Thanks to bad press and publicity, shelter dogs have always had an infamously bad rap. When most people—namely, non-animal lovers—think of shelter dogs, the picture that comes to mind is a vicious, volatile creature who’s been surrendered to the shelter because it bit its owner one too many times. However, this image is far from reality—and in honor of Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, we’ve gathered some of the many shelter dog facts that will dispel any doubts you might have once and for all.
There are more homeless animals than people.
Dogs suffer from vagrancy just as much as humans do. In fact, according to volunteer website DoSomething.org, there are five homeless animals on the street for every one homeless human.
Adopting from a shelter is cheaper.
From a fiscal standpoint, going to the shelter to pick out your new pet makes more sense than working with a breeder or pet shop. While the average shelter won’t charge more than $250 for an adoption fee, some dogs from breeders have price tags that’ll run you as much as the cost of a cheap car.
Shelter dogs are perfectly normal!
Though some dogs surrendered to the shelter do suffer from behavioral issues, the majority of them are given up either due to circumstances out of their control (owners’ allergies) or because of minor mishaps that are handled easily (like peeing in the house).
Most dogs entering shelters are still young.
One common misconception that deters people from adopting is that all shelter animals are on their last legs. However, research published in the Macedonian Veterinary Review found that, in 2013, the average age of a shelter dog was under two years old, proving that there are dogs of all ages available for adoption.
Not all shelter dogs are mutts.
People think that the only way they’ll ever find a purebred dog is through a breeder, but that’s far from the case. On the contrary, DoSomething.org notes that a staggering 25 percent of all dogs in animal shelters are actually purebred.
Millions of dogs are sent to animal shelters every year.
Of the 6.5 million animals that enter animal shelters nationwide every year, 3.3 million of those are dogs.
…but that number is slowly declining.
Though millions of dogs are still without homes today, there are fewer dogs in shelters now than there were before. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), there were 7.2 million animals in shelters in 2011, meaning that shelters nationwide have seen a welcome decrease of about 10 percent.
People continue to buy dogs from breeders instead of adopting them.
Though people are aware of how many dogs remain in shelters, the ASPCA reports that 34 percent of dogs are obtained from breeders, whereas just 23 percent are adopted from animal shelters or humane societies.
Every shelter dog is carefully evaluated.
One major thing that stops people from adopting a dog from the shelter is the worry that their dog will have hidden health or behavioral issues. However, according to Kenny Lamberti, vice president of companion animals at the Humane Society of the United States, “the vast majority of dogs that would come from a shelter are evaluated for behavior and health.” And not only do shelters properly analyze each and every animal that comes into their care, but they do so in a manner that is more thorough than most breeders and pet shops.
Pit bulls are extremely misunderstood.
Pit bulls are by far the most common breed seen in animal shelters, but that’s just because they’re misunderstood. While most people assume the animals to be aggressive and vicious, one study conducted by the website Dognition found that pit bulls were ranked out of 35 common breeds as one of the least aggressive.
Shelter dogs are extremely unique.
If you want a dog that’s truly one of a kind, then the shelter is the place to go. According to one study of over 900 pups published in PLoS ONE, the average shelter mutt is a mix of three different breeds!
Dogs give children a better home environment.
It’s true what they say about shelter dogs: Not only do you save them, but they save you, too. In fact, one study conducted by researchers at the University of Florida found that having a pet dog around allows children better cope with stress, setting them up for success in the future.
The majority of shelter dogs are euthanized.
It’s sad, but true: According to the pet adoption website PetFinder, approximately 60 percent of shelter dogs nationwide are put to sleep every year because they can’t find a home.
Overpopulation is a huge problem.
Adorable as puppies may be, the world simply has too many of them—at least compared to the current demand for pets. Not only are the majority of dogs not neutered, but the average fertile dog produces one litter a year, with each litter consisting of anywhere from four to six babes. And when these dogs can’t find homes, they are sent to shelters, thus creating a high demand for a small number of shelters.
Most shelter dogs have already been neutered or spayed.
Getting a dog neutered or spayed is expensive, but it’s not an expense you have to worry about when adopting a shelter dog. The majority of shelters will cover the cost of the procedure while the dog is under their care, and these prices are already included in the small fee you pay to adopt your new furry best friend.
Many shelter dogs are trained.
Because so many dogs are brought to the shelter having already lived in a home environment, it’s more than likely that you’ll find that your new pet already knows some of the basic commands.
When you adopt, you’re supporting a good cause.
By adopting, you’re fighting back against puppy mills, where dogs are kept in “overcrowded, soiled cages” and are unable to socialize or roam.
Shelter dogs love humans.
One study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research revealed that shelter dogs are “more socially driven to gaze and interact with humans” compared to pet dogs. Basically, if you adopt instead of shop, get ready to receive all the cuddles in the world!
Owning a dog can help you live longer.
Adopting a dog from the shelter is a win-win situation. According to one study of 3.4 million individuals published in Scientific Reports, single dog owners were 33 percent less likely to die compared to their pet-free pals.
Most dogs don’t ever find a forever home.
If you’re still on the fence about adopting a shelter dog, then consider this: According to the Mosby Foundation, a nonprofit that helps care for injured and abused animals, only 1 out of every 10 dogs born ever gets placed in a permanent, loving home.