Dec 10, 2023

There's No Better Time to Adopt


Nearly 245,000 more pets waiting in shelters this holiday compared to last year

Shelter Animals Count (SAC), the most trusted and current source for animal sheltering data, and Dane County Humane Society (DCHS) urge potential pet parents to be holiday adopters, rather than holiday shoppers, when it comes to getting a pet this season. There’s no better time to adopt as new estimates show there are nearly 245,000 more pets waiting in the shelter system this holiday season compared to last year. This means the shelter population has grown by nearly a quarter million animals in 2023. This is critical for shelters, who were already overwhelmed and overcapacity at the end of 2022.

“Opting to adopt from shelters or rescue groups not only saves lives and sends a message of support to struggling shelters, but it also fills the demand of pet-seeking families with pets from within already saturated communities,” said Stephanie Filer, Executive Director for Shelter Animals Count. “Adopting a pet is the most sustainable and socially-conscious choice, which helps alleviate the shelter crisis, rather than compounding it.”

The holidays are a popular time for pet acquisition, so animal advocates encourage a shift away from buying pets from shops, breeders, and online sellers, and toward adopting animals from shelters and rescues. Because of the increasing trend of home breeding as a side hustle and the ongoing issue of puppy mills, many shelters are not only receiving pups that people purchased and can no longer keep, but also “leftover” puppies that breeders can’t sell and adult breeder dogs that are no longer wanted or needed.

Adopting During the Holidays

DCHS welcomes adopters all year long and follows an approach that focuses on removing barriers and judgment from the adoption process, having open conversations with adopters, and helping find the pet that will best fit their lifestyle. DCHS does not require applications, home checks, or other processes that might create barriers for interested families to adopt new pets. The wait times to meet with adoption counselors are typically shortest on weekdays, and interested individuals and families are welcome to visit with available animals during the Adoption Center’s open hours.

If someone is looking to give a pet as a gift, giving a gift basket of goodies and an adoption gift certificate can be a great way to include the new pet owner in deciding which animal to bring home. DCHS has adoption certificates and build-your-own gift sets for sale in their Adoption Center.

“Cats and dogs adopted from DCHS are already spayed or neutered, vaccinated, treated for parasites, and microchipped,” said Lisa Bernard, DCHS’s Public Relations Coordinator. “Those services can cost new pet parents hundreds of dollars on top of purchasing the animal. When you adopt a pet, you not only save a life, you also save a lot of money, which leaves more in your budget for future pet care.”

DCHS currently has numerous cats, dogs, and critters looking for new homes, and regularly brings in animals from partner shelters and rescues who are over capacity. New animals are made available daily. Animals who have been waiting longest for their new homes become members of DCHS’s Lonely Hearts Club and have reduced adoption fees.

Survey Says You may be Surprised Where Animals Are Coming From

People may discover options they never thought they’d find available for adoption. In a recent SAC survey, nearly 80% of respondents (314 responses from shelters and rescues across 45 states) said people would probably be surprised to find more and more small-breed dogs, puppies, purebreds, and “designer dogs” like doodles are coming through their doors.

Other key findings from the SAC survey:

  • Nearly 90% of survey respondents said they’re receiving puppies from their communities.
  • More than 60% of respondents said they’re receiving doodles and other intentional mixed breeds.
  • Almost half (44%) said they’re getting more purebreds.
  • More than half (54%) said they’re getting "leftover" puppies/litters from breeders who can't sell them.
  • Nearly 60% said they’re receiving surrenders (or surrender requests) of dogs that people say they paid a lot of money for and now can't afford to keep.

Shifting from buying animals to adopting homeless pets has become increasingly critical, as the recent Shelter Animals Count report highlights that animal shelters across the country are in crisis. Nationally, shelters are in their third year of having too many animals and not enough adoptions — especially for dogs. The current trend shows dog adoptions down 1.2% from 2022, after shelters saw a 2.5% increase in dogs arriving January-September 2023. Nationally, 5% more animals are entering shelters than leaving. Download SAC’s full Q3 report PDF here.

If adoption is not the right choice for your family this holiday season, you can make a big difference for animals in need by donating to support DCHS at, or your local animal shelter or rescue.

View all DCHS Adoptable Animals:

DCHS Adoption Process:

DCHS Adoption Center Hours:

Donate to DCHS online:

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