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ukanimalshelterAnimal shelters are overflowing with dogs and cats. But why did so many get there? Were they strays? Did they escape or were they just dumped at the first place someone could find?  "It is impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the United States; estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million."³  What else can we do that would help stem this seemingly never ending tide of pets landing up in shelters. I was curious if our assumptions as to what the causes were in line with what some recent national studies revealed.


Why Do Pet Owners Take Animals to Shelters? unknrussia2013

One of the surprising items I found out when reading a  series of studies made available by Colorado State University was:  "...the majority of pet owners who surrender their animals to shelters are under 30 years of age and that more dogs are taken to shelters than cats and all other animals combined."²
In 2012/2013 there is still no central data reporting system for U. S. animal shelters and rescues. It is estimated that the number of dogs and cats euthanized each year in shelters has decreased, from 12–20 million to an estimated 3–4 million. Thanks to so many new organized volunteers at the shelters. but that still leave and estimated 2.7 MILLION healthy shelter pets are not adopted each year.

Trying to put your head around the numbers?

Try these...

3,500—Number of animal shelters
6 to 8 million—Number of cats and dogs entering shelters each year
25 percent—Percentage of purebred dogs in shelters
3 to 4 million—Number cats and dogs adopted from shelters each year
2.7 million—Number of adoptable cats and dogs euthanized in shelters each year
30 percent—Percentage of shelter dogs reclaimed by their owners
2 to 5 percent—Percentage of shelter cats reclaimed by owners

  U.S. pet-ownership estimates from 2012

83.3 million—Number of owned dogs
47 percent—Percentage of households that own at least one dog
70 percent—Percentage of owners with one dog
20 percent—Percentage of owners with two dogs
10 percent—Percentage of owners with three or more dogs
1.47—Average number of owned dogs per household
20 percent—Percentage of owned dogs who were adopted from animal shelters
$231—Average annual amount spent by dog owners on routine veterinary visits
83 percent—Percentage of owned dogs who are spayed or neutered
Even—Proportion of male to female owned dogs

 It can be hard for us dedicated pet lovers to understand how someone could just surrender his or her companion. When a dog ends up in a shelter, it is not their fault. Most behavioral issues, for instance, can typically be traced back to the way in which their former caretakers handled them.


1. Lack of training: Shelters are filled with dogs that have potty training, socialization, and obedience licking2issues, all of which could have been prevented through proper training.¹  House soiling (3.37%). These are both preventable. Any dog can be house-trained. Other common behavior problems include excessive barking, tearing up furniture, digging, chewing things like woodwork, digging or tearing up carpet, jumping up on people, and so on. Although frustrating, there are solutions for all of these behavior issues. But they can land a good dog on death row in an animal shelter.
2. Lifestyle changes: People losing their job, getting a divorce, having a new baby, or encountering difficulties with their health are also common reasons that dogs end up in shelters. A person may become overwhelmed by a dog when they have a new baby, may be unable to attend to them if they are unhealthy themselves, or find themselves too stressed to pay attention to a dog because of a demanding new job.
3. Moving: Sometimes people move and cannot take their dog with them. The home that they relocate to might not allow dogs. They may be moving in with a roommate who is allergic to a dog or simply doesn’t want them in his or her place. There are also cases of people moving into a new house and not wanting to bring their dog along with them so as to keep it clean. Moving (7.3%) Landlord will not allow pets (5.3%).
4. Not enough time for a pet: Our lives are busy, and having a dog requires making time to properly care for it. One of the main reasons that dogs end up in shelters is that their people get busy and start to prioritize other things above the dog, thus neglecting its needs. Often, children who pushed their parents to get them a dog by promising to take care of it become interested in other things, thus leaving the responsibility of the dog to their overwhelmed parents.
BTmoney-315. Cost of dog ownership: Between vet bills, boarding, buying food, toys, and grooming, pets can be expensive. Many people underestimate the amount of money that owning a dog will involve, especially if there are special needs or health issues involved. Cost of maintenance of pets (4.1%)
6. Health issues: Old dogs and dogs with injuries and other health-related issues require more money, time, patience, and attention than healthy dogs. Some people make the decision to get rid of the dog versus continue to care for them once an illness or ailment arises. Requests for euthanasia because of illness (7.4%). Euthanasia because of animal's age (4.6%)

Animal is ill (4.1%)
7. Biting: Dogs are often hauled off to shelters because they have bitten a member of the family. If a PRINCESS 2220dog exhibits aggressive behavior, it must be dealt with immediately. Biting can be avoided if a dog is properly trained and socialized, and if behavioral issues are addressed before they worsen.
8. Too many animals in the home: Pets are cute and can adopt them impulsively. However, when there are too many animals in the home, it can become a problem. People that fail to spay or neuter their pets may end up with a whole litter and find themselves with nowhere to place the puppies. A dog may be fighting with a cat in the house or may not be getting along with the other dogs in the pack, thus resulting in it being sent to a shelter.  Owner has too many animals (4.8%)
9. Allergies within family household: If someone in the household develops an allergy to a dog, it may wind up in a shelter. People may have developed an allergy to the dog, might have a significant other move in who is allergic, or may have a child that is born with or develops a dog allergy.   Allergies within the family (3.98%)
lostdogclipart110. Strays and rescues: People who find dogs on the street often take them in on a temporary basis while searching for its family. If the dog’s people are not found, these dogs are often given to a local shelter in the hopes that they will be placed in a home. Found animal (of unknown origin) (6.6%)
"Only 10%of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered, while 83% of pet dogs and 91% of pet cats are spayed or neutered."³







²Colorado State University's Epidemiology and Animal Disease Surveillance Systems is the scientific coordinator for the council. The center is based in the department of environmental health in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.© 2009 Colorado State University