Animal shelters across the country are experiencing an overcrowding crisis as pets are waiting longer to be adopted into loving homes. The problem has led to an increase in euthanasia rates and PetSmart Charities, the largest funder of animal welfare in the U.S. has thoughtfully changed policies to provide temporary relief to valuable partners. Where allowed by law, the nonprofit is offering animal welfare organizations (holding adoption events in-store) the option to defer spay and neuter surgeries to after a puppy or kitten under six months old is adopted. This program was piloted in 2023 and ended on December 31, 2023. We are pleased to report the pilot phase was a success. As such, the post-adoption spay/neuter policy – for pets 6 months of age and under – will continue to be our policy, where allowed by law.
This critical policy change is one of many ways PetSmart Charities is supporting organizations who take in pets in need of homes. Once adopted, adoption partners will support adoptive pet parents to ensure they are complying with local and spay and neuter laws through a variety of post-adoption programs. The policy change is supported by the Humane Society of the United States, the Association for Animal Welfare Advancement and the Association of Shelter Veterinarians.
A leading contributor to the overcrowding of pets in shelters is the national shortage of veterinary practitioners. This shortage has created a backlog of adoptable pets waiting for spay & neuter surgeries that are often required to occur ahead of adoptions. The backlog in surgeries impacts unaltered pets having to wait to be available for adoption and those that have been waiting so long are at-risk of being euthanized for space.
“In the 1990s, animal welfare was facing an over-population of cats and dogs as they were reproducing at a faster rate than we could place them. At that time, we came together to enact spay and neuter laws and mandates that proved to be instrumental in curbing the overpopulation crisis — pet populations remain on a steady decline,” Heidi Marston, director of pet placement initiatives at PetSmart Charities, said.
“Today, we face a different challenge: an access to veterinary care crisis. Many shelters are experiencing a critical backlog in spay and neuter surgeries with some animals waiting up to 8 months in a shelter, unavailable to be adopted until their appointment. This isn't working for folks doing the work and it certainly isn't working for the animals. PetSmart Charities has committed $100 million over the next five years to help break down the barriers that prevent pets from receiving the veterinary care they need, but until those efforts are scaled. We must shift our approach, just like we did 30 years ago, to respond to the crisis of our time by finding ways to get pets into homes. Sending pets home faster, where they can wait for their spay or neuter appointment, decreases risk for contagious disease, behavioral issues and stress due to confinement and lack of connection to pets and people,” she added.
Here is what the policy change entails:
- Where allowed by law, PetSmart Charities is allowing animal welfare organizations that are unable to spay or neuter adoptable pets younger than 6 months old to bring those pets to in-store adoption events. This allows for those pets to be spayed or neutered after their adoption in compliance with their local municipal and state laws.
- The policy change serves as an option for adoption partners who do not have capacity to spay or neuter pets due to the national veterinary shortage. Adoption partners who have capacity to conduct timely surgeries for pets under 6 months, prior to adoption, should continue to do so. Animal welfare organization partners will be responsible for monitoring whether adoptive pet parents comply with local and state spay and neuter laws once the pet has been adopted.
- This is not a new approach. Post-adoption spay and neuter programs have been successfully implemented by animal welfare organizations in a variety of ways, including scheduling spay and neuter appointments in the future with the pet parent bringing in the pets for surgery; a spay and neuter voucher that allows pet parents to schedule the surgery on their own as part of the adoption requirements; and foster-to-adopt programs in which a family fosters a pet in their home and then can officially adopt the pet once they are spayed or neutered.
- This policy change was made with the support of many national animal welfare organizations including but not limited to: The Humane Society of the United States, the Association for Animal Welfare Advancement, Best Friends Animal Society and the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, among others.
More information on how this policy will help increase adoptions and save lives, as well as the reasons for this policy change can be found here. Learn about PetSmart Charities access to care initiative here. For more information on pet adoption through PetSmart Charities, visit petsmartcharities.org/adopt-a-pet.
 PetPoint data, Q1 2023
 Gunter, Lisa. Understanding the impacts of breed identity, post-adoption and fostering interventions, & behavioral welfare of shelter dogs. Arizona State University, 2018; and Dinnage, J.D., J.M. Scarlett, and J.R. Richards, Descriptive epidemiology of feline upper respiratory tract disease in an animal shelter. J Feline Med Surg, 2009. 11(10): p. 816-25.
About PetSmart Charities®
PetSmart Charities is committed to making the world a better place for pets and all who love them. Through its in-store adoption program in all PetSmart® stores across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, PetSmart Charities helps up to 400,000 pets connect with loving families each year. PetSmart Charities also provides grant funding to support organizations that advocate and care for the well-being of all pets and their families. PetSmart Charities grants and efforts connect pets with loving homes through adoption, improve access to affordable veterinary care and support families in times of crises with access to food, shelter and disaster response. Each year, millions of generous supporters help pets in need by donating to PetSmart Charities directly at PetSmartCharities.org, while shopping at PetSmart.com, and by using the PIN pads at checkout registers inside PetSmart® stores. In turn, PetSmart Charities efficiently uses more than 90 cents of every dollar donated to fulfill its role as the leading funder of animal welfare in North America, granting more than $500 million since its inception in 1994. Independent from PetSmart LLC, PetSmart Charities is a 501(c)(3) organization that has received the Four-Star Rating from Charity Navigator for the past 18 years in a row – placing it among the top one percent of rated charities. To learn more visit www.petsmartcharities.org.
Carmichael Lynch Relate for PetSmart Charities