Each year, millions of homeless pets enter U.S. shelters and approximately two million dogs and cats are euthanized. This is a huge improvement since the 1970s when it was closer to 15 million, but it’s still too many. That’s why ending pet homelessness is a key goal for the Humane Society of the United States and our affiliates. We work this problem from many angles, including fighting for laws at the state and federal level to end the scourge of puppy mills, working globally to spay/neuter companion animals, supporting shelters and rescues through a variety of means, including our upcoming Animal Care Expo and through our newer Shelter Ally Project, and working to keep pets in loving homes in under-resourced areas through our Pets for Life program.

Through the Shelter Pet Project, a collaboration between the Ad Council, the HSUS and Maddie’s Fund that was launched in 2009, we work to raise awareness so potential adopters turn to shelters as the first place when they are looking to get a new pet. In 2018, Shelter Pet Project public service announcements ran more than 597,000 times in print, radio, television, interactive and out-of-home advertising, helping to drive more than 700,000 online searches for pets and local pet adoption groups. Since the campaign's launch in 2009, the announcements have run more than 8.7 million times, reaching millions of Americans.

We have been heartened in recent years by a growing recognition among lawmakers to raise awareness about shelter pets. Over just the last two years, several states have designated shelter or rescue pets as their official state pets, including Colorado, California, Georgia, Illinois and Tennessee.

Now Ohio, which just last year passed one of the nation’s strongest laws cracking down on puppy mills, has further consolidated its position as a leader on companion animal welfare by joining this elite group. A law designating a shelter pet as the official state pet to raise public awareness about shelter animals goes into effect today. Texas and Oregon are considering similar resolutions.

At the HSUS, we‘re all about adoption. I adopted my dog, Lilly, from a shelter partner in Trinidad and Tobago, and most of my colleagues share their hearts and homes with pets who come from rescues or shelters. Like my Lilly, who was a street dog, these pets -- including some who were saved from the dog meat trade in China or South Korea, some who were rescued from puppy mills, and some who were rescued from abuse cases -- are resilient and make amazing companions. And they have one more thing in common: each won over their parents’ hearts within moments of meeting them.

#AdoptPureLove, the latest campaign from the Shelter Pet Project, highlights this unique bond between adopted shelter pets and their owners by showcasing six sets of people and their pets, including three celebrities.

In the videos, actresses Olivia Munn and Rachel Bloom and NFL star Logan Ryan discuss how shelter pets have their own unique traits, but all are pure love. Munn appears with her dogs Frankie and Chance. Bloom is seen with her closest confidante, shelter dog Wiley, and Ryan spends quality time playing catch with Leo and Julius.


Also featured is the relationship between Ahnya, a young girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, and her shelter cat Lucky. Another video stars Navy veteran Brian and his shelter dog Tommy, who helped him transition back into civilian life. The third highlights the bond between Renee, a student, and her shelter dog, Turtle.

As a result of all the awareness building, we are seeing promising trends in pet adoptions. The number of dogs adopted from a shelter or rescue has risen from 35 percent in 2012 to 44 percent in 2017, and cat adoptions have increased from 43 percent to 47 percent over the same period. Shelters and rescues are increasingly getting creative in their approaches to ending pet homelessness. I am in New York City today where the Animal Care Centers NYC has launched a brilliant campaign rebranding their adoptable pets as “Boroughbreds.” The campaign includes small, low, food-scented ads so that dogs on an outing might draw their owners’ attention to the ad.

The incredible relationships featured in the #AdoptPureLove campaign are a great reminder of why, when you look for a companion animal to bring home, your local animal shelter or rescue should be your first stop (visit the Shelter Pet Project website to find adoptable pets near you). These places always have a great population of animals available and you can find cats, dogs, birds, small animals, and even horses and farm animals available for adoption. Staff at your local shelter or rescue know the animals well and can help you make the perfect match. Pets bring an incredible amount of love and value to our lives, and when you know that you have given the animal a second lease on life, the bond is all the more special.

Even if you’re not looking to adopt, you can still help spread the message by sharing your own story of pet adoption using #AdoptPureLove on social media.