A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

More Americans Adopt Pets than Buy

Prefer shelters and rescues to stores

A new public service spot from the Ad Council promotes adoption of homeless pets

More than half of Americans say they have adopted a rescue animal at some point, and three in ten say their current pet came from a shelter, according to a new AP-Petside poll.

The poll was released as a new series of TV spots and web and newspaper ads promoting adoptions was launched by the Ad Council in association with the Humane Society of the U.S. and Maddie’s Fund.

Overall, 84 percent of adopters said they’d had a positive experience working with an animal shelter. And 51 percent of all poll participants said it was at least “very likely” that their next pet would be from an animal shelter or rescue. Among those who have adopted before, that number rises to 68 percent.

But half of all the homeless animals who enter shelters each year are still not being adopted and end up being killed.

That’s explained, in part, by the fact that only 15 percent of adopters said they were looking for a senior pet when they last visited the shelter to bring home a new pet. People are also wary of adopting dogs with a pit bull appearance, even though there’s no evidence that pit bull-type dogs are any different, as a breed, from any other.

Other findings

Thirty-six percent of the people polled said that if they were to adopt an animal from a shelter, they would be extremely or very concerned that the pet might have hidden medical problems; 29 percent expressed concern about psychological problems and 33 percent said they would worry the animal wouldn’t fit in with their families.

Ironically, pets adopted from shelters are less likely, not more, to have those kinds of problems. And most shelters and humane groups are committed to working closely with adopted to ensure that everything works out well for the dog or cat, as well as for the family. Pet stores, by contrast, are primarily interested in making a sale. This is understood by many people who visit shelters. For example, 36 percent of shelter users said they had more confidence in the staff at pet shelters than they did in the staff at pet stores or breeders. And 36 percent of those who obtained animals from shelters also said they believed shelter animals were more likely to have had recent veterinary care than animals from pet stores or breeders.

Of those who adopted pets from a shelter, 58 percent said they felt they were being socially responsible by pursuing adoption.

As regards helping to prevent pets from being abandoned at shelters, 34 percent of people polled said that if shelters started charging a $25 fee to accept unwanted or stray animals, they would be less likely to relinquish a pet. But 52 percent say it would make no difference.

Adoptions most common in western states

By region, adopting a stray is most common in the West, where 39 percent got a pet that way compared with 34 percent in the South, 30 percent in the Northeast and 29 percent in the Midwest.

Forty-one percent of rural-dwelling pet owners say their pet was a stray, compared with 28 percent of suburbanites and 34 percent of urbanites.

And suburbanites were most likely to have adopted from a shelter: 36 percent compared with 30 percent in urban areas and 22 percent in rural parts of the country.

The new ad campaign

The new TV, radio, print, outdoor and Web ads from the Ad Council, created pro bono by Draftfcb Chicago, focus on the relationship between shelter pets and their owners by featuring pets observing their human’s quirky yet loveable behaviors, concluding with the message that, “A person is the best thing to happen to a shelter pet.”

All of the ads direct prospective pet owners to a website, theshelterpetproject.org, where users are able to search for a pet from a local shelter or rescue group, read adoption success stories and learn valuable information about pet adoption.

The Ad Council is distributing the new ads to more than 33,000 media outlets nationwide this week. The ads will run and air in advertising time and space that is donated by the media.

Right now, there are roughly 135 million pets in homes in the United States, and the number of animals being killed in shelters has dropped dramatically, from about 17 million a year in the early 1990s to 3-4 million a year today.