In an era where adopting a pet from a local animal shelter is becoming a growing trend across the country, a national survey by Best Friends Animal Society, the national leader of the no-kill shelter movement, has revealed a surprising disconnect in the way some Americans approach pet adoption.
The survey indicates that younger generations (ages 18-34) are more likely to purchase a pet from a breeder or pet store rather than consider adoption (46 percent young adults versus 31 percent total).
The survey also highlights the fact that while Americans almost unanimously believe pet ownership makes people happier, there are still many misperceptions about shelter animals that derail the pet adoption process, particularly among young adults.
Younger Generation Needs Adoption Inspiration
In a surprising twist, the survey found young adults ages 18-34 have conflicted feelings about shelter animals. This thought process may be driven in part by the fact that nearly four out of 10 young adults believe animals in a shelter are not necessarily at risk, and that they will remain in a shelter until they are adopted (compared to three out of 10 total).
The reality is shockingly different; approximately four million homeless pets are killed each year in America’s shelters. Additionally, nearly half of all young adults surveyed believe shelter animals are less desirable than those obtained from breeders (46 percent young adults versus 33 percent total).
“We were sad to learn that to some extent animals in shelters are stereotyped by young adults as damaged goods,” said Gregory Castle, CEO and co-founder of Best Friends Animal Society. “The fact is that every day in this country perfectly wonderful family pets land in shelters through no fault of their own, all of whom need and deserve a home of their own.”
Best Friends’ mission, to stop the killing of animals in shelters across the United States, is fueled by initiatives such as No Kill Los Angeles (NKLA), as well as the national No More Homeless Pets Network, a partnership between Best Friends and more than a thousand grassroots animal welfare organizations around the country.
“Our initiatives focus on animals that are at the highest risk of entering and dying in America’s shelter system,” said Castle. “Obviously, we are not there yet but we’re making progress. And we’ll work every single day to empower and inspire our younger generations to join in the fight against homeless pets.”
Americans Love Pets
One thing rings loud and clear from the study: Americans unequivocally love their pets. In fact, nine out of 10 people consider themselves pet-lovers, whether they actually have one or not. The vast majority (86 percent) believes showing your pet affection is very important, but at the same time, only 66 percent believe in regular vet check-ups (66 percent) and just 65 percent believe in getting their pets spayed/neutered.
“The fact that people love pets, but one-third of those do not know the importance of vet checks and spaying-neutering indicates that we have more work to do in getting the word out there about the realities of adopting shelter pets,” said Castle. “This includes the joys of saving a life and the long-accepted fact that shelter pets make wonderful companions for most families.”
Four out of five Americans believe all cats and dogs should be spayed/neutered to reduce over-population, but only 33 percent are aware that spaying and neutering helps improve pet behavior and just 28 percent percent are the aware the practice actually improves pet health.
To help promote the benefits of spaying and neutering, Best Friends’ Fix at Four program is designed to encourage people to fix their pets at age four months.
The majority of Americans surveyed are advocates of pet adoption (86 percent), praise the virtues of providing an animal with a home (82 percent), feel they save money over purchasing (46 percent) and think it’s a benefit that shelter pets are already spayed or neutered (55 percent) before adoption. However, only six out of ten say they would personally first look to adopt over purchase, another disconnect when it comes to adoption.
Some Americans feel that an inability to find an exact breed (28 percent) is a deterrent of adopting shelter animals. They may not realize most breeds have their own rescue groups that can be easily accessed online or by phone.
A key finding of the survey is that only 60 percent of those surveyed know that for the vast majority of animals in shelters, a shelter is the last stop before they are killed, usually to make room for more. Yet, people are concerned about pets that are not adopted. In fact, approximately 47 percent of the people polled would likely volunteer at an animal shelter, which is the same percentage of Americans who are very likely to adopt a pet from a shelter.
A Bright Future Ahead
When Best Friends was started in the 1980s, roughly 17 million dogs and cats were being killed in city shelters each year. Today, due to the combined work of animal welfare organizations across the country, that number is down to approximately four million. Best Friends’ “No Kill Los Angeles (NKLA)” initiative also is drawing a lot of attention to pet homelessness in Los Angeles, and is focused on taking all of LA’s municipal shelters no-kill within five years.
While much progress has been made there is still a lot of work to do. Raising awareness, namely to the younger generations who are 48 percent more likely than others to purchase over adopt, and encouraging them to make educated decisions when looking for and caring for pets appears to be an important part of bringing an end to homeless pets across the country.
“While young people have embraced social media as a way to express what cause they support and in general young people are socially active, the results of the survey were surprising in that so many younger adults, rather than help homeless pets, were likely to buy a pet at the same mall they bought their I phone. This is something we hope to change,” said Castle.
To learn more about Best Friends Animal Society and their no kill mission visit: http://www.bestfriends.org/.