Overpopulation Statistics

Pet Overpopulation Statistics: Articles & Links - Updated Feb 2010

FAQS written by Bob Christianson © 2001 CLC Publishing. 

Excerpts:  "...In order to solve a problem you must first be able to define the problem - accurately. I have found the pet overpopulation problem is poorly defined....The  terms used regarding pet overpopulation are nebulous. They are not clearly defined. For instance, some people define breeders as anyone who produces a litter, without distinguishing between intentional and accidental breeding, responsible or fast-buck breeders. About 45% of puppy litters are from unintentional mating. The main causes of accidental litters are procrastination (why early-age spay/neuter is promoted) and money (why low-cost clinics and vouchers are promoted) There are effective means of dealing with accidental breeding. Our number 1 problem is stray dogs and cats. This is not a breeder problem. This is a owner retention problem that requires a different solution than a population problem...."

"...We need to understand that multiple programs are necessary. Generally speaking, these programs are comprehensive spay/neuter programs to align the supply with the demand, pet retention to keep pets from coming out of homes (includes microchips, pre-adoption testing, training, behavior problem intervention), feral cat spay/neuter programs that trap, vaccinate, alter, release, aggressive adoption and pet rental programs. Each one of these programs are important however special emphasis should be placed on the needs of people who are financially unable to obtain spay/neuter. It is vitally important the government understand and support these programs....Governments are under-funding animal control programs.....Veterinarians play the single most important role in ending the surplus dog and cat tragedy...." 11/16

The National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy.  Their mission is to gather and analyze reliable data that further characterize the number, origin and disposition of companion animals in the U.S.; to promote responsible stewardship of these companion animals; and based on data gathered, to recommend programs to reduce the number of surplus/unwanted pets in the U.S.  Research and articles on their site include:

  • Understanding Animal Companion Surplus in the United States: Relinquishment of Nonadoptables to Animal Shelters for Euthanasia. ©2001 Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 4(4), 237-248. 2001, Phil Kass  "Relinquishing a nonhuman animal to a shelter is a complex decision that, it is often believed, ultimately may represent a breakdown of the human-animal bond. The result of such a breakdown is an animal companion surplus in the United States, which is no better evidenced than by the statistics documenting the millions of animals euthanized at shelters every year."
  • Characteristics of Shelter-Relinquished Animals and Their Owners Compared With Animals and Their Owners in U.S. Pet Owning Households. ©2000 Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 3(3), 179-201. 2000, John C. New Jr.  "We found that relinquishment was associated with physical and behavioral characteristics of the animals and owner characteristics and knowledge. Relinquished animals were more likely to be intact, younger, and mixed bred. People relinquishing animals were significantly more likely to be men and younger than 35 years. Duration of ownership was significantly shorter for relinquished animals."
  • Moving: Characteristics of Dogs and Cats and Those Relinquishing Them to 12 U.S. Animal Shelters.  ©1999 Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 2(2), 83-96.  May 1999. New, J.C; Salman, M.D.; Scarlett, J.M.; Kass, P.H.; Vaughn, J.A.; Scherr, S.; & Kelch, W.J. . "The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy Regional Shelter Survey identified moving as the most often cited of 71 reasons for relinquishing dogs and the 3rd most common reason for relinquishing cats. Most relinquished companion animals were less than 3 years old and female. Dogs were most often intact, whereas cats were most often altered. Friends had given the majority of these companion animals to the relinquishers, who had obtained them at no cost. Most had lived with the relinquishers for less than 2 years. The majority of relinquishers were White and female, and had at least a high school education. Based on the U.S. population age distribution, young adults seem to be using shelters at a significantly higher rate than would be expected. These age groups are also more mobile, according to U.S. Census data. Therefore, educational efforts that target young, potentially mobile adults could decrease the number of animals relinquished."
  • Reasons for Relinquishment of Companion Animals in U.S. Animal Shelters: Selected Health and Personal Issues. ©1999 Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 2(1), 41-5. January 1999, Janet M. Scarlett.  "Personal issues lead the class of reasons for the relinquishment of cats and ranked 3rd among those given for relinquishment of dogs. The top 3 health and personal; issues cited for giving up cats were allergies of a family member to cats, owner's personal problems, and a new baby. For dogs the top 3 reasons cited were lack of time for the dog, owner's personal problems, and allergies. Analysis of these health and personal issues suggests that the education and counseling before and after acquisition of a pet, as well as the availability of temporary accommodations for pets during times of crisis, may reduce relinquishment."
  • Human and Animal Factors Related to the Relinquishment of Dogs and Cats in 12 Selected Animal Shelters in the United States.  ©1998 Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 1(3), 207-226.  July 1998, Salman, M.D.; New Jr., J.G.; Scarlett, J.M.; Kass, P.H.; Ruch-Gallie, R.; & Hetts, S.  "The number of animal shelters in the United States, the demographics of the population of animals passing through them, and the characteristics of pet owners relinquishing animals are poorly understood. What portion of these animals are adopted or euthanized, why they are relinquished, and their source of acquisition are all questions for which there have been little data." 
  • The Shelter Statistics Survey, 1994 - 1997. "This Survey, initiated in 1994, by the National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy (NCPPSP) gathered the names of shelters and organizations believed to be sheltering animals. Only shelters that housed more than 100 dogs and/or cats each year were included. The final list had 5,042 names. All responses were kept confidential.  Information linking the names of shelters with their responses was not released. Please note:  It is not possible to use these statistics to estimate the numbers of animals entering animal shelters in the United States, or the numbers euthanized on an annual basis.  The reporting Shelters may not represent a random sampling of U.S. shelters."

If you have trouble with any of the above links, please copy and paste this web address directly into your browser: http://www.petpopulation.org/

Pet Overpopulation and Ownership Statistics ©2003 The Humane Society of the United States.   "As a nation, we claim to love cats and dogs. Millions of households have pets, and billions of dollars are spent yearly on pet supplies and food. But as a nation, we should take a hard, sobering look at a different annual statistic: the millions of dogs and cats given up to shelters or left to die on the streets. And the numbers tell only half the story." Research and articles on their site include:

If you have trouble with any of the above links, please copy and paste this web address directly into your browser: http://www.hsus.org/ace/11829

U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook. ©2003 American Veterinary Medical Association. The new 2002 edition of the U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook is the "most statistically accurate and complete survey of the pet owning public and pet population demographics." Drawn from a national survey of 54,000 households, the survey results are presented with comparisons to similar surveys completed in 1992 and 1997, clearly illustrating long-term trends. This addresses ONLY pet-owning households and not the homeless animal problems.  If you have trouble with the above link, please copy and paste this web address directly into your browser: http://www.avma.org/reference/marketstats/sourcebook.asp 9/23