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Celebrate Shelter Pets Day 2023: When It Is & How to Participate

Ed Malaker

By Ed Malaker

Cat and woman owners holding cats in shelter to adopt

Many Americans keep cats, dogs, and other animals as pets. They help improve our lives and provide companionship to people of all ages. However, millions of animals end up in shelters each year, and Celebrate Shelter Pets Day hopes to bring attention to that fact.1 This special holiday occurs each year on the first Thursday after Thanksgiving. This year, it’s on November 30, and next year, it will be on December 5. Read on to learn more about this event, how it got started, and how you can participate.

What Is Celebrate Shelter Pets Day?

Celebrate Shelter Pets Day is a new holiday that hopes to spread awareness about animals in shelters across the United States. While many people consider adopting from a shelter, they don’t always follow through for various reasons, like people believing that the animals in shelters have behavioral or health problems. Celebrate Shelter Pets Day can help break these stereotypes and increase people’s knowledge about what a shelter does.

dog in shelter
Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock

How Did Celebrate Shelter Pets Day Get Started?

Celebrate Shelter Pets Day began in 2010 with the name Shelter Pets Take Over Facebook Day. It takes place the first Thursday after Thanksgiving, which means it’s usually the last Thursday of November or the first Thursday of December.

The Humane Society got it going with help from Maddie’s Fund, and it has been growing in popularity every year. It was started as a way for people to show off their sheltered pets after a study showed that people are three times more likely to adopt from a shelter after talking with a friend or family member who did so.2

The 4 Ways You Can Participate in Celebrate Shelter Pets Day

1. Post on Social Media

If you are a pet owner who adopted from a shelter, one of the best ways to participate in Celebrate Shelter Pet Day is to post pictures of your pets on social media and tell stories about them. One of the biggest reasons the holiday exists is that people are more likely to adopt after speaking to someone who has, so your pictures can help increase adoptions.

woman photographs a stray cat with a smartphone
Image Credit: Serhii Ivashchuk, Shutterstock

2. Adopt

If you don’t own a pet already, you can participate in Celebrate Shelter Pets Day by visiting your local shelter to adopt a pet in need of a home. Doing so will help save a life, provide you with companionship, and allow you to share your story to help other pets find homes.

3. Support a Shelter

If you can’t adopt a pet, you can still participate in Celebrate Shelter Pets Day by supporting your local animal shelter. Volunteer to help out with the various tasks that a shelter must perform, including walking the dogs or playing with the cats, which is fun for the animals and can provide much-needed relief to the overworked staff. You can also support them by donating money if you lack time.

4. Treat Your Pet

A great way to participate in Celebrate Shelter Pets Day is to treat your pet to an extra fun day, whether you got them from a shelter or are glad they’ve never had to visit one. Go for a long walk, give them extra treats, and buy them a new toy. Don’t forget to take plenty of pictures to share on social media.

dog ice cream
Image Credit: Anton Watman, Shutterstock

Interesting Facts About Animal Shelters

  • Animal shelters often have a wide variety of dog and cat breeds available for adoption, ranging from purebreds to unique mixed breeds.
  • Adopting a shelter pet saves lives. By giving a shelter animal a home, you free up space in the shelter for another animal in need.
  • Shelter pets can be incredibly loyal and grateful. Many shelter animals form strong bonds with their new owners and become loving and devoted companions.
  • Shelters have animals of all ages, from playful puppies and kittens to older, more mature pets, so it’s possible to find a pet that fits your lifestyle and preferences.
  • Many shelters assess the behavior and temperament of animals before they put them up for adoption, which helps match them with suitable families.
  • Adopting a pet from a shelter is often less expensive than purchasing one from a breeder or pet store. Adoption fees usually cover vaccinations, spaying/neutering, and sometimes microchipping.
  • Shelters often guide and support adopters, helping them find a pet that matches their lifestyle and providing pet care and training resources.
  • Mixed-breed shelter pets are often one of a kind, with unique and endearing characteristics.
  • Senior pets in shelters tend to be overlooked but tend to be calmer and may require less training than younger animals.
  • Adopting a shelter pet gives an animal a second chance at a happy and fulfilling life. Many of these pets have faced challenges or difficult circumstances and deserve loving homes.


Celebrate Shelter Pets Day occurs each year on the Thursday after Thanksgiving, and the intent is to raise awareness about the large number of animals in shelters that need homes and to dispel myths that such animals won’t make good pets. The Humane Society started the holiday with Maddie’s Fund after a report showed that people are more likely to adopt a pet after hearing from a friend or family member who adopted one. You can get involved by sharing your pictures and stories on social media, adopting from and supporting your local shelter, and spending extra time with your pet.

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Featured Image Credit: BearFotos, Shutterstock

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