6 Ways You Can Help Save 670,000 Dogs

Over 6.5 million dogs and cats live in shelters across the United States. With around 3.3 million dogs and 3.2 million cats, this number might seem high. However, because of the amazing efforts of rescue organizations and passionate individuals, this number has actually decreased. 


Though many are adopted, about 1.5 million  of these pets are euthanized to make room for incoming animals. These animals are often young and healthy, but older dogs and cats that are less likely to find forever homes will be euthanized as well.. Approximately 670,000 dogs alone are destroyed each year., and for any animal lover, these are heartbreaking numbers.


Causes for High Numbers

According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), Americans spent nearly $96 billion on their pets in 2019. In 2020, estimates show that this number will be just shy of $100 billion. As the industry grows, the amount of people who see it as an opportunity to make money off the sale of animals does as well. This, unfortunately, means that the animals that we love become products, and like any other product, they are produced to increase sales.


In the United States, countless large and small scale dog breeders produce thousands of pets with little to no regulation on animal well-being. Often referred to as “puppy mills” or “kitten mills”, these breeders focus on meeting the demand for purebred dogs and cats at the cost of animal health. 


In the worst puppy mills, the breeding parents are kept in small cages where they are unable to play and are usually not well-maintained. In addition, puppies from these mills are usually weaker and are not properly socialized or trained, meaning they will be more prone to developmental and health issues as they age. 


A problem arises when your supply outweighs the demand. Dogs and cats that don’t sell by a certain age are either dumped on the streets, given away to unqualified pet parents, or turned over to shelters. Not only do these strays and unwanted pets come from these breeders, but they are surrendered by pet owners for a variety of reasons, such as lack of time and bad pet behavior. Strays are often not spayed or neutered as well, which compounds the issue even further.


It is a vicious cycle that snowballs more and more as animals are produced each year. There are many reasons why shelters and rescues are filled with unwanted pets, but despite these devastating statistics, there are a few simple ways you can help save every single one of these beautiful and loving creatures.


Adopt

Adopting an animal from your local pet shelter or pet rescue is one of best ways to help the animal shelter crisis. This process involves meeting specific requirements to ensure you’re a good fit for the pup, and you will have to pay a fee. However, this fee goes towards helping other pets still within the shelter by giving them food or funds for medical treatments. 


In addition, adoption fees are much less than purchasing a dog or cat from a pet store or breeder. While some pet parents often turn to breeders as they would like a specific breed, breed specific pet rescues could be an alternative. Whether you adopt from a shelter or a rescue, you’re saving a life and potentially many others. 


Foster

Fostering a pet can be a good way to help, especially if you are not looking to adopt a pet quite yet or are unable to at the moment. Foster families provide a chance at a new life for dogs by offering them an escape from their abysmal shelter existence until forever homes can be found. Foster parents are able to offer the attention and care that hourly wage shelter workers simply can’t give.


By fostering a pet, you will allow the dog to feel happy and loved until a more permanent living situation can be found. Additionally, you’ll be able to meet the dog’s needs and provide them proper socialization and training, which can increase their chances of getting adopted in the future. 


Sponsor

Sponsoring a pet is very similar to fostering a pet. However, instead of keeping the animal in your home, they will remain at the shelter or with a foster family. This is a great option for pet lovers who are busy and don’t have the time to dedicate to training a pet and giving them enough exercise. 


By sponsoring, you will give the shelter, rescue, or foster family the funds to properly feed and house a dog. This means that pets will have extra time at the shelter to find a forever home. In addition, you can also help cover medical costs they might have or pay for neutering or spaying. 


Volunteer

Not only is volunteering at an animal shelter or rescue great for your mental health and gives you a sense of accomplishment, but you also get to work with the animals you’re so passionate about! Shelters and rescues often run at or over capacity, meaning shelter workers are unable to spend much of their time with each animal while still fulfilling their duties.


Shelter dogs are taken for walks, but they do not often get the proper amount of exercise, socialization, and enrichment they need. By volunteering, you’ll be able to offer these animals companionship, more enriching experiences, and brighten their day. Many volunteers choose to work solely with the animals, but you can also offer your time to help the shelter and rescue workers complete their daily tasks. 


Donate

In addition to donating your time to the shelter and the pets, you can also donate funds and supplies. This is very similar to sponsoring a specific pet, but your funds will be distributed to the entire shelter, helping more than one animal at a time. 


Giving a few dollars a month could help animal shelters remain open as well as give them funds to hold adoption days and fundraising events. Often, pet shelters and rescues will need basic supplies, such as food, toys, and blankets, which are not terribly expensive, but they could mean all the difference to a pet and give them a few more days to find a home.   


Veterinarians and shelter workers have a difficult job. No shelter or veterinarian actually wants to euthanize these unfortunate animals. Nearly all of them would tell you this is one of the worst requirements of their jobs and a reason why depression and suicide rates among animal care workers are so disproportionately high. By giving to a shelter, you can make their lives easier and bring hope. 


Help Raise Awareness

Raising awareness to the problem can be a simple and free way to help animals in need. Ensure your family and friends know what is actually happening, and who the true culprit is. No animal lover will turn a blind eye to these problems. 


As we are very social media centric humans, a good way to spread awareness would be through following your local shelter or rescue on a social media platform. Following them will make their shelter or organization more visible. In addition, you can help by sharing their events or featured animals with your friends and family. 


If you want to help on a grander scale, you can start a petition or go to town meetings to promote change. You can ask for funding for the shelters or rescues, or you can speak with legislators to call for new laws or amending laws to help protect animals on a large scale. Present people with a well-spoken argument, supported by credible facts, and the number of people willing to listen might surprise you.


Our state legislatures have the power to enact laws restricting large-scale breeding, and the sale of commercially bred puppies. In California, for example, the governor signed the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act in 2018, placing restrictions on California pet shops and making the owners disclose where animals come from in hopes that they would no longer source animals from mills. 


Using your voice and drawing awareness to the issues can be an effective way to create change for the upcoming generations. 


You Can Make a Difference


Americans love their pets. 44% of American households have at least one dog, and over 78 million dogs have found homes in the United States. While many dogs and cats are still making their way into shelters, there are many that receive the car and love they need. By practicing any of the methods above, you can help ensure that the remaining 670,000 dogs receive the same care and treatment. Through just a small degree of effort on your part, you can help make an enormous difference in the lives of these animals in need!




ASPCA. (2015-18) Pet Statistics. Animal Homelessness/Shelter Intake & Surrender. Retrieved from https://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics#:~:text=Each%20year%2C%20approximately%201.5%20million,approximately%202.6%20million%20in%202011


https://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp

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