A new study offers 71 million reasons to save animals.

Curious red kitten

There are many good reasons to save more lives in “shelters,” not the least of which is that animals have a right to life, we have an ethical duty to do so, and we have the means to do it as communities across the country have proved. There’s also another reason: it makes economic sense.

A 2016 Florida Southern College study of the impact of the SPCA of Florida on the regional economy found that for every $1 in revenue generated by the SPCA, $1.67 was created in the regional economy. On top of that, the SPCA’s adoption center generates over $5.7 million yearly in economic impact (as adopters spend money on veterinary care, pet supplies, shop while in the area, and more), has provided approximately one additional employee to each of Polk County’s 179 for-profit veterinarians, and helps reduce intakes and costs at the local municipal shelter. Overall, from 2010-2015, the SPCA had a regional economic impact of $71 million.

The 2016 analysis is only the latest to prove that saving lives not only makes ethical sense, it also makes dollars and cents. Before Reno’s 2007 No Kill initiative, the shelter adopted out less than 5,000 dogs and cats every year. The remainder were put to death at great cost to taxpayers and donors. In 2010, as death rates declined, the number of animals adopted doubled to just under 10,000 adoptions. In addition to a cost savings of roughly $200,000 associated with killing, adoption fees brought in almost $250,000 in additional revenues. Moreover, the positive economic impact of spending by adopters on those animals to community businesses totaled over $12,000,000 in annual sales.

With an average lifespan of roughly 11 years per animal, the total revenues to community businesses over the life of those pets could potentially top $120,000,000. The number is substantially higher given that those impacts are exponential (in Year Two, businesses would benefit from two years worth of adoptions; in Year Three, they would benefit from three years of adoptions; etc.). In addition, not only do those businesses then employ people who turn around and spend even more, all these activities also bring in badly needed tax revenues. At an average 6% rate, adoptions over a ten-year period could potentially bring in over $20,000,000 in sales tax alone.

Similarly, a case study of Marquette, MI’s No Kill initiative found that while costs increase slightly, associated savings, lost opportunity revenues, and overall revenues increase, more than offsetting those costs. In 2006, the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter (UPAWS), the open admission shelter which serves Marquette, MI, was killing 64% of animals and on the verge of bankruptcy when it chose to embrace the No Kill philosophy. At the time, they were very close to ceasing operations and had little to lose: if they continued on the path they were on, they would have had to close their doors.

Since that time, the number of animals saved rather than killed has increased dramatically. Immediately after announcing its No Kill mission, UPAWS saved 93%. It has been steadily increasing. In 2015, UPAWS saved 97% of dogs, 96% of cats, and 97% of rabbits, hamsters, ferrets, and other animals.

What did it cost? When UPAWS was killing 64% of the animals, they spent $190.85 per animal. Now saving over 95%, they spend $207.58. At the same time, however, they lost $178,636 in adoption revenue when they were killing the animals and it would only have cost them $15,660 more to actually save them. But that’s not at all: while the cost per animal went up slightly (8%), so did revenue: an overall increase of 61%. The conclusion? We can afford to save them all.

While many of these economic benefits will be realized regardless of where people get their animals, cost savings and other revenues will not be realized. Moreover, many commercially-sourced animals come from puppy mills, which contribute to animal cruelty. In addition, the animals will not be sterilized before adoption, requiring the shelter to absorb the costs of taking in the offspring of some of those animals. Lastly, the municipality will not benefit from the decreased costs and increased revenue associated with adopting the animals to those homes.

Finally, a successful adoption marketing program not only results in citizens who are more likely to adopt from a shelter, but it can increase the number of available homes as well by empowering and inspiring local citizens to feel like valued allies in the shelter’s lifesaving mission, thereby encouraging them to open their homes to additional animals.

Copies of the studies are available by clicking here.

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