A Brief History of Dog Rescue: How People Started Saving Man's Best Friend

The way people view pets has changed dramatically over time. Today, many pet owners are proud to pamper their fur babies with high-end grooming, engaging toys, and adorable outfits.

rescue dogs

On top of that, dog rescue is bigger than ever, with people all over the globe working hard to save animals in need. Whether it's a chained dog outside in the cold or a pup in a shelter who was previously abused, there are millions of dogs in need of rescue, and people who are willing to step in, foster, rehabilitate, and adopt these animals.

But this wasn't always the case.

How Did the Dog Rescue Movement Begin?

  • 1824: The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is formed in Britain, giving birth to an organized welfare group for dogs. This sets the foundation for a shift in people's perspective about dogs.
  • 1866: The SPCA makes its way to the US. Henry Bergh forms the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Most people ridicule and oppose him, or simply show indifference towards animal welfare, but the ASPCA continues to grow.
  • 1869: The very first official animal shelter in the country is formed by the Women's SPCA of Pennsylvania.
  • 1877: The American Humane Association is formed.
  • 1954: The Humane Society of the United States is formed.
  • 1960s and 1970s: Private animal shelters are formed in addition to the municipal ones available in an effort to bring in strays and find them homes. Public opinion about strays starts to shift and people begin to view them as potential pets rather than public health hazards.

Today's Statistics

Now that you know a bit about the overall history of the animal rescue movement, you may be really happy to be living in the 21st century. But let's take a look at what still needs to be done to save more dogs.

The Good News:

The good news is that euthanasia rates are down, even though there's still a lot of work to do.

Whereas the number of cats and dogs euthanized in shelters annually used to be anywhere from 12-20 million, the number has dropped to 3-4 million.

That's thanks to groups who come in and rescue dogs before they're put down, as well as more pet owners choosing to adopt rather than shop for their new canine companions.

The Bad News:

The sad news is that about 2.7 million healthy pets never get adopted every year. This is out of the 6-8 million dogs and cats that enter shelters annually.

So even though we've made tremendous strides in how people view strays, in the number of dogs adopted, and in the laws created to protect dogs, millions of perfectly loveable canines are needlessly put down, and that's just in the US.

Adopt, Don't Shop!

dog adoption

Many pet owners want a purebred dog, and they think that the only place to get a purebred is from a pet shop or directly from a breeder.

But the truth is that about 25% of the dogs that are in shelters are actually purebreds, so people are encouraged to adopt even if they're looking for a particular breed.

There are thousands of independently operated private shelters and rescue groups all over the country. Some focus solely upon housing animals until they're adopted (following a no-kill policy), while others run foster networks without a physical shelter.

The focus today continues to be on educating the public on the importance of adopting dogs. It's also on the number of dogs who are in shelters, as well as those who are euthanized because they aren't adopted in time. With outreach, advocacy, and a solid group of dedicated volunteers, animal rescuers are making a difference.

So if you're planning on bringing a dog into your family to be your forever friend, check out the many local rescue groups and shelters in your area—and around the country—to find a doggie in need who will love you unconditionally.

Or, if you already have a dog, then support products and businesses that support dog rescue. The Dog Bakery makes all natural treats and celebration cakes that dogs love. But the best part is that half of the profit from our rescue dog cookies will go to benefit Marley's Mutts Dog Rescue

Rocky Kanaka

Rocky Kanaka is an entrepreneur, pet rescue advocate and dog dad to a rescue boxer named Flip, a blind Cane Corso called Kobe, and a terrier mix named Zoey. He's also a pet chef and owner of The Dog Bakery, which specializes in dog birthday cakes and fresh baked dog treats. His three dogs can't get enough of the dog cakes and treats!

Lorna Ladd

Lorna Paxton Ladd is a passionate dog lover and enthusiast of The Dog Bakery. She loves spoiling her 3 rescue dogs with dog cakes and jerky. A 15 year veteran in the pet industry, her aim is to educate pet parents on the best recipes, products, tips and tricks to optimize the human/canine bond. Her favorite product at The Dog Bakery are the customizable dog birthday cakes.