On a typical morning, the kennels at the Capital Area Humane Society are filled with animals. But by 4 p.m., humane society officials say many of those kennels will be empty as people sign paperwork to adopt a new friend.
The Capital Area Humane Society, which primarily serves the Lansing area, takes in more than 4,000 animals per year at its shelter in Watertown Township. The organization frequently takes transfers from other animal-welfare organizations in Michigan and from other states. Officials say the shelter averages a 96.5 percent live-release rate.
Penny Pearsall, the society’s community relations manager, said adopting a pet is a simple process. She said her shelter’s workers have a face-to-face conversation with potential adopters instead requiring a written questionnaire.
“Our adoption counselors make sure potential adopters can provide a safe home, and understand the costs and responsibilities of owning a pet,” Pearsall said. “Our goal is help find our pets a happy, secure home, and we believe an open, honest conversation is the best way to make it happen.”
Nationwide each year, 6.5 million animals enter animal shelters, according the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Each year, 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized.
According to a 2016 national survey of pet owners by the American Pet Products Association, 22 percent of dog owners and 28 percent of cat owners got their pet from an animal shelter.
The Capital Area Humane Society charges an adoption fee from $5 to $275, depending on the pet. The fees cover part of the organization’s cost to provide food, shelter and medical expenses for the animals.
Judy Wong, a volunteer at Capital Area Humane Society, has seen many different types of animals get adopted.
“I’ve created bonds with some of the longer-term residents of the humane society and it’s an amazing feeling to see them get adopted,” Wong said. “Getting to interact with all of the animals just reinforced that all of the negative stereotypes are so far from the truth, and all of the reasons people say they want to buy from breeders easily apply to most shelter animals.”
Wong and Pearsall say it is important to adopt rather than buying a dog from a breeder, pet store or puppy mill — a place that many breed hundreds of puppies for sale.
“These facilities sometimes house up to several hundred dogs at a time, where they are living in very small spaces and horrible conditions and causing lifelong health issues,” Pearsall said. “By choosing adoption, you won’t be supporting puppy mills. You’ll also be saving a life and increasing their quality of life.”
Once an animal is in the humane society’s possession, it gets medical attention to make sure it is healthy for its next owner.
“All of our pets are tested for internal parasites, heartworm, leukemia, etc. and receive up-to-date vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery and a microchip,” Pearsall said.
There are other organizations in Michigan that also adopt rescued animals. Michigan State University animal science junior Kenny Vincent adopted Wallace, a German shepherd-chocolate labrador mix, from a local nonprofit rescue organization.
“He was being fostered in DeWitt, Michigan, and I found him online searching various websites. I had to fill out an application, have some personal time with him,” Vincent said. “Then the foster owner had to check my house and deem it dog-worthy and safe.”
Vincent said Wallace’s past owners didn’t take proper care of him. Instead of getting a proper bath, they would hose down the whole kennel — with the dog in it — to get them clean.
“He lived in pretty poor conditions in a kennel in Tennessee. He didn’t get much human interaction,” Vincent said. “After that, he moved up to Michigan and was adopted by the foster home, where I adopted him.”
Adopting a pet can also have a positive impact on the owner’s life.
“He changed my life by making me always think about more than myself,” Vincent said. Whether it’s waking up early or planning a hike, I always have to keep him in mind.
“I’d say it makes me more calculated and not so compulsive. He’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.”