On National Adopt A Shelter Pet Day, Here’s How Many Pets Need Adopting — And How You Can Help

Today is very important. Not only does today, April 30, mark the completion of one quarter of the year (what!), today is National Adopt A Shelter Pet Day! If you are looking for a furry friend to add to the fam, today may be the day to finally take the plunge — or rather, a day to inform yourself on pet adoption and the system surrounding it, and a day to find other ways to help if you ultimately decide you're not in a position to adopt.

If you have never walked through the halls of your local shelter, use today as a reason to make a pit stop on your way home from work. Within seconds it will become abundantly clear just how many absolutely wonderful pets are waiting to find their perfect families. Unfortunately, the problem is nationwide, and affects millions of pets each year.

Jeanette McManus, an adoption specialist with Best Friends Animal Society in NYC, spoke to People for their Paws & Claws series about the benefits of adopting a pet rather than shopping for one. She explains that by rescuing an animal, "You're not only saving the pet that you're adopting, but a separate life as well. You're opening up a position for another animal to come into the city shelter." Plus, if a concern about adoption being complicated is what is deterring you, McManus assures, "[The adoption process] is honestly just a conversation. We'll kind of talk about what your lifestyle is like, your experience with dogs, what you're looking for when it comes to adopting, and then we do a bit of match-making."

Like people, pets have very distinctive personalities that will mesh well with some people and not as well with others. So, not only is adopting a pet altruistic, it is pragmatic. People working in animal shelters strive to match each animal with a family with which they would be well-suited.

Nowadays it can feel like there is a holiday for everything. But before you dismiss today's occasion as insignificant, consider the statistics. According to the America Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 6.5 million animals enter animal shelters every year in the United States — around 3.3 million dogs and 3.2 million cats. Hannah Stemper, the PR Manager for Best Friends Animal Society shed some light on the importance of adopting by noting, "The cold, hard truth is that two million animals are killed every single year in America's shelters. That is 5,500 dogs and cats every day that are killed because they don't have a safe place to call home." The ultimate goal of Best Friends Animal Society, she explains, "...is to get that number down to zero by 2025."

Best Friends Animal Society in the first began as a large companion animal sanctuary in Utah. Today, it remains the largest animal sanctuary in the nation, housing upwards of 1,600 animals on any given day. Since its opening in 1984, Best Friends has opened rescue and shelter locations in Utah, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York. But if you are not based in these locations, the Best Friends Animal Network also has partnerships with over 2,200 different organizations in all 50 states.

While adopting from a Best Friends shelter would be fantastic, at the end of the day supporting any shelter is a noble act of love. Some good news is that the rate of shelter adoptions has been steadily increasing since 2011, according to the ASPCA. You can celebrate the occasion by considering adopting a furry companion from your local shelter or humane society, or by donating to causes like Best Friends Animal Society and the ASPCA to help the pets who need it most.