October is the month every year when we turn our hearts toward the hopeful dogs waiting to find forever homes during Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) sponsors and promotes Adopt a Shelter Dog Month every October, while the American Humane Society has celebrated a month-long October campaign encouraging the adoption of shelter dogs in 1981. Community shelters make it a priority to match each dog with a compatible owner and environment to support the dog’s best second chance at a loving and stable forever home.
History of Adopt a Shelter Dog Month
No one knows the exact number of dogs that find safe harbor and temporary housing in community animal shelters each year. But these shelters are the last hope for an estimated 3.3 – 4.5 million misunderstood, unwanted, abused, or neglected dogs in need of a fresh start with a compassionate human friend.
But lost, abandoned or unwanted dogs have not always had shelters where caring humans provide help and hope. As we celebrate Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, we would be remiss to not recognize the founder of America’s first animal shelter, Mrs. Caroline Earl White. Mrs. White and a group of 30 female animal rights activists formed the “Women’s Humane Society” in 1869 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Society’s initial mission focused on advocating for the humane treatment of carriage horses on city streets. Horses were considered beasts of burden for industrial purposes at the time, and carriage horses were often seen being treated harshly on city streets, frequently denied access to clean water and medical care.
After success in advocating for more humane treatment of horses, the women turned their attention later that year to smaller domestic animals when they opened a shelter where lost dogs could be found and reclaimed by their owners or placed in new homes. As their commitment to cause continued, the Women’s Humane Society began the first formal educational program about the humane treatment of animals. In 1909 they raised enough money to open and support a dispensary where owners could bring their dogs and other small animals for medical attention.
The determination and commitment to animal rights by Mrs. White and her band of animal activists paved the way for dogs to be treated humanely some 50 years before these women could even vote. Their original shelter, which opened as “The Women’s Branch of the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,” is still in operation today as the “Women’s Animal Center” in Bensalem, a suburb of Philadelphia.
Today there are approximately 5,000 community animal shelters nationwide and perhaps as many as 10,000 when including rescue groups and animal sanctuaries in the count. Knowing there are so many places of refuge for unwanted dogs gives us hope that every dog in every shelter will be adopted into a loving permanent home during Adopt a Shelter Dog Month
Adopt a Shelter Dog Month timeline
Shelter adoption rates begin steadily rising, from more shelters embracing a streamlined open adoption process to foster programs and coverage of basic vet needs.
The American Humane Association establishes Adopt A Dog Month in response to the growing number of dogs and puppies entering shelters every year.
The “Women’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Pennsylvania” is formed, considered to be the first animal shelter in the United States of America.
The “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” (SPCA) is formed in England.
Adopt a Shelter Dog Month FAQs
Why is it better to adopt a pet from a shelter?
Not only are you saving a dog’s life when you adopt a dog from a shelter, but you are also helping to stop the cruelty often found in commercial breeding facilities, commonly called “puppy mills.” Raids on these facilities often discover female dogs in unsanitary conditions living in small cages, forced to produce litter after litter of puppies while being denied human compassion and companionship. The bonus is you will save money when you adopt a dog who needs a safe and loving home.
How long does it take for a shelter dog to adjust to a new home?
You can gauge the time it might take for your dog to fully acclimate to his home in threes: three days, three weeks, three months. We think of that first 3 days (at a minimum) as the initial “detox period” as the dog transitions from the shelter to your home.
What happens when you adopt a dog from a shelter?
Once you bring your rescue dog home, expect there to be a significant adjustment period. Some dogs are more adaptable than others and may fit right in after just a few hours. Others may take days or even weeks to open up to you and learn to feel safe and comfortable in their new space.
How to Support Adopt a Shelter Dog Month
Share your adopted dog story
Sharing your personal story of a successful shelter dog adoption is a great way to celebrate National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. Hearing about your experience may be just the catalyst that encourages another human to make room in their heart and home for a dog in need of a best friend and forever home.
Rescue a senior shelter dog
We admit that “puppy dog eyes” are hard to resist. But the most loyal of all dogs may well be the senior dog rescued from a shelter. The advantages of adopting an older dog may include fewer “accidents” since most older dogs are house broken, less destructive chewing (common problem with young dogs) and saving money on obedience classes.
Volunteer as a doggy foster parent
If you already own a dog or love dogs but cannot commit to having a dog in your home long term, maybe being a doggy foster parent is right for you. National Adopt a Dog Month is the perfect time to contact your local shelter about providing foster care for a dog. There is a great need for people willing to provide temporary, safe, caring homes for dogs in transition who need to be observed before being made available for adoption.
5 Amazing Facts About Dog Ownership
Increased physical activity and socialization
Owning a dog forces otherwise “potentially” lazy humans out of bed early every morning and off the couch late every day for walks, and hopefully to the local dog park once a week for some serious dog and human playtime.
Better Stress Management
Petting a dog has a calming effect on people by stimulating the release of relaxation hormones and lowering levels of stress hormones in the human body, according to multiple studies including a report by Harvard Medical.
Dogs Promote a Natural High
Simply gazing into your dog’s eyes releases a bonding hormone in humans called oxytocin, according to one study reported on in the journal “Science.”
Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
Humans experience a reduction in blood pressure and a decrease in heart rate when petting a dog.
May protect us from heart disease
The American Heart Association released a statement in 2019 that owning a dog may in fact protect us from heart disease, based on their review of all available research on the calming effects of owning a dog.
Why We Love Adopt A Shelter Dog Month
Makes you a hero
When you adopt a shelter dog, you are truly saving a life, which makes you a hero not only to the dog you rescue, but to every human who hears your story. In fact, adopting a dog may save two lives. The dog’s and your own.
Shelter dogs are loyal best friends
Cherokee American actor, author, and humorist Will Rogers once famously said, “No man can be condemned for owning a dog. As long as he has a dog, he has a friend.” And we know from experience the most loyal among such friends are those rescued from shelters, forever grateful and faithful to the human willing to give them a second, third, or even fourth chance at a forever home.
Saves you money
You can spend thousands of dollars to purchase the perfect purebred dog that may or may not ever take a liking to you, or you can go to your local shelter, get on an adoption list, check-in every few days for weeks or even months until one day “The One” arrives at the shelter and you both know you were meant for each other. You will not only pay less in adoption fees vs buying that purebred dog, but you will also have a fabulous story to tell about how you and your BFFF (Best Furry Friend Forever) found each other.
Adopt a Shelter Dog Month dates