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
cats owned in the US
average cats per household
more cats owned in the US since 2018
US households have a cat
Increase in households with cats in past 10 years
Key Stats About Dogs in US Households
dogs owned in the US
average dogs per household
more dogs owned in the US since 2018
US households have a dog
Increase in households with dogs in past 10 years
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.
Five states account for half of all cats and dogs killed in the US.
National shelter intake has increased since historic lows in 2020 but remains below pre-pandemic levels.
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.
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.
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.
The increase in killed from 2021 to 2022 was concentrated in a small number of organizations, which are primarily large, municipal shelters.
For more on lifesaving progress, see our printable infographic or the pet lifesaving dashboard.
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
A 90% save rate for the animals entering a shelter is the common sense benchmark for measuring no-kill. Learn what no-kill means.
Getting animals into homes
While intent to adopt is strong, there is a significant drop off in adoption behavior.
Why the difference? Barriers to adoption revolve around uncertainty and lack of ease in the process.
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
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)
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
◾ 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 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
◾ Stopping Puppy Mills
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
◾ Spay/Neuter Programs and Education
◾ 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 today.
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.
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
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