Sarah Ford | October 31, 2013

Research Finds Shelter Dogs Still Need Help

Source: PetSmart Charities

RESEARCH FINDS SHELTER DOGS STILL NEED HELPA sure way to learn what people think about shelter pets and adoption is to ask — and recently, Best Friends Animal Society did just that. Now, the organization has released Best Friends’ Inaugural Pet Adoption Surveyconducted by Ketchum Global Research and Analytics in November 2012. Some findings were predictable and heartwarming ­— for example, 95% of Americans believe that having a pet makes people happier.

On the other hand, the survey uncovered disturbing results about what people — especially young adults — think of shelter pets. It shows us that although we’ve come a long way, we still have work to do.

Some good news about people and shelter pets

There is no question that Americans love pets. In fact, 89% of respondents consider themselves pet lovers. Overall, people believe pets in shelters are lovable and ­sweet.

Another point of agreement is spay/neuter surgery. 80% of Americans believe that all cats and dogs should be spayed or neutered. About half of them agree that one of the benefits of adopting a pet from a shelter is that their new pet is already spayed or neutered.

Americans are still more than twice as likely to say they would adopt, rather than purchase a pet for their family.

Misperceptions about the fate of pets in shelters

Best Friends’ study revealed that most Americans know that when pets arrive at shelters, many of them won’t make it out. However, 28% believe that pets stay in shelters until they are adopted. Among young adults, that number is 38%.

In reality, of the estimated 8 million pets who enter U.S. shelters every year, only about 4 million of them are adopted. Many of those who remain are euthanized – at a rate of roughly 11,000 a day. Adding more urgency to these statistics, just 47% of the respondents to Best Friends’ survey — fewer than half — said they are very likely to adopt a pet from a shelter.

PetSmart Charities® uncovered similar results in our research with Ipsos Marketing in 2011. In that study, 88% of respondents underestimated the number of pets euthanized each year in shelters. The average estimate was 1.2 million pets, nowhere near the industry estimate of 4 million.

We think that if people knew the real numbers and the truth about shelter pets, the 47% from Best Friends’ survey would be higher — more people would be “very likely” to adopt from shelters. Our challenge is getting the word out.

Myths about shelter pets

Americans still believe some unfortunate myths about pets in shelters. For example, 6 in 10 of the survey’s respondents said that shelter pets are unhealthy or malnourished.

The truth is…

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