Pet Adoption Statistics for 2021

Key statistics and insights:

  • Roughly 6.5 million animals enter shelters each year but only 3.2 million are adopted. (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)
  • Approximately 85 million families are pet owners. (Humane Society)
  • Compared to 1973, the number of cats and dogs entering shelters annually is down from more than 20 million. (Humane Society)
  • There is an average 72-hour window of hope for an animal left at a shelter to be found and returned. (Rescue Paw Foundation)
  • 28% of dogs and 31% of cats are adopted out of shelters each year. (Humane Society)
  • In 2020, people spent $99 billion on their pets. (PetPedia)
  • 96% of Americans report a moral duty to protect animals and states should support laws that do so. (The No Kill Advocacy Center)
  • In 2020, 32% fewer dogs and 23% fewer cats entered animal shelters, and euthanasia decreased by -44%. (Spots.com)

 

How many animals are in shelters?

Every year, 6.5 million dogs, cats, and other former pets are abandoned or lost and enter shelters. But of all these animals, only 3.2 million are adopted and many see shelters again after less than a year of finding a new home. Deciding to adopt a pet is an enormous responsibility. As such, many people choose to foster these pets as the shelters search for a permanent home. If you yourself choose to adopt permanently, be sure you are financially stable enough to support a living creature, have enough space for the pet to be comfortable, and that all other living creatures in the house (other pets, children, adults) are willing for such a big change. 

With publicly available data from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Humane Society, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, we can better understand the unfortunate circumstances so many pets find themselves in, to better improve their short lives. 

 

Table of contents

  1. Pet adoption statistics in 2021
  2. Statistics on dog adoptions
  3. Statistics on cat adoptions
  4. Euthanized pet statistics
  5. Pets in shelters statistics
  6. Pet abuse statistics
  7. Rescued pet statistics
  8. Abandoned pet statistics
  9. Surrendered pet statistics
  10. What do you need to know about pet insurance
  11. Frequently Asked Questions: pet adoption

Statistics for pet adoption in 2021

In 2021, another year into the global Coronavirius pandemic, the way Americans appreciate and adopt pets has radically changed from recent years. As the nation's leading insurance comparison site and a provider of pet insurance, The Zebra surveyed 1,500 Americans about their pet adoption history, especially within the last year.

  • 12.8% of respondents adopted a pet in the last year (2020).
  • 42.8% of respondents prefer to adopt a pet from a shelter or a rescue over any other form of adoption.
  • 36% of respondents have a dog, only 14.2% have a cat and 1.9% have a snake.
  • 35% of respondents have adopted a stay animal off the street.
  • 10.1% of respondents have had to surrender a pet to an animal shelter because they could no longer take care of them.
  • 34.8% of respondents believe that the breed of pitbulls are naturally more dangerous than other breeds. 52.9% believe they are just as dangerous as any other breed, while 12.3% believe they are naturally less dangerous. 
Do you believe pit bulls are naturally more aggressive, less aggressive, or the same as other dogs_.png

 

Dog adoption statistics

According to the ASPCA, the Humane Society, Bestfriends.org, Orvis, and PetPedia:

  • In 2018, roughly 3.3 million dogs entered shelters.
  • Between 37% and 47% of households have a dog as a pet.
  • An estimated 78 million dogs are owned as pets in the United States.
  • Every year, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters and 670,000 are euthanized.
  • At least 65% of owners adopt a rescue dog for free.
  • 51.3% of American animal owners have mixed-breed dogs.
  • As many as 25% of the dogs currently in shelters are purebred dogs.
  • Dog ownership has grown by 39% over the last 10 years.
  • Feeding a dog costs anywhere from $400 and $700 a year.
  • Yearly costs to take care of a dog can add up to around $1,500 to $9,000.
  • Labs are one of the most common purebred dogs left in shelters.

 

Cat adoption statistics

The following statistics are taken from reports generated by the ASPCA, the Humane Society, and PetPedia:

  • 3.2 million cats find themselves in a shelter every year - either born in a shelter, surrendered or abandoned.
  • In 2012, it was estimated that there were 74.1 million pet cats in America and this number is growing.
  • On average, there are approximately 30 to 40 million stray, feral, uncared-for cats in the United States.
  • On average, people adopt stray cats more often than they adopt stray dogs.


Euthanized animal statistics

For a deeper look behind these statistics, consider the full reports from the ASPCA, No Kill Advocacy Center, and Best Friends.org.

  • On average, 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized every year in the United States.
  • Shelters around the country euthanize an estimated 670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats each year.
  • 45% of all cats who enter shelters are eventually euthanized. For feral cats, that number leaps up to nearly 100%.
  • Roughly 2.7 million dogs and cats are killed each year because shelters are too full.
  • 93% of pit bulls in shelters are euthanized because of the harmful stereotype they are an aggressive breed. 

