Dog Adoption in the U.S.
A list of the top animal shelters from across the U.S. has been compiled on the attached spreadsheet. From the list, it was observed that shelters which had the highest intake of animals in the U.S. included Maricopa County Animal Care and Control with an intake of 28,376 pets, Austin Animal Center with an intake of 18,002 pets, and Brandywine Valley SPCA with an intake of 16,548 pets.
Summary of Findings
- Examples of the top animal welfare centers by the intake of pets includes Maricopa County Animal Care and Control - 28,376 pets, Austin Animal Center - 18,002 pets, and Brandywine Valley SPCA - 16,548 pets.
- Some of the identified organizations also have a summary of their community impact in terms of number of pets adopted. An example of such an organization is Austin Animal Center which had an adoption rate of 5,398 dogs and 3,510 cats in 2019.
We used the list of top animal welfare organizations across all states in the U.S. to compile the list of the top 50 shelters across the country. As the list contained shelter intake data from 2018, we searched the individual websites of each organization to find the latest data including intake data and adoption data for both cats and dogs. Most organizations in the list contained the latest data from 2019 to 2020, but a few did not have such data. In such cases the spreadsheet cell was marked with N/A.
Shelter adoption volume trends in the U.S. for the last 3-5 years include an observed increase in the number of pet adoptions as more and more people searched for companionship in the wake of the shelter-in-place orders that were issued because of the COVID pandemic. A detailed overview of 4 key adoption volume trends witnessed over the last couple of years in the U.S. follows below.
Shelter Adoption Volume Trends
COVID Impact on Pet Adoption
- When the COVID pandemic hit, the number of pet adoptions in the U.S. were observed to increase. This increase was attributed to the fact that people found themselves lonely at home and in search of company when shelter-in-place orders began to limit movement in the country.
- This resulted to many people opting to adopt pets that were awaiting adoption in animal shelters and humane centers and as adoption numbers surged in the U.S., the number of "homeless dogs and cats entering shelters started to decline amid continued quarantine efforts."
- According to a report by Shelter Animals Count, which contained data from 1,270 animal welfare organizations in the U.S., 548,966 pets were admitted into the surveyed organizations between March and June 2020 compared to 840,750 pets that were admitted during the same period in 2019 - a reduction of 35% year-over-year.
- Increases in adoption rates and sustained decreases in shelter intake resulted in an improved live release rate of 89% for homeless dogs and cats that left shelters between March and June 2020 compared to 86% during the same period in 2019.
Aggregate Pet Adoption Statistics Year-Over-Year
- According to aggregate data from the period 2015 to 2018, approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter U.S. animal welfare organizations annually.
- Out of the above number, approximately 1.5 million were euthanized while 3.2 million were adopted into U.S. households. The adoption numbers further segment into around 1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats.
- Additionally, about 710,000 animals that entered American shelters as strays were returned to their owners i.e. 620,000 are dogs and 90,000 cats.
- Although some shelters in the U.S. witnessed a surge in adoptions due to increased demand, generally, nationwide adoptions rates for both cats and dogs decreased in 2020 from the previous years. Additionally, as compared to January 2020, national pet adoptions decreased by around -25% in January 2021.
Cat Adoption Statistics
- During the 2019 -2020 period, 43% of cats in the U.S. were adopted from a shelter or rescue. For the 2015-2016 and 2017-2018 periods, this figure was 46% and 47%, respectively.
- Of the over 3 million cats that are euthanized in U.S. shelters annually, around "2.4 million (80%) are healthy and treatable and could have been adopted into new homes."
- In 2020, cat ownership and adoption increased in the U.S. This is evident from the fact that 18% of respondents to a survey noted that they have a kitten under 1 year old meaning they recently adopted it.
- The pet adoption fees for animals in shelters is much lower than previous years and in 2021, it cost an average of $86 to adopt a cat that is younger than 1 year and $57 to adopt a cat that is older than 1 year.
Dog Adoption Statistics
- During the 2019 -2020 period, 44% of dogs in the U.S. were adopted from a shelter or rescue. For the 2015-2016 and 2017-2018 periods, this figure was 37% and 44%, respectively.
- However, it is worth noting that in 2020, many Americans "acquired dogs without adopting them from a shelter i.e. 15% did not acquire a dog from a shelter or rescue, compared to 12% who did."
- Additionally, dog ownership and adoption also showed a growth in 2020 as nearly 13% of the respondents to a survey indicated that they have a puppy under 1 year old.
- Lastly, in regard to adoption expenses, in 2021, it cost an average of $201 to adopt a dog that is younger than 1 year and $120 to adopt a dog that is older than 1 year.