The State of Animal Welfare Today


Current number of Animals in US Households1

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

173 million cats and dogs live in 81 million households

29% of households are multi-pet and have cats and dogs

Key Stats About Cats in US Households

76 million cats owned in the US
76 million
cats owned in the US
76 million cats owned in the US
1.78
average cats per household
76 million cats owned in the US
19%
fewer cats owned in the US since 2016
76 million cats owned in the US
42.7 million (34%)
US households have a cat
76 million cats owned in the US
12%
Increase in households with cats in past 10 years
76 million cats owned in the US
15%
increase in households with cats in the past 20 years
 

Key Stats About Dogs in US Households

76 million cats owned in the US
97 million
dogs owned in the US
76 million cats owned in the US
1.53
average dogs per household
76 million cats owned in the US
8%
more dogs owned in the US since 2016
76 million cats owned in the US
63.4 million (50%)
US households have a dog
76 million cats owned in the US
39%
Increase in households with dogs in past 10 years
76 million cats owned in the US
62%
increase in households with dogs in the past 20 years

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Current Number of Animals in US Shelters2

79% were saved
79% of the 5.4 million cats and dogs that entered US shelters were saved in 2019
Sadly, 625,000 cats and dogs were killed.
52% of animals entering shelters are dogs, 48% are cats.
Five states account for more than 50% of all the cats and dogs killed in the US
Five states account for more than 50% of all the cats and dogs killed in the US:

CA – 100,239
TX – 96,707
NC – 47,652
FL – 45,503
LA – 32,150

Click here to see all the states.

Lifesaving progress around the country

National Save Rate

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

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No-kill shelters

88% of adults surveyed in the US say they have at least heard the term no-kill3
81% of adults feel it is very important or essential to have no-kill shelters in their area3
42% of adults were not sure if shelters in their local areas are no-kill3

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

2,126 (44%) of shelters meet the no-kill benchmark, accounting for 5,460 (35%) communities with sheltering services.2

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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.

And Yet

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

Barriers to AdoptionWhere pets are acquired

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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 2 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

While euthanasia* is the most frequently cited reason for surrendering a pet, three other human-related reasons—housing (specifically moving), financial and owner health/death—account for 37% of all shelter surrenders.

Top reasons cats and dogs are srurrendered

12% of cats are surrendered due to the owner having too many animals, ranking 4th, ahead of financial factors.

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Top initiatives to prevent animals from going into shelters

Community Cats/Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)

While dog intakes are higher than cat intakes, twice as many cats are dying in shelters. 69% of the animals killed in shelters are cats (the remaining 31% are dogs).6

Most significant concerns about free roaming cats:

Free roaming cat concerns

These concerns can be remedied through TNR and community cat programs. 72% of survey respondents support and prefer TNR, compared to just 18% favoring impoundment and lethal injection.7

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

Ending Breed Discrimination

84% of Americans believe that federal, state or local government should not tell citizens what breeds of dog they cannot own.8

22 states have passed provisions against breed discriminatory legislation9, but only two states (Pennsylvania and Michigan) have laws prohibiting breed-based discrimination in the homeowner’s insurance market.10

Sadly, legislation in seven states currently discriminates against dogs seized in dogfighting cases, stigmatizing them as damaged and unadoptable and denying them an opportunity to prove otherwise.11

discrimination map
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.

Stopping Puppy Mills

Three states (Maine, Maryland, California) and more than 360 municipalities have retail pet store bans, that prohibit the sale of animals from breeding mills.12

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
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.

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.13

Spayed/Neutered

Cats can get pregnant as early as 4 months14

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

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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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*Owner requested euthanasia (ORE) is an important service that shelters use to assist low-income pet owners who cannot afford veterinary services for end-of-life care for their pets and when no other low-cost services are available.

1 APPA (2019—2020 study)

2 Best Friends 2019 National Shelter Data

3 Best Friends 2020 Brand Study

4 Best Friends 2016 Adoption Barriers Study

5 Best Friends analysis on Shelterluv data

6 Analysis on Best Friends 2019 National Shelter Data

7 Faunalytics Animal Tracker survey, 2017: https://faunalytics.org/tnr-and-ethics-taking-the-nation-by-storm/

8 2014 BF Focus Group Research via Luntz Global National Survey: http://resources.bestfriends.org/article/dog-breed-discrimination-prevention

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

10https://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

11https://resources.bestfriends.org/article/states-discriminating-against-dogfighting-victims

12https://resources.bestfriends.org/article/states-retail-pet-sale-bans

13 Analysis of 2019—2020 APPA Study (Acquired %’s add up to >100 as a result of multiple pets per household.)

14https://pets.webmd.com/cats/cat-pregnancy-gestation#1