Sure, 2021 had its highs and lows. But for nearly 1 million homeless pets, the past year brought one life-changing high: Finding a forever home.
That’s right: According to statistics from pet adoption organizations including Adopt-a-Pet.com, Shelter Animals Count, 24PetWatch and Spots.com, the uptick in adoptions that began during the pandemic last year has continued, with 977,202 pets adopted in 2021, resulting in a 61 percent adoption rate—the highest rate in the past six years. Such a happy ending for pets and their new parents!
After the boom of adoptions and fosters during the height of the pandemic in 2020, some experts predicted that large numbers of pet parents would return their pets to shelters when they were called back to in-person responsibilities like office work or school. We are happy to report that this did not happen. Holly Sizemore, chief mission officer for Best Friends Animal Society, reports that fewer pets than expected found their way into shelters and rescues. At Best Friends, for example, intakes were up just 2.6 percent year over year.
Even more encouraging: At shelters across the country, 10.8 percent of those animals who found their way into a shelter, either after being lost or relinquished, were ultimately reunited with their original pet parents.
But while these inspiring adoption numbers are cause for celebration, the work isn’t done. Over 1.6 million pets entered shelters last year, which means that many more are still looking for forever homes. And as the pandemic eases, Sizemore says, her organization is seeing adoptions begin to wane.
That means the work of animal shelters and rescues is as important now as it’s ever been—and there are lots of ways you can support their mission:
- Adopt: Have room in your family for a pet? Adoption makes a life-changing difference. In fact, shelter advocates say that adoption saves two lives: that of your new pet, and the life of the homeless pet who takes their place at your local shelter or rescue. You can search adoptable pets in your area here.
- Donate: Want to give your local animal organizations exactly what they need? Shop their Wish List. Shelter and rescue staff curate these lists to include the products that will do the most good, and when you add them to your cart and check out, Chewy will deliver them straight to your organization’s doorstep.
- Volunteer: If you have extra time to give to pets in need, call your local shelter—they’ll likely have plenty of ways you can help.
- Foster: Taking a pet out of a shelter and into your home until they can find their forever home has tons of benefits, both for the pet and the shelter—and, foster parents say, for you as well.
Remember, Sizemore says: No matter how you advocate for your local shelters and rescues, you’re also advocating for the welfare of the animals they serve.
As for what 2022 might bring for the animal welfare world, Sizemore says she hopes the trends of the past two years will continue.
“We saw during the pandemic that people in our communities love pets and want to do right by them,” she explains. “They stepped up.”
So no matter what the next year brings—a furry foster? A volunteer gig at your local rescue? Checking off items on your neighborhood shelter’s Wish List?—let’s keep stepping up to make a difference in the lives of the pets who need us most.
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- Bringing Home a Cat From a Shelter or Rescue? Here’s Everything You Need to Know
- A Complete Guide to Adopting a Dog From a Shelter or Rescue
- Here’s How You Can Help Stray and Feral Cats in Your Community