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Which province adopts the most shelter dogs?

A survey of 6,000 Canadian dog owners reveals that British Columbia ranks highest in the number of adopted shelter dogs.

The Covid 19 pandemic has spiked a boom in animal adoption. The SPCA estimates that the number of dog adoptions has risen by 7% since the pandemic began. But which province has had the largest impact on dog adoptions in Canada? A new study by dog food delivery service Kabo Fresh Dog Food has revealed an interesting finding when it comes to shelter dog adoption in the Great White North. 

A double blind study was conducted where 6,000 Candians were asked if they have ever owned or adopted a shelter dog. The data was then corrected for population size to show the proportion of adopters per capita in each province. Results of the study showed that Canadians are as equally likely to adopt a dog as they are to shop for a breeder. Of the respondents, 49.8% answered that they have owned or currently own a shelter dog.

There is one province in particular that adopts more shelter dogs than any other and that’s British Columbia. 42% of BC respondents indicated that their dog is from a shelter or rescue. There must be shelter dog fever in the western provinces because along with British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba ranked the highest in shelter dog adoptions. These results are similar to a 2019 report completed by the Canada Humane Society, where they found that the provinces with the highest number of total adoptions were from British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.


Of the dogs adopted, medium and large breeds are the most common. Results of the study showed that 36% of adopted dogs were of a larger size. This statistic may not indicate preference however. R&D Scientist and Nutritionist, Andrea Geiger, has this to say, “The majority of dogs found in Canadian shelters are large size dogs. Therefore the proportion of large dogs adopted in the study may have more to do with availability than preference. When large dogs become too much for their owners to handle or start displaying unwanted behaviors like aggression or destruction, they are more likely to be surrendered for adoption than small size dogs.”

It seems that pet owners are willing to adopt a dog regardless of behavioural or health challenges. 37% of respondents in the study reported that their dog had health complications before they were adopted, while 52% of respondent's dogs had behavioural challenges. Many dogs are surrendered to shelters as a direct result of their health or behavioural issues. Potential adopters should be prepared that rescue dogs may come with certain challenges and may be more difficult to integrate into their home than a dog from a breeder.

“Owners will need to start a regular health check routine with their adopted pups. Some of these dogs will have had a vet check them before or during their stay at a shelter. However, subtle things may be missed after that check as the dogs are not necessarily getting caretakers full attention like a dog would in a home. Instead, shelter dogs are simply getting their basic needs met,” says Kabo veterinarian, Dr. Suzee Camilleri, “Shelters often are run via donations and volunteers, so they don’t have resources for routine wellness checks on all of the dogs in their care. A full physical exam including blood work, urinalysis, dental check and vaccine status are needed. This way your vet has a baseline of health because knowing their previous health issues is not usually available.”


The study also revealed that most dog owners who adopt do so through their local shelters. 77% of respondents chose to adopt from a local shelter, while 15% adopted from out of province and 8% from an international rescue respectively. If you’re looking for a rescue animal, check out PetFinder, a database with an array of adoptable dogs and other animals from local shelters.

“Every dog needs a home,” says Kabo founder, Vino Jeyapalan, “My dog Bubba came to Canada as a street dog from Mexico. He was originally only supposed to be a foster dog but his charm won everyone over and he became a permanent part of the family.”

Dog owners Jake Berthelet and Carly Wyder from Prince Albert Saskatchewan have a more unique story on how they adopted their dogs. Jake and Carly adopted their two beagles, Pongo and Patch, in 2018 from the University of Saskatchewan. Patch and Pongo originally came to the University of Saskatchewan with a group of 8 other beagles as part of a nutrition research program at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine.


Patch and Pongo were responsible for taste testing a variety of pet food and helping to collect results on digestibility and cardiac function. Jake and Carly began as volunteers, walking and playing with the group of research beagles. When it eventually came time for the beagles to retire and be adopted out, Jake and Carly were at the top of the list for adoptions. They had fallen in love with Patch and Pongo in particular and promptly took them home in December, just in time for christmas. 


Patch and Pongo have since settled in seamlessly to their new life. After adoption, it was determined that Patch may have some allergies but it was nothing that some special hypoallergenic food couldn’t fix! Aside from some minor allergies, the beagles have had very few health or behavioural challenges and have been very good boys for their new owners. 

“We couldn’t be happier with the beagles,” says Carly, “They are more like small humans than dogs. Their favourite activities are watching Netflix on the couch, shopping for new dog sweaters and pre-dinner zoomies.


All dogs deserve a forever home and there is no shortage of rescue dogs available for adoption in Canada. If you’re looking to bring a new furry friend into your home, consider checking out your local shelter!

Shelter attendant petting dogs
Shelter attendant petting dogs

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