Pets are often considered part of the family, if not an actual child, by many around the world. They can create a lot of joy, but unfortunately mismanagement of pets can also create a lot of sorrow and even cruelty. When there is an overpopulation of pets, there are fewer services that can be provided to those who do need a home.
About 2.7 million healthy pets are put down in animal shelters in the United States every year and are completely adoptable.
This means once every 11 seconds, another pet is put down by a shelter simply because there are no resources to care for the animal. The vast majority of these pets aren’t strays or problem animals that are causing issues for their owners. They are instead the unwanted offspring of loved family pets that a household simply can’t care for.
Here Are Three Facts About Pet Overpopulation To Know Right Now
1. Pet ownership has more than tripled in the United States in the last four decades.
2. More than $50 billion is spent annually by the 62% of households that own at least one pet in order to care for them.
3. The average number of dogs that is owned per household is more than 1.
Takeaway: Animal care has come a long way over the years as many shelters have moved away from putting down animals just to make space for more. At the peak of the pet overpopulation problem, up to 20 million animals were being put down every year simply because they were unwanted. Despite the abundance of shelter animals that are completely adoptable, however, only 30% of the pets that are currently owned came from some sort of a rescue scenario. With 6 to 8 million cats and dogs entering shelters every year and households owning more than one pet, there are two ways to do something about the pet overpopulation: adopt or spay/neuter the pets that are currently owned.
What Does The Modern Animal Shelter Look Like?
1. 1 out of every 4 dogs that enters an animal shelter is a purebred animal and many of them were specifically bred to be registered animals.
2. Only about 50% of the animals that enter one of the 3,500 Humane Society shelters in the United States will ever be adopted every year. Another third of these animals are destined to be put down.
3. Although 30% of shelter dogs are reclaimed by their owners, as few as 2% of the cats that enter a shelter are reclaimed.
4. Only 26% of cats that are owned were adopted from an animal shelter, even though 24% of cat owners have three or more animals under their care. More cats are put down every year than are adopted.
5. 73% of pet households have female cats that are owned, making spaying a critical component of pet care. Another 62% of households have male cats as well.
6. There is no actual central data reporting system of rescues or animal shelters in the United States, making accurate data and communication of issues even more problematic.
7. 83% of dogs who are owned have been spayed or neutered, while 91% of the 95.6 million cats that are owned have been spayed or neutered.
Takeaway: One of the biggest reasons why pet owners don’t get their animals spayed or neutered is the cost of the procedure. Although it is reasonably affordable, it can sometimes be out of the budget that a household can afford, especially if there is an emergency situation going on. That’s why it is important to get information out to every community about low or no cost spaying and neutering programs that are available, scholarships, payment plans, and even low interest loans that can be used specifically to take care of the veterinarian’s costs. The average amount of veterinarian costs per cat is $193 and per dog is $231, so budgeting these costs before the pet is obtained is also extremely important. When managed smartly, pet overpopulation can be managed.
How Bad Is The Pet Overpopulation Problem?
1. Although it isn’t possible to really track how many stray animals are living in the United States right now, the estimate for stray cats by themselves is up to 70 million.
2. The average cat produces two litters per year with the average number of kittens being 4-6 per litter.
3. Female dogs generally have one litter per year and average 4-6 puppies per litter.
4. Animals that are owned are generally healthier than strays, suffer from fewer diseases, spread fewer diseases, and live longer.
5. Most stray animals are pets who were either not kept properly indoors or provided with proper identification materials.
6. Only 10% of the animals that are received by all shelters, even independent ones, are spayed or neutered.
7. The cost of spaying or neutering an animal is less that the cost of raising one litter of kittens or puppies for a year.
Takeaway: For some pet owners, the idea of having puppies or kittens with their beloved pets seems like a good one at first. After all, there are then more animals to love and it is possible to make a few dollars off of the kittens or puppies as well. When the animals aren’t purchased and aren’t adopted for free, however, the pet owners are left with a situation that was ultimately unanticipated: caring for pets that they don’t really want. That’s why shelters get these litters or these animals become strays or are just dumped along the side of the road to fend for themselves. That’s why planning today is so important. It makes tomorrow a whole lot easier.
Why is There Such a Large Problem?
1. Up to 20% of the homes that choose to adopt an animal from a shelter no longer have that pet within six months of the adoption.
2. Many people believe that female animals should be able to have at least one litter of offspring in order to be happy and mature.
