone into getting a pet if you’re not able to take on the responsibility right now. But if you are looking, I strongly encourage you to consider adoption from a shelter. Part of the joy of having a pet is to see their appreciation when you provide for them. You will never see a more appreciative pet than the one that walks with you out of the shelter and jumps in your car.
And now, please enjoy this sleeping pit bull nose dance.