May 23, 2024

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10 Statistics & Facts About Shelter Dogs in 2024 (Vet-Reviewed) – Dogster

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Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.

The pet community has been keeping an even closer eye on shelter animals in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic saw a significant shift in pet adoptions as many people adopted dogs during the time they’ve sheltered in place.

A growing concern in the past couple of years has been an increase in dogs being surrendered to animal shelters and rescue organizations during post-pandemic times. We’re now starting to identify post-pandemic trends for shelter dogs, dog adoptions, and animal shelters. The latest statistics on shelter dogs can help us predict certain outcomes for animal shelters and the future of dog adoptions.

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The 10 Shelter Dog Statistics

  1. As of 2023, there are about 4,000 brick-and-mortar animal shelters.
  2. In 2021, animal shelters saw a 9.8% increase in pet intakes from the previous year.
  3. In 2021, stray dogs and cats made up 52.1% of pet intakes in animal shelters.
  4. Between 2021–2022, about 40% of pet dogs were adopted from an animal shelter or rescue group.
  5. 47% of new dog owners in 2021-2022 were influenced to welcome a dog into their family by the pandemic.
  6. A 2023 study showed that dogs that were taken out on outings or short-term fostering can increase their odds of adoption by 500% and 1400% respectively.1
  7. Dog adoptions in 2023 were 5% lower than the number of adoptions in 2019.
  8. In 2023, about 3.2 million dogs entered animal shelters and rescues.
  9. 18% of pet surrenders are thought to be due to housing-related concerns.
  10. In 2023, about 359,000 dogs were euthanized.

General Animal Shelter Statistics

1. As of 2023, there are about 4,000 brick-and-mortar animal shelters and rescues.

(Best Friends Network)

While there are about 4,000 brick-and-mortar animal shelters and rescues located across the country, these organizations take in over 5-6 million animals annually. 56.6% of these shelters are no-kill shelters, which means that they must have at least a 90% save rate.

lot of stray dogs in the shelter
Image Credit: Anton Gvozdikov, Shutterstock

2. In 2021, animal shelters saw a 9.8% increase in pet intakes from the previous year.

(Best Friends Network)

The pandemic had seen a surge in pet adoptions, as more people worked from home and had more time to care for a pet. After the pandemic, adoptions have slowed down, and shelters have started to experience an increase in pet intakes. Intakes included stray animals, surrendered pets, and transfers from another shelter or rescue.


3. In 2021, stray cats and dogs made up 52.1% of pet intakes in animal shelters.

(Best Friends Network)

Cats and dogs make up the largest portion of pet intakes, with nearly half of all intakes being either cats or dogs. Of this grouping of intakes, 50.2% were dog intakes, and 49.8% were cat intakes.

young woman and worker at a dog shelter
Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock

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Dog Adoption Trends

4. Between 2021–2022, about 40% of pet dogs were adopted from an animal shelter or rescue group.

(APPA)

The majority of pet dogs that were acquired between 2021–2022 were through animal shelters and rescues. 21% of pet dogs were purchased from a breeder. 18% of dogs were acquired from a family member or friend. 9% of dogs were purchased from a pet store.


5. 48% of pet owners choose to adopt or foster a dog because it’s the right time for them, and they’re spending more time at home.

(APPA)

According to a survey conducted in 2023, the top reason why people chose to adopt a dog was due to spending more time at home. Many people’s lifestyles had changed after the COVID-19 pandemic, and they’ve found themselves spending more time at home. This meant that it’d be easier for them to care for and live with a dog. The other reasons most people adopted a dog were because their family wanted a pet or because they were alone and wanted pet companionship.

young nice looking couple wants to adopt beautiful dog at animal shelter
Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock

6. A 2023 study showed that dogs that were taken out on outings or short-term fostering can increase their odds of adoption by 500% and 1400% respectively.

Dogs can feel stressed out when they’re at an animal shelter, and research has shown that human interaction can help make their experience in shelters better. An experiment revealed that outings and temporary foster stays did increase the number of days a dog remained in an animal shelter. However, the experiment also saw that these outings and foster stays significantly increased a dog’s likelihood of getting adopted.


