Pet adoption is the process of taking responsibility for a pet that a previous owner has abandoned or released to a shelter or rescue organization. Common sources for adoptable pets are animal shelters and rescue groups. Some organizations give adopters ownership of the pet, while others use a guardianship model wherein the organization retains some control over the animal’s future use or care.
Online pet adoption sites have databases of pets being housed by thousands of animal shelters and rescue groups, and are searchable by the public.
People deal with their unwanted pets in many ways. Some people have the pet euthanized (also known as putting down or putting to sleep), although many veterinarians do not consider this to be an ethical use of their resources for young and healthy animals, while others argue that euthanasia is a more humane option than leaving a pet in a cage for very long periods of time. Other people simply release the pet into the wild or otherwise abandon it, with the expectation that it will be able to take care of itself or that it will be found and adopted. More often, these pets succumb to hunger, weather, traffic, or common and treatable health problems. Some people euthanize pets because of terminal illnesses or injuries, while others even do it for common health problems that they cannot, or will not, pay to treat. More responsible owners will take the pet to a shelter, or call a rescue organization, where it will be cared for properly until a home can be found. Another method is rehoming (finding another owner). Reasons for surrendering a pet may be due to allergies, the pet-owner’s death, divorce, the birth of a baby, or relocation.
Homes cannot always be found, however, and euthanasia is often used for the excess animals to make room for newer pets, unless the organization has a no-kill policy. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 2.4 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized each year in the US because of a lack of homes. Animal protection advocates campaign for adoption instead of buying animals in order to reduce the number of animals who have to be euthanized. Many shelters and animal rescues encourage the education of spaying or neutering a pet in order to reduce the number of animals euthanized in shelters and to help control the pet population.