By PetcoBlogger on Aug 13, 2015
Caring for a pet is a lifelong commitment, but as most pet parents can attest, the unconditional love and companionship they offer is worth the responsibility, cost and time.
The number of households with a pet is at a record high: According to the 2015 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 65% of U.S. households have at least one pet. In 1988, only 56% had pets. In fact, the number of American pets has more than tripled since the 1970s. Currently, the majority of pet parents do not adopt from shelters or rescues, and approximately 65% are introduced to their pets by acquaintances or family members.
Thousands of happy, healthy and well-socialized pets live in animal shelters nationwide. Though many have not found their forever home yet, each and every adopted pet means another life saved. Read on to find out why adoption is the best option for both the animal and your family.
There’s No Place Like Home
Potential pet parents have options when it comes to finding the right pet for their family and lifestyle. Some people default to a breeder or pet store in search of a specific breed, or because of antiquated stigmas about animal shelters. These animals are often unfairly overlooked; pet parents often relinquish pets because their landlord does not allow them, they do not have enough time or a life circumstance such as divorce or a move gets in the way. Great pets of all breeds, sizes and personalities find themselves at shelters-they’re just waiting to be found by the right family.
Adoption Rates on the Rise
Due in part to successful spay and neuter programs, managed intake and new initiatives, fewer pets enter shelters every year. Around 7.6 million animals nationwide find their way to a shelter annually. While a portion of those animals return to their pet parents, more than one-third (2.7 million) are euthanized. Though that figure is grim, nearly the same percentage of shelter animals are adopted. And that number is rising.
New shelter programs and adoption events have placed a record number of pets. Since the 1970s, euthanasia rates in animal shelters have significantly declined-from about 15 million cats and dogs euthanized in 1970 to roughly 3.4 million in 2013.
As the U.S. population increases, so does pet parenthood. In 1996, 130 million pets resided in U.S. homes. By the end of this year, that number will likely surpass 185 million. So why the increase? It’s all about resources and changing attitudes toward adoption.
The way we view pets has shifted-no matter where they come from. Eight out of 10 pet parents consider their pets part of the family. In fact, a 2015 Gallup poll found almost one-third of Americans believe animals should be given the same rights as people and 62% think they deserve at least some legal protection.
Views on pet adoption have also become more positive. Adopting a pet from a shelter is now a popular, highly accepted decision. Much of this acceptance can be attributed to local adoption marketing campaigns by animal welfare groups and national campaigns such as The Shelter Pet Project and Think Adoption First®. Internet adoption search vehicles-including Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet -plus the promotion of offside adoptions at national pet retailers, like Petco, have also driven adoption popularity.
Awareness, however, is only one piece of the puzzle. Funding from foundations has increased from $2 million in 1996 to an estimated $50 million in 2013, and is projected to reach $75 million this year. These funds allow for high-volume adoption events, spay and neuter programs and relocation programs (which bring animals from high-supply, low-demand areas to places with low supply and high demand).
Shelter medical care is another contributor to improved adoption rates. Shelter veterinarians help keep pets healthy and rehabilitate sick and injured animals. Currently, more than 85% of veterinary schools have shelter medicine programs. These programs help improve the quality of life for shelter animals through health care, behavior assessment and modification and preventive medicine. All of these measures aim to ultimately increase adoption rates.
Ready to Help a Pet Find a Forever Home?
Many pet adoptions are a story of love at first sight. And while true, long-lasting love can be spontaneous and found in unexpected places-whether through a neighbor, friend or family member or at an adoption event-it may be a good idea to consider a few points before adopting your next pet. While some advanced planning can be helpful, it’s certainly not essential to a successful adoption.
- Know why you want to adopt a pet.
Whether you would like a companion for your child or want to fill the void after a pet passes, reflect on why you want bring a cat, dog or other animal home. This knowledge can help determine which pet will fit your needs.
- Be prepared for a lifelong friend.
Your pet will be with you through moves, new jobs and other lifestyle changes. Though the average lifespan of cats and dogs depends on a number of factors including proper care, your cat will likely be a part of the family for 10-14 years and your dog will typically live for 10-12 years. Before you adopt a pet, ask yourself if you will be able to spend quality time with your new companion.
- Think about what kind of pet is right for you.
Research different pets and their care requirements. Some pets need lots of exercise and space. Other pets, like fish, are well-suited for younger children. Consider your home life (both the home itself and the people or other animals who live there). The people who work for or volunteer at the local shelter can help you find your best match too.
- Prepare your home for your new pet.
Similar to a new baby, bringing home a pet is easiest and safest with some preparation. Every pet is different, but you may need to pet proof your home by moving pet-unfriendly plants and other potentially hazardous household items out of reach. If you have other pets at home, you will need to introduce them to your new pet properly.
- Stock up on supplies.
After bringing your new pet home, there will be ongoing costs to build into your budget. Expenses include food; annual veterinary care; vaccinations, flea, tick and heartworm prevention; spaying or neutering (if not included in the adoption fee); training classes, proper identification, toys, collars, leashes, crates and beds and a variety of other supplies. For a rough financial breakdown of pet parenting, check out Petfinder’s annual costs charts for dogs and cats or the ASPCA’s thorough pet care costs chart, which includes more animals.
- Talk about pet responsibilities with your family.
Caring for a pet can be a team effort. Consider setting up a family meeting to talk about pet care responsibilities. Families with babies, children and teens may all be ready for adoption. Children older than toddlers can even help play with, exercise, feed and care for the family pet.
Pet adoption is a joyful, fun and celebratory experience. While some adoptions may occur on the spur of the moment, some planning may provide a smoother transition for your pet and your family.
Think Adoption First
Adoption is a socially responsible and fulfilling way to fall in love with your next pet. Petco and the Petco Foundation have partnered with thousands of local animal welfare groups to save more than 400,000 animals every year. Improving a companion animal’s life is achievable-every adoption makes an important impact.