From time to time I plan to share some pieces from the book I am working with now about rescued animals. Today's blog is one part of my findings about shelters across the country. I'll be adding to this in later blogs.
What About Animal Shelters?
Many of the stories in my book describe rescued animals who at some point in their rescue were cared for at animal shelters. A few statistics gathered by the ASPCA and the Humane Society of the United States will provide some grasp of how many shelters now operate in this country. At this time, however, there is no official set of statistics on animal rescues or other efforts to protect animals. Estimates are considered to be in general an accurate reflection of what is being done to rescue and protect animals.
Of the approximately 5000 animal shelters in communities across the United States, somewhere between five and seven million companion animals are in these shelters each year. Of these, three to four million, or 60% of the dogs and 70% of the cats, end up being euthanized because of space limits, incurable health issues, and limited adoptions. How did the animals end up in shelters? About half were picked up by an animal control unit and half were relinquished by their owners. Only a very small number, about 2%, were returned to owners, mostly because of IDs of some sort. An interesting fact is that over 20% of those who leave their dogs in a shelter had previously adopted them from a shelter. Various reasons caused them to return the dogs.
As far as other ways that pets find homes, it is estimated that most pet owners received their animals from family members and friends as gifts. About 15-20% of pet owners purchased their pets from breeders. Rescue adoptions of cats and dogs make up some 10-20%. These animals as a whole are found in about 63% of American households, constituting around 75 million dogs and about 85 million cats. Of these, about 75% are neutered, in contrast to only 10% of the animals in shelters. These figures indicate that there is an overpopulation of stray pets in this country, with an estimated 70 million stray cats. Estimates are not as clear about how many stray dogs there are. Most of these, unfortunately, have not been neutered. The unfortunate result, of course, is that we now have a large overpopulation of animals without owners. They for the most part now live miserable lives, unwanted, often abused, ill fed and with many health problems. We cannot ignore the importance of correcting such situations.