3. Animals can become pregnant before their first heat cycle, which is something that not everyone is aware of as being possible.
4. There are human emotions that are associated with the idea of spaying and neutering that are then placed on the pet, making people believe that the practice will strip the animal of their femininity or masculinity.
5. Sometimes it is believed that spaying or neutering will make animals fat and lazy, but this is typically due to overfeeding and a lack of exercise.
6. Although any surgery entails some level of risk, spaying or neutering is the most common surgeries performed by veterinarians. Animals receive pain medication, are asleep during the procedure, and are typically up and walking, eating, and completely alert within a few hours.
7. The amount of responsibility that comes with caring for an entire litter of animals might seem exciting at first for a family, but it is often overwhelming in very little time.
Takeaway: There are two key problems to consider with pet overpopulation. The first is the sheer profitability that exists in certain animal breeds, which means animal mills become a venture that can bring in high levels of profit. If an animal doesn’t have a litter that meets breed standards, then those animals are simply discarded. At best, they become strays. At worst, they are treated inhumanely and considered trash – a lost opportunity for profit. The second is the fact that there are many myths regarding spaying or neutering that are based on science that is over 100 years old in some cases. Modern science shows animals are happy and healthy after being spayed or neutered, even if it occurs before their first heat cycle.
What Can Be Done To Stop Pet Overpopulation?
1. Always spay and neuter the pets that you have.
2. If at all possible, adopt new pets from a legitimate shelter or rescue group that is within your local community.
3. Budget for veterinarian care, spaying or neutering, food, and other pet care costs before finalizing the decision to get a pet.
4. Incorporate pets into your family structure to make a lifetime commitment to their care.
5. Speak with others about the importance of properly caring for, spaying and neutering, and managing pets.
6. Support local organizations that provide resources for spaying or neutering animals, including non-profit organizations that provide these services to low-income pet owners for free.
7. Discuss the myths of spaying or neutering and how they could be affecting the decisions that pet owners are making regarding the care of their pets.
Takeaway: Misery loves company, which means negative cycles of care will create more negative cycles of care. This creates generations of pets that ultimately suffer simply because their human owners haven’t properly planned for their care before deciding to own a pet. By planning ahead, not allowing pets to breed, and managing litters responsibly if you do have purebred animals that are registered, the issues of pet overpopulation can be appropriately managed. Until then, however, there will still be millions of pets that don’t have any homes, any love, or any hope. That’s why it is so important to act now.
What is the Future of the Pet Overpopulation Issue?
1. Unless animals are prevented from breeding, they will continue to overwhelm the resources of local animal shelters.
2. This will result in increased costs for care that will become a tax burden on households in a community or in higher numbers of animals being put down.
3. With education and assistance, pet overpopulation can be properly controlled so that the amount of strays is reduced over time.
4. Shelters can assist by qualifying families for adoption before completing the process to reduce the risks of the animal no longer being in the home after the first 6 months.
5. Other issues that require pets to be given up, such as pet allergies, can also be controlled in specific ways that can allow the pets to stay within the home in certain circumstances.
6. Speaking with landlords, property managers, and rental agencies about allowing pets onto properties with families and not requiring removal of a pet upon a complaint can also reduce stray populations.
7. If nothing is done, then the system will be overwhelmed, there will be strays everywhere, and that can lead to dangers for responsible pet owners of sick animals, animal attacks, and other stray problems.
Takeaway: The issue is rather simple, but it is being made to be complex. Could veterinarians offer freer spay and neutering services? Of course they could. Pet owners could be more responsible and plan on these costs before obtaining the pet as well. Everyone needs to work together in order to counter this issue because it affects everyone. Instead of shifting blame to a specific demographic or point out where one group could make improvements, the entire community needs to pull together, educate people about the pet overpopulation problem, and find ways to counter it that work on an individualized basis. The more attention that is paid to this problem, the more likely answers will be found to help solve it.
1. Make sure that your pets are spayed or neutered to avoid unanticipated complications.
2. Work with your community to increase the awareness of spaying and neutering programs within your community.
3. Spay or neuter pets immediately to prevent unwanted pregnancies.
4. Be proactive in budgeting so that proper care can be given to animals.
Takeaway: It is up to everyone to be able to make sure that pets have what they need and can be healthy. Including spaying or neutering into the definition of “healthy” will help to decrease pet overpopulation. Look for ways to care for animals, adopt from shelters when possible, and encourage others to do so. This will help the pet overpopulation issue more than anything.