Where Do Shelter Dogs Come From?

by Ragtimelil

October is Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month. If you’re thinking about adopting, here’s some information to help you decide. There are also some things you can do if you can’t adopt.

The ASPCA estimates that there are about 5,000 local and regional shelters in the US that take in 5 to 7 million animals a year. Twenty-five percent of these dogs are purebred. Many strays are lost pets who were not kept properly indoors or provided with identification. Approximately 3-4 million animals are euthanized.
According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, the top ten reasons dogs are brought to shelters are
1. Moving
2. Landlord issues
3. Cost of pet maintenance
4. No time for pet
5. Inadequate facilities
6. Too many pets in home
7. Pet illness (es)
8. Personal problems
9. Biting
10. No homes for littermates

Why Adopt a Dog?


When you adopt a dog from a shelter, you are saving a life. Even if the shelter or rescue is a no-kill shelter, you are making room for that group to take in another dog and thereby saving their life. It's a good feeling to know that you've made a difference.

Your new dog will have been vetted and generally evaluated for health and temperament. Contrary to popular belief, dogs are usually relinquished to shelters for reasons that have nothing to do with the dog's temperament. Sometimes it's just a family crisis or some legal issue.

 My adopted border collie, Moss.

he shelter dog generally has been neutered or spayed and vaccinated which makes the shelter fees a real bargain. It is still cheaper than buying from a breeder or buying from a pet shop or online.

shelter dogDogs, as pets have been shown to be psychologically, emotionally, and physically beneficial. Having a pet to care for can bring purpose to someone's life and provide structure and fulfillment They provide unconditional love and can lessen a feeling of isolation and loneliness.

You won't be supporting puppy mills and pet shops. This is a subject that is just too vast to describe here. I suggest reading Pet Store Puppies and Puppy Mills.


Photo of Jackson, my brother's adopted dog used by permission

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Where Do They Come From?

  • About 62 percent of all households in the United States have a pet which comes to about 78.2 million dogs owned in the United States according to The American Pet Products Assoc.
  • According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP), about 65 percent of pet owners acquire their pets free or at low cost.
  • · The majority of pets are obtained from acquaintances and family members. Twenty-six percent of dogs are purchased from breeders, 20 to 30 percent of cats and dogs are adopted from shelters and rescues, and 2 to 10 percent are purchased from pet shops.


It seems that most of our dogs are from unspayed and unneutered dogs who accidentally breed, or the "one-time" breeder who wants their dog to have one litter.

The ASPCA has promoted low-cost solutions to the pet population for years. They have a website to help you locate a clinic near you.

Do you have or have your ever had an adopted dog?

Difference between Shelter and Rescues

Shelters have buildings and kennels to house the animals. They may be operated by a local municipality or have contracts with local communities to operate the facility. They generally have paid staff as well as volunteers. They are generally required to take in all animals brought to them by the animal control officers such as strays and animal abuse seizures as well as any brought in by the general public. Unless they are a no-kill shelter, animals will be euthanized after a period of time.

Rescues typically do not have kennels but place dogs in  foster homes until they can be evaluated, retrained if necessary, and adopted. Their adoption fees may be a bit higher because they do not have any subsidies to pay for medical care, transportation or any other costs. Many specialize in one breed or a mix of that breed. Some only take puppies and some will take any dog. Many of the dogs are pulled from kill shelters to give them more time to find a home. Shelters have the option to stop taking in dogs when they are at capacity. Some will not take dogs in from a private home because they feel that it is the owner’s responsibility to rehome the dog.

See Animal Shelters by State


Kennel Syndrome

It’s well-known that some horses kept in stalls for too long can suffer from boredom and isolation. Some pace their stalls, weave, chew, or crib – which is holding onto something with their teeth and sucking air.

Some dogs kept in shelters for too long can develop abnormal behaviors as well. Pacing, spinning and jumping in place are just a few of the behaviors. I can imagine my dog, Moss, would be a candidate for the behavior shown in the video below.

What if You Can't Adopt?

Here are some 10 easy ways you can still help
  1. Comment on your Facebook status. Here’s a suggestion, "October is Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month. Save a life: Adopt a dog!

  2. Tweet, retweet and repeat the following (or your own incredibly brilliant message): "October is Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month. Save a life: Adopt a dog!"

  3. Your local shelter or rescue group may be holding some special events to raise awareness of adoption or to raise funds. Contact them and volunteer to advertise with flyers around your neighborhood. You can search for groups near you here.

  4. Share an adoptable dog picture or a success story on your blog, Facebook or Twitter (hashtag #savedogs) page.

  5. Sign up as a foster parent or shelter volunteer then tell your friends how great it is. Contact your local shelter or rescue group.

  6. Organize a fund raiser for your local shelter or rescue.

  7. Write an article about the importance of pet adoption for your newsletter or local paper.

  8. Contact your local shelter or rescue group and offer to photograph their adoptable pets and upload the pictures to a web site like petfinder.com or for the local paper.

  9. Donate to your local shelter or rescue group in honor of Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month.

  10. Talk to your kids, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and others of the next generation about animal shelters, Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month, and pet adoption in general.
Updated: 11/19/2012, Ragtimelil
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Ragtimelil on 09/27/2012

I saw the perfect small dog for me. She was black and white chihuahua and looked very much like one of my BCs. I just can't do it now. Maybe soon. Glad to hear you're volunteering though. Good for you!

katiem2 on 09/27/2012

My daughters and I vowed years ago to never ever buy a pet store animal. We visit many local shelters on a regular basis getting our volunteer hours in, which is a requirement for their schools, a good thing indeed. Only problem we always want to bring them home... :)K

Ragtimelil on 09/21/2012

It's good that the shelters are nice, but still, I'm sure the dogs would rather be in a home. I know my younger dog would go crazy in a short amount of time.
I LOVE funny looking dogs! I've always wanted to go adopt the silliest looking small dog I could find. Maybe someday.

dustytoes on 09/21/2012

I had a little dog who lived with us for 16 years and he came from a shelter in Florida. He was so funny looking that even the vet looked at him and said, "what kind of dog is that?" Some of the shelters around me are so nice that I doubt the animals want to leave.

Ragtimelil on 09/20/2012

ME TOO. If I had the money, I'd adopt them all. Then I'd have to hire people to play with them. I really have to win the lottery....

BrendaReeves on 09/20/2012

Lil, I have four dogs and two cats. I would adopt more if I could afford it. I was fostering for the Kentucky Humane Society, but not anymore. It brings out my pet hoarding tendencies. If I ever win the lottery, I'm going to start a pet rescue.

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