7. Dog adoptions in 2023 were 5% lower than the number of adoptions in 2019.

(Shelter Animals Count)

Dog adoptions had increased in 2023, with 109,000 more dogs getting adopted in 2023 than in 2022. However, the 2023 adoption rate is still lower than the rate in 2019.  2019 saw about 108,000 more dog adoptions than in 2023. However, overall adoption rates have still seen an increase from 2019 to 2023 due to an increase in cat adoptions.

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Post-COVID-19 Pandemic Trends

8. In 2023, about 3.2 million dogs entered animal shelters and rescues.

(Shelter Animals Count)

The number of dogs entering animal shelters and rescues has increased since 2021. There was a 0.2% increase from 2022 and 4% increase from 2021. When compared to pre-pandemic conditions in 2019, the rate of dogs entering animal shelters is still lower by 3.2%.

Of the 3.2 million dogs that have entered animal shelters, 2.2 million have been adopted.

man in volunteer shirt petting a dog in a shelter
Image Credit: Max kegfire, Shutterstock

9. 18% of pet surrenders are due to housing-related concerns.

(CNBC)

Many Americans faced an increase in economic hardships due to inflation. While it’s been fairly common to hear of people surrendering their pets due to increased prices in pet products and services, some pet owners have had to surrender their pets due to housing reasons. Renters and affordable housing can place a limitation or ban on pets, which leaves people with the difficult choice of surrendering their pets to animal shelters.


10. In 2023, about 359,000 dogs were euthanized.

(Shelter Animals Count)

Unfortunately, dog euthanasians and other non-live outcomes for dogs have increased, with 2023 seeing a 15% increase when compared to 2022. However, the number of non-live outcomes for dogs in 2023 are still 16% lower than in 2019.

Dogs can be euthanized for several reasons. It can be due to sickness, injuries, or suffering from something else. Some cases of euthanasia are due to overcrowding or the inability for successful rehabilitation.

Stray puppies in a cage. Dog shelter
Image Credit: Yashkin Ilya, Shutterstock

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Frequently Asked Questions About Shelter Dogs

Are shelter dogs more difficult to train?

It’s a myth that shelter dogs are more difficult to train and can’t fully adjust to living with a new family. Many shelter dogs have gentle and easygoing temperaments, and it may just take them a little extra time to get used to living in a new home. However, if you don’t know their history you won’t know what their triggers will be.

It’s also important to note that purebred dogs that are purchased as puppies aren’t guaranteed to be more well behaved than adopted dogs. They still need proper socialization and training and can develop challenging behaviors if they haven’t had these things. With any kind of dog, time and dedication to training are necessary for them to become well-behaved. Puppies adjust more easily to new stimuli within the socialization period that occurs between 3-14 weeks, after this period they require as much work as an older dog to adjust.

How long does it take rescue dogs to adjust to a new home?

Many dog advocacy organizations follow the 3-3-3 rule for adopting dogs from an animal shelter or rescue. It can take 3 days for a dog to settle from their nervousness about transferring to a new home. Then, it’ll take another 3 weeks for them to settle in and feel comfortable and another 3 months to start trusting and bonding with their new family.

The 3-3-3 rule provides a general framework, and not all dog adoptions will adhere to this timeline. Dogs are unique and will have varying adjustment experiences. However, the 3-3-3 rule is still helpful because it helps people know what to expect from their dogs as they get used to their new life.

black and white short coated dog on green grass field
Image Credit: Conor Brown, Unsplash

Do shelter dogs bond with new owners?

Yes, shelter dogs are capable of forming strong bonds with new owners. It may just take different amounts of time for dogs to build trust with new people. Some dogs will make themselves feel right at home and may show love and affection to their new family right away. Dogs with more reserved or shy personalities may take a few months before they decide to trust a new person fully.Dogster_Website dividers_v1_Jan 18 2024-01-TEST

Conclusion

Overall, dog adoption rates have decreased since 2020, while dog intake rates have increased in the past couple of years. Some reasons for people surrendering their dogs include inflation and rising pet care costs. Caring for dogs has become more difficult for many people, and some must make the hard decision of surrendering or rehoming their dogs.

A promising study shows that dogs can greatly benefit from foster programs and short-term excursions with humans. Animal shelters and rescue organizations may need to invest in more of these types of programs to continue caring for houseless dogs and increasing the rate of successful dog adoptions.

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Featured Image Credit: Ground Picture, Shutterstock


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