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Every Community Has Adopters

29,380 lives.

That’s the number of pets impacted by either adoption or transport from BISSELL Pet Foundation’s record-setting recent Empty the Shelters event that took place from July 11-31. Approximately 22,165 of those pets found homes through our event promotion. For every pet adopted, another takes its place in the shelter, meaning Empty the Shelters touched the lives of nearly 60,000 pets in July. For each of these cats and dogs, we give a grant back to the shelter to help cover the expenses of each pet adopted. Our Empty the Shelters events have become a proven success for saving lives, and I see this trend continuing to grow.

When I started Empty the Shelters in 2016, we had a small group of participating shelters in West Michigan. Today, Empty the Shelters is the largest funded adoption event in the country. In July, 282 shelters participated to adopt nearly 30,000 pets! Participants reported that 27% of them adopted out at least half of the pets in their care.

Empty the Shelters events are not just a tool to increase routine adoptions, we also utilize this same program for shelters that have taken in pets from cruelty cases, disasters, or other influxes of homeless pets. For example, Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch in Florida recently led a cruelty case response for dogs in horrific conditions. With resources to help local animal control and law enforcement, Furry Friends did not hesitate to act quickly. They contacted BPF to provide additional support during this emergency. We are happy to help by giving them a boost in adoptions through an emergency Empty the Shelters event. These reduced-fee adoption events are beginning to successfully take the place of transport for shelters that take in many pets. Our communities step up and respond when we give them a chance.

The latest data from Shelters Animals Count shows that intake has increased more than the second quarter of 2021 but is still not as high as 2019. The increase in dog intake is only slightly up over 2021. However, it is the community intake that is most upsetting to me. In 2022, cat community intake is up by 3%, and dog intake by 11% over 2021. This is disturbing because these are owner surrenders, many of them likely due to the rental crisis and unfair housing restrictions for dogs. I can’t help but think about the tearful goodbyes that are taking place in shelter lobbies while the staff must standby helplessly. Shelters are trying to keep families together, and we are doing everything we can to help.

Sadly, the increase in owner surrenders means there are even more dogs (and cats) in our nation’s shelters that are well adjusted, house-trained, spayed/neutered, purebred, mixed breed, hairless, long-haired—you get the point. We need to move them out fast to avoid the stress of a long stay. Local adoptions are much simpler for pets, saving them a lengthy transport. We know that transport, though a vital tool to end pet homelessness, is declining, and we need to have faith in our local communities.

Every single community has potential adopters. BPF’s Empty the Shelters adoption totals are from shelters all over the country—big, small, rural, and urban. The adopters are out there, and we need them desperately. The data alone shows that our 2022 intake numbers are still lower than 2019. Don’t let this provide a false sense that the 2022 population in our shelters is manageable. It is beyond the capacity of care for most shelters because they don’t have the staff and/or veterinarian support that they had in 2019.

BPF is working hard to grow our Empty the Shelters event to continue to reach more shelters and more pets because we know our events save lives. We will also provide training from experts for shelters in need to create and maintain adoption programs that work, even with limited staff. We will provide as much support for community services as our budget allows through spay/neuter, vaccination, microchipping, and emergency response. Committing to pets means committing to our communities by providing them with resources and tools to make life with cats and dogs accessible and fulfilling.

BPF will continue our transport program because it is still necessary. My hope is that one day transport will not be a vital component in saving lives and that pets will stay in the communities where they originated. Until then, the BPF team is taking a moment to celebrate nearly 30,000 pets impacted at 282 shelters that trusted in their community to adopt them. Our work is far from over. It’s a big goal to end pet homelessness, but when communities rally around pets in shelters patiently waiting for homes, we know we can make it happen together.