You’ve seen them all over the world wide web lately. Ari, the dog that (sort of?) looks like Steve Buscemi; Bart, the “zombie cat” who unearthed himself and crawled to safety after being buried alive. Once social media gets ahold of a cat or dog with an interesting story, or, more often than not, just an interesting face, people throw their attention, money and adoption requests at the appropriate people and the famous animal is soon happily homed.
Due to the financial success that seems to come with owning a celebrity pet (Grumpy Cat has brought in a hefty sum for her owner, Tabatha Bundesen, although not quite the $100 million her publicist initially claimed), people seem to clamor over each other at the chance to be the human behind the next fresh furry face.
But what about the millions of animals already at shelters who haven’t had their 15 minutes of fame? What about the cats and dogs who have been sitting, waiting, for months, and even years, for someone to notice them?
Beth Lavigne, the director of Go Dog Safe Paws, Ari’s rescue group, said his explosion on social media was a very mixed blessing. Before his initial exposure on Jezebel, Ari was literally the least-viewed dog on the site. Now, people all over the world want to adopt him – whether they’re geographically able to or not.
Lavinge has had to urge many would-be adopters that live too far away to consider adopting one of the many pets in desperate need of homes that live right in their area; something many seem to simply overlook amidst their excitement.
Sherri Silk, of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, had similar conversations when many people wanted to adopt Bart after hearing of his miraculous ordeal; she urged them all to adopt a cat in their area, in Bart’s honor.
Here are some quick facts about shelter animals provided by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA):
- Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.
- Each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats).
- Of the dogs entering shelters, approximately 35% are adopted, 31% are euthanized and 26% of dogs who came in as strays are returned to their owner.
- Of the cats entering shelters, approximately 37% are adopted, 41% are euthanized, and less than 5% of cats who came in as strays are returned to their owners.
…that’s entirely too many animals without homes, who desperately need them.
While it’s a fantastic idea to seek out and adopt a pet whose story on the internet inspired you, please keep in mind that there are countless cats, dogs, and other pets right in your area who have stories as well – you just haven’t heard them yet. Please visit your local shelter the next time you want to jump up and adopt the next up-and-coming internet star – you might end up meeting someone who has been waiting for you to bring them home.