Ask any animal shelter or rescue worker, and they’ll tell you: Pets need our help every day. No matter what’s happening in the world, shelters’ and rescues’ mission to help homeless pets remains unchanged. So perhaps it’s not surprising that animal organizations stepped up to make a massive impact in 2020. The past year’s pet adoption statistics show that shelters and rescues helped nearly 900,000 pets find new families—even in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
In total, shelters and rescue staff and volunteers took in 1.6 million homeless pets, providing shelter and care to animals who need it the most. That means there are still hundreds of thousands of pets waiting for their forever homes in shelters across the country—but things are looking up, says David Meyer, chief executive officer of Adopt-a-Pet.com.
“The demand for pets to adopt has never been greater,” he says, adding that Adopt-a-Pet.com’s own pet adoption statistics show a surge in adoption rates in recent months.
That’s due in part to shelters’ and rescues’ tireless efforts throughout 2020, finding creative solutions to the problems posed by social distancing and other pandemic safety requirements. In a time when people were required to stay apart, “shelters and rescues adapted to the need for limited contact between people while not abandoning their mission to provide care for animals,” Meyer says. In fact, these organizations forged connections with pet lovers across the country to ask for help. “They put out the call to the public for an urgent need of foster homes—and the public responded, housing many of the nation’s pets now in private homes until they can find new permanent homes,” Meyer says.
As a result, animal organizations nationwide were able to find homes for 891,482 pets in 2020. And as an added bonus, even more pet lovers than usual have opened their homes to foster a whopping 54,552 pets in the past year, a 17 percent increase over last year.
“Many shelters have altered their internal policies to make it easier to not only adopt, but foster as well,” says April Harris, Adopt-a-Pet.com’s director of Animal Welfare Insights. “Shelters that never had foster programs before started them, and pets that may not have been considered foster candidates are now being sent to a foster home.”
Now, as cities and states cautiously reopen, animal organizations still need our help, Harris says. “Some regions have experienced not only the pandemic, but natural disasters including wildfires, hurricanes, and flooding. In those areas, the public plays a major role in supporting their animal welfare community by continuing to donate, foster, volunteer and give in-kind donations.”
Plus, she adds, many shelters and rescues are no longer able to hold the annual in-person fundraisers that help keep them afloat. “It will continue to be important that the public supports their shelters and rescues through these times when these non-profit organizations are not able to fundraise as they have in the past.”
Still, shelters’ and rescues’ dedication to homeless pets has made a big difference in the past year. “It seems like just yesterday, there were more pets in shelters than there were adopters,” Harris says. “Today, there are more people looking to adopt and fewer pets in shelters.”
Here’s a snapshot of the year’s pet adoption statistics and the inspiring work shelters and rescues have achieved in 2020: