Got an idea for a holiday? Send it to us

Submit Now

National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week

National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week – November 3-9, 2024

National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week takes place during the first full week of November — November 3–9 this year — in recognition of the various shelters that provide care to millions of displaced animals in America. Yes, millions! The observance also serves to acknowledge the hard-working people supporting the efforts with their work at the shelters. Local shelters are great at finding new homes for homeless pets, but it’s not all they do. They rescue and rehabilitate injured or abused animals too, and they reunite lost pets with their original families. They serve communities by saving their animals every day.

History of National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week

The term ‘animal shelter’ originated after the use of ‘pound,’ as in ‘dog pound,’ took on a negative connotation. Pounds were enclosures where lost livestock and pets, seen as a public health hazard, were ‘impounded’ until their owners found them, but they would become known as the place such animals were killed. This led to the change of name to a more positive ‘animal rescue shelter.’ Animal shelters care for, return, or re-home, lost or neglected pets. Today, shelters also reach out to the veterinary community for guidance on both the physical and behavioral health of these animals, eliminating the stigma that animals in shelters are unhealthy. Shelter animals are well-cared-for, great candidates for pet adoption.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was established in 1866 as the first organization for animal welfare in the U.S. focused initially on horses. Several non-affiliated humane societies were founded in other cities, and at first, dog licenses that protected public safety and private property rather than the animals were issued to fund the societies. The Pennsylvania SPCA was the first society to focus on the welfare of shelter animals in 1874. Before the 1970s, shelters focused on the humane euthanasia of animals that were not adopted or reclaimed after a long time. By the mid-70s, veterinary medicine was introduced along with preventative care and treatment programs. There is still no federal system regulating shelters, and some of the guidelines for animal care remain undeveloped.

The Humane Society of the United States founded National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week in 1996 to acknowledge and appreciate the role of animal shelters in communities all over the country. This holiday encourages the public to understand the level of work involved in caring for animals and to volunteer to help at their local animal shelter. The annual event acknowledges the hard-working people who support the shelters and help in keeping the pets healthy. According to reports, there are about 70 million stray animals in the United State, with up to eight million ending up in shelters. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that each year, only three million of these animals get adopted from the 3,500 animal shelters around the country.

Many animal shelters are non-profit. This means they depend on donations and grants to stay open even when the service they provide is so vital to civil orderliness. Shelters primarily serve the function of finding a home for stray animals, but they also facilitate reuniting lost pets with their house owners and may provide animal health services, behavioral evaluations, training, pet-sitting, grooming, and humane education. Although they play a crucial role in society, animal shelter staff work tirelessly to rescue and help animals for often below-average wages, making it even more important to dedicate a special holiday to thank them.

National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week timeline

A Society is Formed

In the U.K., the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is formed, which sets the foundation for an organized welfare group for dogs and a shift in the public’s opinion of dogs.

April 10, 1866
Coming to America

The SPCA crosses the ocean into the U.S. where Henry Bergh forms its first animal welfare organization, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), which grows despite public ridicule and opposition to him, and indifference towards animal welfare.

April 14, 1869
The First Animal Shelter

The first official animal shelter in the United States is set up in Bensalem, outside of Philadelphia, by the Women’s SPCA of Pennsylvania including Caroline Earle White, expanding beyond horses to caring for lost and stray dogs.

October 9, 1877
The American Humane Association

27 organizations from across the United States form the International Humane Association after a meeting at the Kennard House in Cleveland, Ohio, to discuss the ill-treatment of farm animals while they are being transported between Eastern and Western U.S.; the name is changed the next year.

November 22, 1954
The Humane Society of the United States

After a schism in the American Humane Association over policy issues relating to animal facilities, Larry Andrews, Marcia Glaser, Helen Jones, and Fred Myers, establish the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to strengthen the American humane movement, with its headquarters in Washington D.C.

First Designated State Dog Breed

The State of Maryland sets the precedent for adopting a dog breed as a state symbol after designating the Chesapeake Bay Retriever in 1964.

The Georgia Animal Protection Act

Georgia’s Animal Protection Act of 1986 is the first law to establish a minimum standard of care for animals in shelters within a state in the United States.

NCPPSP’s Eye-opening Study

The United States National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP) conducts a study which shows that people put pets in shelters for reasons including family relocation, pet bans in residential buildings, too many animals in the household, high maintenance costs, inadequate facilities, and personal problems.

Loss of Funding

During the 2008 financial crisis, shelters suffered a massive loss in funding that meant they had to euthanize millions of pets after they ran out of resources to care for them.

National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week FAQs

Are shelter animals grateful?

We would like to think so! Pet animals are often aware of their situation and many are grateful when rescued from a dangerous one. Rescued animals are so grateful to their rescuers that they end up being more devoted and loyal than animals from non-abusive homes. 

Are shelters for profit?

Most shelters are not run for profit since they are municipal-owned. Even the private ones hardly make a substantial profit, relying on donations and grants.

Why do shelters kill so many pets?

Lack of adopters and homes, and lack of the resources to take care of them as they get older.

How to Observe National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week

  1. Adopt a pet

    Animals make great companions, and there’s no better way to observe National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week than to adopt one. Find out what it takes to provide a safe and loving home, and learn more about adopting from a local animal shelter.

  2. Visit a shelter

    Take a tour of a local animal shelter to witness firsthand how things work. Get involved by finding out how to volunteer or donate to the upkeep of the animals it caters for!

  3. Donate to your favorite shelters

    Many animal shelters struggle to keep up with the upkeep of the animals in their care. Donate to support them! Donating to your local shelter might be as simple as mailing them a cheque or picking up an item on the shelter’s wish list on your way there.

5 Important Facts About Animal Shelters

  1. Some shelters have open admission

    Shelters, especially municipal-run or private shelters with a contract to operate for a municipality, can be open admission which means they accept any animal regardless of the reason.

  2. There are four possible outcomes

    Animals in a shelter are either reunited with their owners, put up for adoption, transferred to another shelter or rescue facility, or euthanized.

  3. Only five countries don’t permit euthanasia

    All but five European countries — Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, and Italy — grant shelters the right to kill animals.

  4. 2.4 million pets are euthanized yearly

    The Humane Society of the United States estimates that nearly 2.4 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized each year because of a lack of homes.

  5. Castration and vaccination

    Most sheltered animals are castrated and vaccinated against rabies and other pet diseases.

Why National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week is Important

  1. We are reminded to appreciate the caregivers of lost pets

    Animal shelters can often go under the radar, yet the care they provide is so important. Without them, there would be so many stray animals roaming the streets. National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week is an opportunity to reflect and appreciate the work of these caregivers a whole week long.

  2. It highlights the importance of shelters

    The importance of shelters can’t be overstated. They provide refuge to animals that perhaps would have constituted social disorderliness. National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week helps to highlight that fact.

  3. The need for more adopters is emphasized

    The only way to put more dogs in proper homes is to persuade more people to be open to the idea of adopting a pet. National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week provides the necessary limelight on the issues shelters face. It helps more people consider adopting an animal.

National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week dates

2022November 6Sunday
2023November 5Sunday
2024November 3Sunday
2025November 2Sunday
2026November 1Sunday

Holidays Straight to Your Inbox

Every day is a holiday!
Receive fresh holidays directly to your inbox.