National Rescue Dog Day Highlights Urgent Need for Adoption; Best Friends Animal Society Data Shows 30% Spike in US Shelter Dog Deaths Last Year

May 20 is National Rescue Dog Day, and it comes at a time when animal shelters and rescue groups across the country are overflowing with dogs of all breeds, shapes and sizes.

According to data from Best Friends Animal Society, a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of cats and dogs in America’s shelters in 2025, the number of dogs killed in U.S. shelters increased by nearly 30% in 2023 compared to the year prior.

Now is a perfect time to adopt your next pet.

Courtesy Best Friends Animal Society

From 2022 to 2023, the top five states engaged in the most unnecessary killing of healthy, adoptable dogs in shelters because they did not have a safe place to call home include Texas with an 11% increase (48,600 dogs), California a 46% increase (22,000 dogs), North Carolina a 39% increase (13,500 dogs), Georgia a 70% increase (12,900 dogs) and Alabama which saw a 2% decrease, but still ranked among the highest volume of dogs killed (10,400 dogs).

While pet ownership in the U.S. has jumped significantly over the past three decades with dogs being the most popular pet in the U.S. (65.1 million U.S. households own a dog), pet adoption has been steadily declining over the last five years, with more people acquiring pets from breeders and pet stores.

“Roughly 7 million people in America are planning to acquire a pet in 2024, and if just 6 percent more people chose to adopt versus purchase their pets, we would end the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters,” said Julie Castle, CEO, Best Friends Animal Society.  “Pets don’t belong in shelters; they belong at home. Welcoming home a shelter dog is one of the most impactful ways to help get shelters back on track and increase pet lifesaving.

By choosing to adopt a rescue dog you:

  • Help curb pet populations and reduce the demand for puppy mills or other inhumane commercial breeding facilities. Reducing the demand for puppy mills can also help fight pet overpopulation and saves homeless animals from being unnecessarily killed.
  • Save money. It’s less expensive to adopt a dog from your local shelter than to purchase one from a pet store or breeder. Not only are adoption fees significantly less than the cost of buying a dog, but before going home, dogs in shelters are typically vaccinated, microchipped, and spayed or neutered. This saves adopters money and sets the pet up for a healthy and happy future.
  • Find a variety dogs at your local shelter — all sizes, ages, activity levels and breeds. Click here to find dogs waiting to meet you at a shelter or rescue near you.
  • May spend less time at the vet. Mixed breed dogs tend to be healthier as they are often less prone to inherited disorders.

Not ready to adopt? Fostering a dog supports Best Friends no-kill goal by providing dogs with a safe place and time to decompress from the shelter, while acclimating to life in a home until they can be adopted. Other ways to help include volunteering, donating or advocating,

To learn more about how to get involved and Best Friends, visit

About the Dataset

Since 2016 when Best Friends set a bold goal to take the country no-kill by 2025, we’ve undertaken a massive effort to collect information from every shelter across the country. That meant starting at ground-level, because in 2016 no one even knew how many animal shelters there were in the country. Back then we collected data with volunteers doing records searches and calling shelters. In recent years, rather than working harder, we’ve learned to work smarter, and this year is the smartest yet.

Best Friends Animal Society is a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters and make the country no-kill in 2025.

Founded in 1984, Best Friends is a pioneer in the no-kill movement and has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters from an estimated 17 million per year to around 400,000 last year. Best Friends runs lifesaving programs across the country, as well as the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary.

Working collaboratively with a network of more than 4,700 animal welfare and shelter partners, and community members nationwide, Best Friends is working to Save Them All.

For more information, visit