The State of Animal Welfare Today

Current Number of Animals in US Households

More than 2/3 of US households share their homes with cats and dogs 1

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
1.74

 average cats per household

76 million cats owned in the US
4%

 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
17%

 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
1.56

 average dogs per household

76 million cats owned in the US
11%

 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
49%

 Increase in households with dogs in past 10 years

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Current State of Animals in US Shelters

81% of the 4.4 million cats and dogs that entered US shelters were saved in 2022. 2 

Sadly, 378,000 cats and dogs needlessly died.

Yearly national lifesaving gap chart

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

Priority States Map

National shelter intake has increased since historic lows in 2020 but remains below pre-pandemic levels.

Yearly national intake chart

The 2022 intake increase was driven by dogs, specifically strays which made up 54% of dog intake. Owner surrenders were not responsible for increasing intake.

Yearly dog and cat intake chart

While shelter adoptions for dogs remain below pre-pandemic volume, intake continues to increase.

The rising intake for dogs paired with flat shelter adoption numbers that have not rebounded to pre-pandemic levels have led to more dogs killed in 2022. 

Shelter dog adoptions graphic

The number of cats and dogs needlessly losing their lives in shelters are closer than they have ever been. This is a result of each species experiencing very different trends.

Yearly dog and cat lifesaving gap graphic

The increase in killed from 2021 to 2022 was concentrated in a small number of organizations, which are primarily large, municipal shelters.

Shelters vs animals killed graphic

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 known to be no-kill has more than doubled in the past seven years, from 22% in 2016 to 57% in 2022. Roughly 43% of counties in the US are no-kill.

Despite the increase in killed from 2021, more shelters are known to be no-kill in 2022. Those that were already no-kill in 2021 overwhelmingly sustained that status in 2022. 6

No-kill shelters and counties graphic
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

Considerations for choosing a pet graphic

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 adoption graphic
Where pets are acquired graphic

Why do pets end up in shelters?   

It's not them, it's us.

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. 5

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.

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

Cats are disproportionately more at risk in shelters. 55% of the pets killed in shelters are cats (the remaining 45% 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 Discrimination

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.

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 five states (Pennsylvania and Michigan, Nevada, New York, and Arizona) 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.

Nearly 500 cities, counties and states throughout North America have enacted humane pet sales laws to prohibit retailers from selling companion 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

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

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 months 13

Spayed/Neutered

◾ 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.

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 today.

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

2 Best Friends 2022 National Shelter Dataset

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 2022 National Shelter Dataset

7 2014 BF Focus Group Research via Luntz Global National Survey: http://resources.bestfriends.org/article/dog-breed-discrimination-prevention

8 As of 2019, https://bestfriends.org/our-work/best-friends-advocacy/ending-breed-discrimination

9https://resources.bestfriends.org/article/pit-bull-insurance-and-housing-resources               
https://www.michigan.gov/documents/difs/Bulletin_2019-20-INS_670400_7.pdf                
https://codes.findlaw.com/pa/title-3-ps-agriculture/pa-st-sect-3-459-507-a.html 
https://www.leg.state.nv.us/nrs/NRS-687B.html  
https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/ISC/3421  
https://www.azleg.gov/viewdocument/?docName=https://www.azleg.gov/ars/20/01510.htm  
 

10https://resources.bestfriends.org/article/states-discriminating-against-dogfighting-victims

11https://bestfriends.org/advocacy/ending-puppy-mills/states-humane-pet-sales-laws

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

13https://pets.webmd.com/cats/cat-pregnancy-gestation#1

14 Best Friends 2021 Brand Study