By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 13 December 2009)
Every year in the United States, enormous numbers of cats and dogs are euthanized due to overpopulation.
According to the Halifax Regional Municipality Animal Services Division (2009), if an unspayed female cat, an unneutered male cat, and all of their subsequent unfixed offspring produced 2 litters per year at maturity, and 2.8 kittens from each litter survived and reproduced, this would amount to 11,606,077 cats in 9 years.
The Animal Services Division also notes that 2 dogs, along with all of their puppies (and their puppies’ puppies), could produce 67,000 dogs in 6 years.
Very Few Shelter Animals are Adopted
A 1997 study found that 35% of shelter cats and 27% of shelter dogs in the U.S. had been relinquished by their owners, whereas 33.2% of cats and 42.4% of dogs had been brought in by animal control (National Council on Pet Population, 2009).
Although the majority of owners who give up their pets do so because illness or other personal hardship makes it impossible to care for them, according to shelter workers, many pets are also surrendered to shelters for ridiculous reasons.
In 1997, only 24.4% of cats and 25% of dogs that entered shelters were adopted out (National Council on Pet Population, 2009), and according to the Humane Society of the United States (2009), only 18% of cats and 10% of dogs in U.S. homes were adopted from shelters.
Although many pets that enter shelters each year are lost rather than surrendered by their owners, only 2% of cats were returned to their original owners in 1997, compared to 15.8% of dogs (National Council on Pet Population, 2009). However, according to Linda Lord, assistant professor of veterinary preventive medicine at Ohio State University, a recent study of 53 shelters across 23 states found that microchipped pets are reunited with their owners nearly 75% of the time (DVM News Magazine, 14 October, 2009).
Many Dogs and Cats Are Euthanized in Shelters Each Year
Approximately 4,132,231 cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters each year in the United States alone. Extrapolating from California statistics, where about 61% of these are cats and 39% dogs, (Social Compassion in Legislation, 2009), the total numbers would be about 2,520,661 cats and 1,611,570 dogs euthanized in the U.S. each year.
In 1997, 56.4% of all dogs and 71% of all cats entering U.S. shelters were euthanized (National Council on Pet Population, 2009).
Help Prevent Pet Overpopulation
There are two ways to prevent pet overpopulation: spay and neuter existing pets and adopt adult pets from shelters rather than kittens and puppies from pet shops and backyard breeders.
It’s far cheaper to have pets spayed or neutered than to support a litter of kittens or puppies, and contrary to popular belief, spaying or neutering pets does not change their personalities, and it actually provides a number of health benefits.
Those who have difficulty paying for spaying or neutering may be able to receive free services through various American nonprofit organizations. There are also free and low-cost services in other countries that can be found through online searches or by contacting local animal shelters and animal rescue associations. See also Organizations That Help with Vet Bills for links to directories of charities in Canada, the U.S., and the UK.
- DVM News Magazine. (14 October 2009). “Microchipped Pets Returned Home Three Out of Four Times.” DVM360.com.
- Halifax Regional Municipality – Animal Services Division. (2009). “Spaying/Neutering.” Halifax.ca/AnimalControl/SpayingNeutering.html.
- National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy. (2009). “The Shelter Statistics Survey, 1994-97.” PetPopulation.org.
- Social Compassion in Legislation. (June 2009). “Approximately 4,000,000 Pets are Euthanized in United States Shelters Each Year.” SocialCompassioninLegislation.org.
- The Humane Society of the United States. (2009). “U.S. Pet Ownership Statistics.” HumaneSociety.org.