The State of Animal Welfare Today

Current number of Animals in US Households1

More than 2/3 of US households share their homes with cats and dogs

186 million cats and dogs live in 86 million households

22% of households are multi-pet and have cats and dogs

Key Stats About Cats in US Households

76 million cats owned in the US
79 million

 cats owned in the US

76 million cats owned in the US

 average cats per household

76 million cats owned in the US

 more cats owned in the US since 2018

76 million cats owned in the US
45.3 million (35%)

  US households have a cat

76 million cats owned in the US

 Increase in households with cats in past 10 years


Key Stats About Dogs in US Households

76 million cats owned in the US
108 million

 dogs owned in the US

76 million cats owned in the US

 average dogs per household

76 million cats owned in the US

 more dogs owned in the US since 2018

76 million cats owned in the US
69.0 million (54%)

 US households have a dog

76 million cats owned in the US

 Increase in households with dogs in past 10 years

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Current Number of Animals in US Shelters2

83% of the 4.6 million cats and dogs that entered US shelters were saved in 2021.
Sadly, 355,000 cats and dogs needlessly died.

4.6 million cats and dogs entered US shelters in 2021

Five states account for half of all cats and dogs killed in the US.

Priority states for no-kill in 2021

Lifesaving progress around the country

Chart of national save rate and number of animals killed in America's shelters

For more on lifesaving progress, see our printable infographic or the pet lifesaving dashboard.

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No-kill shelters

The percent of US shelters that are no-kill doubled in the past six years, from 24% in 2016 to 52% in 2021. This accounts for more 37% of all counties with sheltering services.6

85% of adults surveyed say they have at least heard the term no-kill.3
85% of adults feel it is very important or essential to have no-kill shelters in their area.3      
45% of adults were not sure if shelters in their local areas are no-kill.3
81% of people are more likely to support a shelter working towards becoming no-kill.3
52% of adults would donate to a local shelter or rescue group to ensure shelters become no-kill.3
57% of adults would sign a petition to require no-kill shelters in their area.3


A 90% save rate for the animals entering a shelter is the common sense benchmark for measuring no-kill. Learn what no-kill means.

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Getting animals into homes

Most important considerations when looking for a new pet: 4

Most important considerations when looking for a new pet

While intent to adopt is strong, there is a significant drop off in adoption behavior.

Graphic with statistics about pet adoption


Why the difference? Barriers to adoption revolve around uncertainty and lack of ease in the process.


Barriers to Pet AdoptionWhere Pets Are Acquired Graphic

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Why do pets end up in shelters? It's not them, it's us.5

Pets are relinquished to shelters for reasons related to the owner's circumstances at roughly a ratio of 3 to 1 as compared to reasons specific to the animal. Unlike what many may believe, the animal's behavior is not a leading reason for surrender.

Human vs. Animal Surrender Reason

Top reasons cats and dogs are surrendered

14.1% of dogs are surrendered due to housing issues, the top reason for canines, while more cats are surrendered due to the owner having too many animals (22.6%) than any other reason.

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Top initiatives to increase pet lifesaving

Community Cats/Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)

Cat with Ear Tip
Trap-neuter-return (TNR) entails trapping, neutering, vaccinating, and returning community cats to their original outdoor locations

Community Cats/Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)

While cats and dogs enter US shelters in roughly equal numbers, more than twice as many cats are needlessly dying in shelters. 68% of the animals killed in shelters are cats (the remaining 32% are dogs).6

The most significant concerns about free roaming cats are the spread of diseases (59%), abandoned litters (58%), and overpopulation (57%).3

These concerns can be remedied through TNR (Trap Neuter Return) and community cat programs and yet 55% of adults have never heard of TNR.3

65% of adults favor the TNR process once it is explained to them.3
71% of adults prefer to leave stray cats in their communities if it means keeping them alive.14

Ending Breed Restrictions

Pitt Bull dog
Breed-specific legislation (BSL) bans or restricts certain types of dogs based on their appearance - usually because they are perceived as dangerous.

Ending Breed Discrimination

84% of Americans believe that federal, state or local government should not tell citizens what breeds of dog they cannot own.7

22 states have passed provisions against breed-specific legislation8, but only two states (Pennsylvania and Michigan) have laws prohibiting breed-based restrictions in the homeowner's insurance market.9

Sadly, legislation in seven states currently restricts dogs seized in dogfighting cases, stigmatizing them as damaged and unadoptable and denying them an opportunity to prove otherwise.10

discrimination map

Stopping Puppy Mills

puppymill dog
Puppy mills are "factory farms" for dogs. Dogs live in small cages, often only six inches larger than the dog on all sides, and are bred as frequently as possible.

Stopping Puppy Mills

More than 400 humane pet sales laws have been enacted, including four states (Maine, Maryland, California, Washington) that prohibit the sale of animals from breeding mills.11

Since 2002, the percentage of households with purebred dogs has seen a decrease and households with mixed-breed dogs has seen an increase.1

Purebred vs. Mixed-Breed Dogs

Spay/Neuter Programs and Education

Spaying and neutering reduces the number of animals who enter shelters and may also prevent medical and behavioral problems

Spay/Neuter Programs and Education

Despite the increases seen since 2000 in the rate of dogs and cats spayed and neutered, there has been a more recent downward trend.12

Cats can get pregnant as early as 4 months13


Increased Community Involvement

Foster Dog
You can make a difference for dogs and cats in your own community and nationwide, no matter where you live.

Increased Community Involvement

Support pet-friendly laws and ordinances: Find an alert relevant to where you live and fill out the contact fields with your information.

Foster: To learn more about the benefits of fostering, check out our resources, FAQ's, and contact information

67% of respondents have fostered a dog or would consider it and 48% have fostered a cat or would consider it.3

Volunteer: You'll make a real difference in the lives of homeless pets, meet others who love animals, and have fun! There are thousands of Best Friends Network Partners all over the country, and they need your help tody.

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Join your local grassroots action team

Help create big change for the pets and people in your community. Connect with a local team of advocates today.

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1 APPA National Pet Owners Survey (2021-2022 study) 

2 Best Friends 2021 National Shelter Data

3 Best Friends 2022 Brand Study

4 Best Friends 2016 Adoption Barriers Study

5 Best Friends analysis on 24PetWatch data from Jan 2018 - Sept 2020.

6 Analysis on Best Friends 2021 National Shelter Data

7 2014 BF Focus Group Research via Luntz Global National Survey:

8 As of 2019,




12 Analysis of 2021-2022 APPA Study (Acquired %’s add up to >100 as a result of multiple pets per household.)


14 Best Friends 2021 Brand Study