 

Animals in shelters statistics

The following statistics come from the ASPCA, the Humane Society, Bestfriends.org, and PetPedia:

  • Roughly 6.5 million animals enter shelters each year but only 3.2 million are adopted.
  • There are about 3,500 brick-and-mortar animal shelters in the United States.
  • Only about 20% out of all 50 states require animal shelters to report any kind of annual adoption data at all.
  • Government-supported animal shelters cost Americans almost $2 billion every year.
  • Nearly all (about 99%) of all shelter animals are healthy enough to be adopted.

 

Animal abuse statistics

For more, review the full data report from PetPedia:

  • More than 10 million animals die from abuse in the United States.
  • Every 60 seconds, an animal suffers abuse at human hands.
  • Each year, more than 10 million animals die of abuse in the United States alone
  • Reportedly, 71% of individuals who are cited for domestic violence also abuse their pets.
  • Dogs make up 65% of all abused animals. 

 

Rescued pet statistics

According to Orvis and Spots organization:

  • 60% of adopted pets are no longer in their adoptive homes six months later after their initial adoption, and 20% are returned back to the original shelter.
  • In comparison to January 2020, January 2021 adoptions across the nation showed a decrease by nearly -25%.
  • In 2019, there was an 11% uptick for dogs and 26% for cats in foster care, and a nationwide increase of roughly 19% in the foster animal population.

 

Animal abandonment facts

The following statistics come from DoSomething and TopDogs:

  • Homeless animals outnumber homeless people 5 to 1.
  • Roughly, 70 million cats are homeless in the United States.
  • Only 10% of dogs born will find a permanent home.
  • Around 3.9 million dogs are abandoned or given up to shelters each year.
  • 74.1% of lost dogs with good identification can be reunited with their owners.
  • Only 25 - 30% of dogs in shelters are purebreds. The rest are mostly mutts!


Surrendered animal statistics

From the Best Friends organization:

  • 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.
  • 10.1% of animals surrendered due to owner’s death
  • 7.8% of animals are surrendered due to aggressive behavior
  • 7.2% are surrendered due to the owner’s financial situation
  • Six states account for more than 50% of all cats and dogs killed in the US:
    • TX – 52,106
    • CA – 39,111
    • NC – 27,031
    • FL – 24,289
    • AL – 16,825
    • LA – 15,288

 

Pet insurance: Should you invest in it?

Pet coverage allows you to mitigate the risk of being on the line for the full cost of veterinary bills, which can be surprisingly expensive. Without such a policy, many pet owners find themselves in a tough situation. Just like a standard carrenters or home insurance policy, pet insurance requires monthly premiums. For those premiums, your pet will receive coverage in the amount that you select. This can cover the full cost of your pet’s bills or only a portion depending on your policy. 

Below are the most common policy types and some of the situations they cover.

  • Comprehensive: While the name may vary, this type of comprehensive policy is robust and covers your pet with very few exclusions. Such policies are likely to cover hereditary conditions, vaccinations and illnesses such as cancer.
  • Emergency only: In this policy type, your pet will only be covered if injured in an accident. Illness and routine check-ups aren’t covered. This type of policy is most often used to keep high, unexpected costs down after an accident or injury.
  • Accident and illness: This policy type will cover emergencies and costs related to illness.
  • Wellness plan: This covers check-ups, routine visits and vaccinations, but may not cover illness or emergency care.

How much does pet insurance cost?

Pricing for pet insurance policies is based on a number of factors, primarily those specific to your pet. In general, the following factors are most likely to affect your pet insurance premiums:

  • ZIP code: More densely populated areas tend to have higher rates, as do areas where care is more expensive, i.e., California.
  • Species: The species of pet you own can play a big part in what you pay. Dogs, for instance, are often more expensive to insure than cats or many other animals.
  • Breed: Different pet breeds can also affect your premiums, as some may be more prone to certain types of illness or other medical conditions.
  • Age: Older animals cost more to insure.

Average yearly costs of pet ownership

The yearly costs pet owners face are most often dependent on the type of animal owned. Below you'll find a breakdown of the average yearly costs of owning a dog or a cat based on a study conducted by the ASPCA. These costs include a basic form of pet insurance, but the coverage levels are not clear.

According to the ASPCA, the average yearly costs for owning a cat are about $809 while the average annual costs of owning a dog are the following:

  • Small breed: $737
  • Medium breed: $894
  • Large breed: $1,040

 

Frequently Asked Questions: Pet adoption

Question: What percent of people adopt a pet?

Answer: According to a 2017-18 survey, 68% own a pet, up from 56% three decades ago, according to Orvis.

Q: How many pets are adopted each year?

A: 3.2 million pets are adopted out of shelters each year.

Q: How many pets are surrendered each year?

A: 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.

Q: What percent of adopted dogs are returned?

A: According to the Humane Society, between 7% and 20% of pets are returned within the first six months. 

 

 

Taylor Covington
Taylor CovingtonContent Researcher

An in-house quantitative researcher for The Zebra, Taylor collects, organizes and analyzes data to shine a light on trends in the insurance industry and beyond. Taylor's data studies have been cited by The Atlantic, Bloomberg and Business Insider.

In her hometown of Austin, Texas, she can be found reading at Half Price Books or eating the world's greatest pizza at Via 313.