For those involved with animal rights, adopting from a shelter is common sense when deciding to add a furry companion to the household. When passionate about animals, there is no other choice. But a survey from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, a no-kill shelter in Utah, says that the majority of young people, ages 18-34, are dismissing animal shelters. How is it that the most plugged in age group is overlooking the option of adoption? Misconceptions and a lack of knowledge are to blame.
First, let’s look at the facts. The Humane Society of the United States finds that somewhere between 6 and 8 million dogs and cats enter animal shelters every year. About 2.7 million pets are euthanized annually. (BFAS says that 9,000 dogs and cats are put down EVERY DAY.) Despite these heartbreaking numbers, BFAS’s survey reports that, out of the 1,000 people in their survey, only 34% of those aged 18-34 would consider adoption, and 46% would likely purchase from a breeder or pet store. Almost 40% of respondents didn’t see euthanasia as a threat to shelter pets, and 46% saw shelter animals as “second-rate pets” compared to those from a breeder or pet store.
PetsMart Charities found similar results in their own surveys in 2009 and 2011. They found that the majority of their respondents underestimated the number of animals euthanized every year. Although their survey did not categorize for age, Kelly Campbell, senior manager of knowledge and research for PetsMart Charities, said that “younger people were more likely to believe that pets stayed in shelters until they found a home and are not vulnerable to euthansia.” Campbell says the recurring results for young adults’ awareness is troublesome. “It breaks my heart every time I see it,” she says. “There are some wonderful, wonderful pets in shelters.”
And it’s true, there are some great adoptable pets in shelters. About 25% of shelter dogs are purebreds. Many of the pets in shelters are owner surrenders, brought to shelters for reasons varying from moving to caregivers who are aging, sick, or incarcerated. The only thing “wrong” with these pets is that they don’t have a home! Gretchen Fieser, spokeswoman for the North Side-based Western Pennsylvania Humane Society, put it best when she said, “Every person that I know of has had somebody break up with them — a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a best friend,” she says. “The same is true for these animals. Just because somebody broke up with them, it doesn’t mean they’re less worthy. … The idea that they are damaged goods is false.”
So what can be done? A good idea is for shelters to rev up their social media presence. Updates and cute pictures of adoptables can go a long way on Facebook and Twitter. A clean, easy-to-navigate website with lots of images is also helpful. Having a physical presence out in the public will bring the shelter to the masses. Farmers markets, outdoor festivals, etc. can all be prime opportunities for residents to get to know their local shelter and possibly meet some of the dogs and cats waiting for adoption. And possibly most important of all is for a shelter to have plenty of volunteers to help. If you have some time on your hands, please inquire at your nearby animal shelter about ways to help, whether it be using your photography skills to snap pics of adoptable pets, socializing the animals in the shelter, or helping with outreach in your community. Every little bit helps!
How else can animal shelters spread the word about adoption? How do you support your local animal shelter?
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