Uplifting US Animal Shelter Statistics & Facts That Will Inspire You

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Written by Vytautas Vaitkevicius.

Vytautas is a passionate freelance writer, traveler, and nature lover. During his travels, he met countless stray dogs and volunteered in an animal shelter, inspiring him to write more about animals.

Animals might be cute and lovely, but when it comes to animal shelters – it’s not nearly as positive as it should be.

Animals news and statistics are not always bright and uplifting, but rather, on the contrary, damaging and shocking most of the time. But there’s always a bright side!

And today, I invite you to explore that side.

Let’s see the six most uplifting US animal shelter statistics, so the positivity spreads to inspire more positive action in the cause.

Before I Start: The Data Availability is Increasing

Animal shelter data is not easy to collect. And for many years, the statistics were sparse with not much availability and accuracy.

But in recent years, that has changed with organizations such as Shelter Animals Count making incredible progress on data.

They collected over 30,000 data records from more than 5,000 organizations in 2018 alone! Since then, they have been producing one of the go-to yearly statistics about animal shelters, pet adoption, and more.

Let’s wait no longer, and dive into positive statistics on pet shelters!

Adoption Was the Most Common Outcome in 2020

There are a lot of possible outcomes for shelter animals: Adoption, RTO, Transfer Out, Death, Euthanasia, Missing, and more!

According to Shelter Animals Count 2020 research paper, adoption was one of the most common outcomes for dogs and cats.

Dog adoption accounted for 53.5% out of the total outcome chart!

People are adopting more and more instead of buying. And it seems that the Covid-19 pandemic has played a part in it.

The Stable RTO Rates

According to 2019 and 2020 research papers from Shelter Animals Count, the return to owner rate is stable slightly above 40%.

The total RTO percentage in the US was 40.7% for dogs in 2020 and 40.1% in 2019. Considering how hard it is sometimes to find your lost pet, these numbers indicate that many of them are quickly returned.

However, owners should put in more effort and start actively searching, posting, and spreading awareness about the lost pet within the first 12 hours – this is where the chances are highest to find the lost pet.

Euthanasia Rates Are Decreasing

Various data reports suggest that around 50-70% of dogs that end up in animal shelters are eventually euthanized.

Some of the biggest reasons for euthanasia are overpopulation and open admission policies. The overcrowded animal shelters sometimes don’t have a choice, but there’s good news!

The stable RTO numbers and increasing rescue adoption popularity are helping to plummet the euthanasia numbers across the US.

The Adoption Numbers

According to ACPA, around 6.3 million animals enter US animal shelters each year. Of those, approximately 3.1 million are dogs.

While the numbers are certainly alarmingly high, around 2 million dogs are adopted annually – this is a perfect example of how there’s always a bright side that we all can find.

If this positive adoption trend continues, and we’ll see a more significant decrease in animals entering the streets, we can expect to see great results in the future.

The Number of No-kill Shelters Is Increasing

There’s also more and more positivity in the no-kill community and shelters. According to Pawsomeadvice, around 44% of all the animal shelters in the US are no-kill compared to only 29% in 2018. Once again, the trend is going in the right direction.

In addition, Delaware State became the first one with zero no-kill shelters in 2019.

If you wonder if there’s still compassion and empathy in the world, we are certainly getting there!

But wait, there’s more! Best Friends Animal Society has an ambitious goal to make euthanasia in animal shelters disappear by 2025.

People’s Attitude & Laws Contribute Too

This statistic may not be directly related to animal shelters, but how people feel, act, and think is essential to animal shelters’ overall situation.

It seems that around 96% of Americans are saying that they have a moral duty to care for and protect animals.

They also believe they have strong laws for animal rights and their welfare.

If this statistic is indeed correct, then people’s mindset is in the right place and will contribute to animal welfare majorly along the way.

And there are indeed plenty of strong laws and acts that protect animals in the US!

Before I Conclude: Explore Limitless Volunteer Options

Before you read the conclusion and go, I also want to emphasize how many options there are to contribute and make more positive statistics in the future!

There are approximately 14,000 animal shelters and rescue groups in the US. The majority of them accept volunteers, donations, and other contributions.

And not only animals will feel the positive effect, because volunteering and being around animals will contribute to your overall well-being by decreasing negativity, making you more social, happier, and giving more purpose.

Volunteering will also teach you many new skills, and it is an excellent and significant way to spend your free time.


Negative and shocking animal shelter statistics might still be dominant, but don’t let them overshadow the trend of good results.

Seeing the progress and positive results can inspire, give hope and motivate to take action.

Photo by Vytautas Vaitkevicius.