Supporting your community goes beyond merely helping neighbors of the two-footed variety. Our furry friends in shelters deserve love and support, too. Not only will adopting a shelter pet give companionship to you and them, but doing so spreads benefits far and wide. Cuteness factor aside, consider these reasons to adopt a shelter pet.­­

You’ll save more than one animal’s life

Though adoption numbers continue to rise across the country—approximately 4.1 million shelter pets are adopted each year, says the ASPCA—many other animals don’t get to find their forever homes. Because shelters can’t humanely house and care for all animals, close to 920,000 are euthanized each year.

When you adopt a shelter pet, you’re giving one animal a new chance at life, true. But in practice, you’re actually saving two lives: The animal you save makes room for another animal at the shelter. And hopefully that second one too will have a short stay before becoming someone’s beloved pet.

You’ll make yourself happier

After adopting a pet, you’ll instantly transform your furry friend’s life for the better. But what about yours? In fact, studies have shown that just petting an animal can boost your brain’s production of serotonin and dopamine—chemicals that help us feel happier and more content. With their unconditional love and exuberance, pets can improve your mood, or at least bring a smile to your face after a long day.

You can give seniors a shot

We get it—puppies and kittens are adorable. But as cute as they are, they can also be a handful. Training them takes lots of time and commitment, and doing it wrong comes with consequences. Adopting adult pets, on the other hand, comes with some advantages. Opening your home to an adult, housebroken dog, for instance, will make the transition more manageable—especially if she already knows some basic commands. Another advantage? You’ll get to see the personality of a matured animal at the shelter and will get fewer surprises once you get her home.

You’ll live a more active lifestyle

Whether you’re looking to lead a more active lifestyle or simply looking for an excuse to spend more time outside, adopting a dog can help you reach your goals. A new four-legged companion gives you the perfect reason to spend more time outdoors, stretch your legs, and explore your hometown in a way you haven’t before.

At the very least, you can find yourself with a pooch happy to take you along for a couple of leisurely strolls a day. Or, if you’re a more athletic type, you may want to bring home a dog who’ll take you for runs. Whichever the case, your local shelter will help you find the perfect companion.

As for cats, well, there’s always the exercise you’ll get changing the litter box.

You’ll expand your friend circle

When you adopt a new pet, not only will you gain a new furry friend, you’ll also meet new people. While out with your pet, you’ll get the chance to befriend other pet parents—or at least encounter pet-less people who want to meet yours. This will allow you to make new friends and also forger closer ties with your community.

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