So, you’ve decided that you have room in your home and in your heart for a dog? Awesome! You’re definitely in good company.
The Insurance Information Institute (III) reported results of a survey that was conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) in 2015 and 2016. In that study, there were 54.4 million households (or 44%) in this country which included dogs, accounting for 77.8 million dogs in this country, with an average of 1.43 dogs per household. Over 66% of these dog households reported that their dogs were “family” – not just “pets.” (See what I mean about being in good company?)
Reportedly 37% of the dogs in this survey were obtained by adoption from a shelter or rescue group, up from 35% in 2012 to 2013.
Now for some not so great statistics.
According to information reported by the American Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA):
- Approximately 3.9 million dogs enter shelters nationwide each year.
- Almost twice as many dogs enter as strays as dogs that are given up by their owners.
- Most of those dogs relinquished by owners were given up due to change in circumstance (e.g., divorce, lack of time, or inability to keep the dog in a new residence) – not because the pet was a problem child.
- Of the dogs who come in as strays, approximately 542,000 are reunited with their owners.
- Approximately 1.4 million dogs are adopted from shelters yearly.
- Another 1.2 million are euthanized.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates that approximately 80% of the euthanized dogs were healthy or treatable and could have been adopted.
These shelter statistics, incidentally, are improving progressively each year. Obviously, we still have a long way to go …
Now on to where to begin your search for your new family member.
Where to find a dog to adopt.
According to the ASPCA, there are approximately 13,600 independent community animal shelters and rescues nationwide. There are approximately 3,500 brick and mortar facilities, the rest being rescues and animal sanctuaries.
Because there are so many shelters and rescue groups, the two best places to start are probably Pet Finder and Adopt-a-Pet online. Both are large national websites which provide free advertising of pets available for adoption to not-for-profit shelters and rescue groups.
If you have done your homework and have your heart set on a specific breed, you would be amazed at what you can find from these two sources – without even having to leave your house! You can find pure breed dogs of almost every breed you can think of and the cutest mixed breed pups imaginable. Even if you don’t have a specific breed in mind, again they’re a great source of information. It will save you a lot of leg work to know what is available at the different shelters and rescues nearby, where they are located, hours of operation, etc.
Pet Finder has been helping to find homes for pets for the past 20 years, and now includes almost 14,000 adoption groups in the United States as well as Canada and Mexico. You search for your new pet by providing your zip code and the breed, age and sex of dog you want to adopt. The search results will include any matches within a reasonable geographical area (the sample search I did provided a list of dogs within 25 miles of my zip code).
On their website, you can also search for local shelter and rescue groups, again using your zip code. This site provides a list of groups by state, but it seems to give results in ever-expanding circles from your zip code. The list I requested had 500+ entries, but the part of their list that I looked at (probably the first 100 entries) never got farther than 30 miles from home. In other words, it serves results by appropriate geographic location first rather than alphabetically by name of shelter or alphabetically by location.
Adopt-a-pet provides free advertising of adoptable pets for nearly 13,600 shelters and rescue groups. Again, search for your new pet by giving your home zip code and the breed you are looking for. When searching from their website, you can also specify the age and sex of the dog you want to find, as well as the color and size and the distance you are willing to go to find him (or her).
Here again you can also search on another tab, using your zip code, for a list of all shelters and rescue groups in your geographical area. I searched “all pets” groups rather than just dog groups in a 50-mile radius and was given a list of 211 shelters and rescues, many of which I didn’t know existed.
I’m a big one for conversations. Ask your friends and acquaintances for recommendations for local shelters and rescues and why they recommend them.
Your veterinarian may be another one to ask for suggestions – or the staff.
If you haven’t yet settled on a specific breed you think would be the perfect addition to your family and don’t mind a bit of leg work, you could use the lists of local shelters and rescues that you have and visit some of them. It will certainly give you enough information to form an opinion of your own as to where you would prefer to adopt. Most shelters have an actual physical location and likely some paid staff, but rescues are largely strictly volunteer and foster their animals. You will likely have to contact rescues to arrange a convenient time and place to meet a pet you may be interested in adopting.
Local adoption event.
You could also visit a local adoption event (PetSmart and Rural King here quite often sponsor them) and go meet and talk to some of the volunteers and see their dogs. If you have a specific dog in mind from their website, you could contact them in advance of the event to meet them and your potential new family member at the event. This would be a good plan of action especially for a rescue group that fosters animals.
I hope I’ve given you some food for thought and a place to start your search. Your new family member is out there – just waiting for you to find him or her. There are thousands of dogs – pure breed and mixed breed – available for adoption right now. Waiting for the chance to meet you and win your heart.
As exciting as it is to find your new family member, take your time and be sure of your choice. You are adding to your family and it is – or should be anyway – a lifetime commitment.
If you are tempted to buy a dog from a pet store, think of its mom – in a cage in a puppy mill or a cold dog house in someone’s back yard. A legitimate breeder would never allow one of their charges to go to a pet store.
Also, think of this quote from Michelle Riley of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS):
“If just one of every five Americans wanting to add a cat or dog to their family in the next year adopted from a shelter or rescue, not one single healthy, treatable cat or dog would lose his or her life in a shelter!”
I wish you the best of luck in your search – and know you’ll do the right thing.
Please leave a comment and if you can a picture of your new family member when you’ve brought him (or her) home. Do you have any other thoughts on beginning a search for a pet to adopt? Any past experiences you would like to share? If you do, it would be great if you would leave a comment below.
A special “thank you” to the above-mentioned photographers for making their work available for use.
My sources for this article are listed below for further reading.
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