Survey shows disconnect between Americans' attitudes, actions regarding pet adoption

The majority of Americans agree that adopting pets from shelters is a virtuous endeavor, yet those same people are more content to let others adopt from shelters while they buy from breeders or pet stores.

According to a survey by Best Friends Animal Society, much of the disconnect comes from people's stereotypes and misperceptions about shelter animals.

The survey indicated that 86 percent of Americans are advocates of pet adoption, while only six out of 10 say they would personally first look to adopt instead of purchasing. This gap comes despite the majority of people surveyed acknowledging that adoption can hold benefits over purchasing including money savings and pre-adoption spaying and neutering.

Younger generation shows aversion to adoption

Best Friends Animal Society said the disconnect is especially evident in the younger generation, which is concerning for the estimated 4 million pets that are killed every year in shelters.

According to the survey, 46 percent of young adults (ages 18-34) would rather purchase a pet from a breeder or pet store compared to the 31 percent who prefer to adopt. The survey pointed to two possible reasons for this: Many young adults believe that shelter animals are not at serious risk of being killed in shelters before they adopted, and nearly half of the young adults surveyed said they find shelter animals less desirable than those obtained from breeders.

"We were sad to learn that to some extent animals in shelters are stereotyped by young adults as damaged goods," said Gregory Castle, CEO and co-founder of Best Friends Animal Society. "The fact is that every day in this country perfectly wonderful family pets land in shelters through no fault of their own, all of whom need and deserve a home of their own."

Education lacking regarding preventive care, spaying/neutering

The survey also re-emphasized what veterinarians have known for some time - that many pet owners still require education about the benefits of preventive care and spaying/neutering.

According to the study, 86 percent of Americans surveyed said showing pets affection is very important. Many of the same people didn't lend as much importance to pet health, though, as only 66 percent said they believe in regular veterinary checkups, and only 65 percent believed in getting their pets spayed or neutered.

In addition, the survey revealed that while four out of five people advocated spaying/neutering for all dogs and cats because it helps to reduce overpopulation, they were largely unaware of the other benefits of sterilization. Only 33 percent were aware of the potential pet behavior improvements from spaying/neutering, and only 28 percent knew the practice can benefit pet health.

Next steps for Best Friends Animal Society

Now that Best Friends Animal Society has numbers showing why some people avoid pet adoption, the organization plans on raising awareness - especially among the younger crowd - about the rewards of adopting pets and combating the pet homelessness problem.

"While young people have embraced social media as a way to express what cause they support and in general young people are socially active, the results of the survey were surprising in that so many younger adults, rather than help homeless pets, were likely to buy a pet at the same mall they bought their iPhone. This is something we hope to change," Castle said.

Read the entire Pet Adoption Survey