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Adopt-A-Dog Month: White shelter dog looking through fence

Pet adoption: Supporting shelter dogs

Approximately 6.5 million companion animals find themselves in US animal shelters annually. (Dogs comprise about 55% of shelter animals.) And each year 1.5 million pets are euthanized—many because they are not adopted quickly.

In 1981 American Humane declared October Adopt-A-Dog Month to draw attention to the plight of stray and shelter dogs, and to encourage adoptions from shelters and rescue organizations. Now entering its 38th year, the program continues to promote the responsible adoption of dogs nationwide.

How Can You Help a Shelter Dog?

Adopt a Dog. There are many ways you can celebrate Adopt-A-Dog Month® in your area. Perhaps the most direct is to adopt a dog from a local shelter or pet rescue organization. Adopting a dog not only provides a loving home for an animal in need, it also reduces the stress on the overburdened shelter system.

When considering a pet adoption there are some important points to note:

  • Do your homework. Research the different dog breeds and try to find one whose temperament and physical characteristics best fits your home space, family, and lifestyle.
  • Ask questions. Shelter staff members can answer many questions about the background or health of a specific animal. The more you know, the more informed your adoption choice will be.
  • Keep an open mind and an open heart. Remember that adult and senior animals are at greatest risk for euthanasia. You may walk into a shelter expecting to adopt a puppy, only to have your heart captured by an older animal. Consider the advantage of senior dog adoption.

Donate or Volunteer. You may not be in a position to adopt a pet, but there are other ways you can help. Ask your local shelters about donations—either of money or needed supplies. Most have a system in place to accept donations and are glad to have the help. If your schedule allows, donate your time as a volunteer to help out at a local shelter or rescue organization. There’s always work available for willing hands!

Use Social Media. We live in an amazing age of communication. If you use Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram, you have the power to inform people about the importance of pet adoption. Encourage friends, family, and colleagues to adopt a dog in need.

Spay or Neuter Your Pets. Spaying and neutering helps reduce the number of feral animals living as strays on the streets. Also, spayed and neutered animals have longer healthier lives and are at decreased risk for many health problems.

ID Tag or Chip Your Pet. If you and your dog are ever separated, how will you be reunited? A good Samaritan who finds your pet will likely first check for an ID tag, so make sure your info (address, phone, or email) is current on your dog’s ID tag. Also consider microchipping your animal. Microchips protect lost pets even when their tag is lost. Someone who finds your pet can bring the animal to a vet or shelter, where workers can scan for a chip. Microchips greatly increase the chances for a happy reunion and decrease the likelihood that your lost pet will be euthanized.

It was recently reported that shelter pet outcomes were improving—specifically, almost one million fewer pets entered shelters from 2016 to 2017. Together, we can continue to reduce the number of stray dogs facing euthanasia and help ensure that every dog has a loving forever home!


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

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