Adopt a Pet. Save a Life. Gain a Forever Friend.

Puppies in an animal shelter
Kittens in an animal shelter

The hardest thing to watch on television are the sad commercials showing animals in cages. The song “In the Arms of an Angel” plays in the background and you can’t tear your eyes away from the screen while picture after picture goes by of the sad and lonely dogs and cats looking helplessly at the camera, shaking, with their tails between their legs, or injured. You want so badly to help those animals but don’t feel like you can help. But, actually, you can! This is not a promotional editorial, though, don’t worry.

I have had my dog, Wrigley, for almost ten years now. My parents adopted him at Wright-Way Rescue in Morton Grove, Illinois. He was found in an alley with two other puppies, his sisters, and they were all only about a month old. It was fate that my mom found Wrigley, and when we went to the shelter to meet him, he ran around the playpen with his paws that were too big for him because he was so small. Wrigley and I are best friends and we have been absolutely happy together since the day we adopted him.

Animal shelters are filled with dogs, cats, mice, rabbits, and the simplest, beneficial impact of adopting is that you save a life. Animals are being euthanized — put to death humanely — every day, and about 1.5 million animals are euthanized each year.

If you are a pet owner, how happy have you been since you got your pet? You might have saved their life from euthanasia. Similar to what Derek Shepherd says in Grey’s Anatomy, “It’s a beautiful day to save lives.” That statement couldn’t be more true when thinking about adoption; anyone looking for a pet can do exactly what Derek does . . . save a life.

There are countless animals in shelters, and so many of them are euthanized. What makes their lives less valuable that they are subjected to a humane death? Why can’t they live the rest of their lives like the other animals who weren’t euthanized? They could have been adopted the next day, but they never even had that chance. Euthanization in animal shelters can be stopped and decreased throughout the world if people looking into acquiring an animal go to animal shelters. According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), more than 6 to 8 million animals are in shelters across the U.S. every year, and “nearly 4 million unwanted dogs and cats are left with nowhere to go.”

Of the 1.5 million animals euthanized in shelters each year, about “9 out of 10 euthanized animals are adoptable, with no painful or life-threatening conditions.” Some reasons for euthanasia include: overpopulation in shelters, natural disaster leading to homelessness, a lack of shelter funds limiting animal capacity, and the fact that “owners . . . no longer want to keep the animal.”

There are multiple ways of getting animals, including adoption and buying animals from breeders (someone who uses animals’ reproduction to make a profit). The difference between adoption and buying animals from breeders is that animals are in shelters because they were “homeless and unwanted animals,” while animals are sold by breeders because people want purebred or specific types of animals. The cost of adopting an animal from an animal shelter can be from $118‒$667 (dogs and puppies) or $34‒$276 (cats and kittens) or $8‒$173 (birds, rabbits, and other small mammals), and the cost of buying an animal from a breeder can be up from $1,000 to $1,500. Another difference between shelters and breeders is that breeders use animals for their own benefit of making money off of people with the idea that no one else will have the breeds that they are providing, but about “one in four dogs in shelters is a ‘purebred.’ ” Animals should not be mass-produced like inanimate objects at big chain companies, and that is exactly what animal breeders are doing. People might refer to themselves as “animal lovers” because they have a lot of love and appreciation for animals, but the easiest way of showing that you are an animal lover is to adopt an animal from a shelter. When people are more focused on adopting animals from shelters, then the animal breeding market declines, and animals will not be used for the sole purpose of their breed.

Furthermore, the most helpful way that euthanization in shelters can be decreased is by spaying and neutering animals, which helps by solving overpopulation in shelters. Spaying and neutering animals are when the reproductive organs in an animal are surgically removed, like a vasectomy and a hysterectomy. The cost of euthanizing a dog or cat is about $85, and the cost of spaying and neutering can be anywhere between $50–$500 for female dogs and $35–$250 for male dogs. If the government provides funds for animal shelters, the difference in cost between euthanization and spaying/neutering can be less of an issue because the price for spaying/neutering will either be eliminated or decreased. There are a number of benefits to this that aren’t just to solve the euthanasia problem throughout the world. The life expectancy of animals increases, male animals won’t have testicular cancer and “will be less likely to roam away from home” in an attempt to find a mate, and female animals won’t have ovarian cancer or mammary gland tumors, and won’t go into “heat.”

On the contrary, kill shelters do have their benefits. A night shift employee, Alex Mays, at a kill shelter gave her insight on what it’s like to work there and the stigma that is associated with her field of work. Mays shares what her daily shift entails and what she sees and experiences, which is mainly taking care of the animals at the shelter by feeding them treats, keeping them comfortable, and giving them attention and care. She also provides her side of the story as someone who has to witness so many animals pass on, sometimes by natural causes and diseases. But the hierarchical detail that she introduces is how kill shelters, like the one she works at, have the ability to take care and treat animals if they need diagnosing or immediate medical help. Mays mentions how she actually feels better knowing that animals are in the care of the shelter she works at because she knows that they will be looked after properly and won’t be treated harshly or neglected. Her shelter is funded enough so that they can go to extreme measures to help the animals in the shelter, which shows how important funding can be for the benefit of the shelter and the animals in the shelter — kill and no-kill shelters alike.

In conclusion, animal shelters are amazing places for animals to find their forever home. Families can gain a new and adorable member of the family, similar to how I gained my forever best friend, Wrigley. Animal lives and safety should be addressed more, and what better way to help save those lives than to adopt them. If you are looking to adopt an animal and, ultimately, save their life, you can go to this animal shelter finder website, or simply search on the internet for animal shelters near you.

My dog, Wrigley

MEHS Senior