Humane Society of the United States
The following statistics are from the Humane Society of the United States.
HSUS Pet Overpopulation Estimates
Number of cats and dogs entering shelters each year:
Number of cats and dogs euthanized by shelters each year:
Number of animal shelters in the United States:
Percentage of purebred dogs in shelters:
Average number of litters a fertile cat can produce in one year: 3
Average number of animals in an average feline litter: 4-6
In seven years, one female cat and her offspring can theoretically produce 420,000 cats.
Average number of litters a fertile dog can produce in one year: 2
Average number of animals in an average canine litter: 6-10
In six years, one female dog and her offspring can theoretically produce 67,000 dogs.
Is the Problem of Pet Overpopulation Serious?
YES. It's very serious. In the United States, thousands upon thousands of puppies and kittens are born each day because of the uncontrolled breeding of pets. Stray and abandoned animals add thousands more offspring to the population. The result is a huge number of dogs and cats for whom there are no homes. In addition, many people obtain pets without first thinking carefully about the decision. When the animal gets too big, develops a behavior problem, or otherwise proves to be an unexpected challenge, the owner too often gives up on the animal. As a result, an estimated 4 to 6 million dogs and cats are euthanized in America's animal shelters each year because they are not wanted by anyone, anywhere.
Are There Other Concerns Besides Just Too Many Pets?
YES. Too many companion animals competing for too few good homes is the most obvious consequence of uncontrolled breeding; however, there are other equally tragic problems that result from pet overpopulation. The transformation of some animal shelters into "warehouses" or cheap sources of animals for use in biomedical experimentation, the acceptance of cruelty to animals as a way of life in our society*, and the stress that caring shelter workers suffer when they are forced to euthanize one animal after another are just a few of the consequences of our society's carelessness. Living creatures have become throwaway items to be cuddled when cute and abandoned when they become inconvenient. Such disregard for animal life pervades and erodes our culture.
Abandoned and stray companion animals who survive in the streets and alleys of cities and suburbs pose a health threat to humans and to other animals. Homeless companion animals get into trash containers, defecate in public areas or on private lawns, and anger citizens who have no understanding of their misery or their needs. Some of these animals scare away or prey upon wildlife—such as birds—or frighten small children.
The growing number of dog bites is due in part to uncontrolled breeding of pets. Bites by so-called dangerous dogs have drawn an enormous amount of media attention, and fatalities caused by dangerous dogs are a serious concern. According to Randall Lockwood, Ph.D., The HSUS's vice president for Training Initiatives, there is a much greater incidence of biting in unsterilized animals. "Of the nearly twenty fatalities caused by dog attacks investigated between 1992 and 1994," says Dr. Lockwood, "we have found that none was caused by a spayed or neutered dog."
Also, the vicious tendencies found in some dog breeds often can be attributed to irresponsible breeding without regard for temperament. Halting reproduction will benefit these breeds and protect the human population. Each year communities are forced to spend millions of taxpayer dollars trying to cope with problems that pet overpopulation causes.
Is it Possible for Such a Huge Problem to be Solved?
YES. But only by implementing widespread sterilization programs, only by spaying and neutering all companion animals*, will we be able to get a handle on this problem. Consider the fact that in six short years one female dog and her offspring can be the source of 67,000 puppies. In seven years one cat and her young can produce 420,000 kittens. Given these high reproductive rates, it stands to reason that carefully planned and implemented sterilization programs could produce a dramatic reduction in the number of unwanted companion animals born in only a few years. In fact, in those towns and cities that have implemented such programs, we've already seen the number of companion animals who had to be euthanized decline by 30 to 60 percent—even in those communities whose human populations have been steadily increasing. Successful pet-overpopulation control programs range from low-cost sterilization clinics, to cooperative efforts involving local veterinarians, to mass-media educational campaigns. Only through the nationwide establishment of such programs will we be able to bring an end to the tragedy of pet overpopulation.
Are there Solutions I can Pursue in my Community.
YES. Legislation can have the most direct impact simply by requiring that every pet adopted from a municipal or county shelter be sterilized within a certain period of time.
Similarly, differential-licensing laws—laws that substantially increase license fees for pets who have not been spayed or neutered—give owners an incentive to sterilize their pets.
Education, too, is an essential part of solving this problem. Unless people know the facts about pet overpopulation and sterilization, they are virtually helpless to do anything about the problem.
Reduced spay/neuter fees play an important role in solving the problem as well. Subsidized spay/neuter clinics in some communities have already helped bring down the cost of sterilization. In areas where veterinarians have agreed to reduce their spay/neuter fees, we've seen a significant decline in the number of animals euthanized.
Can I Breed My Pet if I Find Homes for All the Offspring?
NO. Remember that each time you place one of your pet's puppies or kittens in a loving home, you take away a home from another companion animal who is desperate for someone to take him/her in*. The sad fact is that there are already more companion animals than homes, and each day animal shelters are forced to destroy thousands of dogs and cats because no one wants them.
If you have a friend who wants to get a puppy or kitten, urge that friend to adopt one from a local animal shelter—where there is always a wonderful selection of mixed breed and purebred dogs and cats who are just waiting for good homes and loving owners. If your friend has his/her heart set on a purebred pet, mention that roughly I out of every 4 animals in shelters nationwide is purebred. Every time people adopt an animal from a shelter, they save one more dog or cat from a tragic fate.
Won't Sterilization Make My Pet Get Fat and Lazy?
NO. Your pet will actually benefit from spaying or neutering*. Sterilized pets lead healthier, longer fives. Spaying a female eliminates the possibility of uterine and ovarian cancer and greatly reduces the chances of breast cancer. Neutering a male reduces the risk of both prostate enlargement and prostate cancer. Neutering also will make your pet more affectionate and less likely to roam, get in fights, or become lost. Pets become fat and lazy as a result of overeating and lack of exercise, not from spaying or neutering.
Must I Sterilize My Pet to be a Responsible Pet Owner?
YES. Sterilization is an important part of being a responsible pet owner*. Responsible pet ownership also means providing adequate food and water and proper veterinary care; obeying the leash and licensing laws in your community; and giving your pet the love, companionship, exercise, and attention he/she needs.
Are There Simple Steps I Can Take?
YES. First prevent a litter.
This is the single most important step you can take. Have your pet sterilized so
that he/she does not contribute to the pet-overpopulation problem, and adopt
your next pet from an animal shelter. But don't stop there: spread the word in
your community that the pet overpopulation problem must—and can—be solved.
Work to ensure that all animals have homes, adequate food and water, proper
medical care, and love. Urge your legislators to pass mandatory spay/neuter and
differential-licensing laws. Talk to civic groups, schools, and neighborhood
associations and enlist their support.
* We added the emphasis
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