The rise in America's pet population
America’s cat and dog population has more than doubled in 30 years. (Photo: Comstock)
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the leading non-profit devoted to animal welfare, reports that in the 1970s American shelters euthanized 12–20 million cats and dogs every year at a time when there were 67 million pets in U.S. homes. Asilomar Accords, which tracks animal shelter care and euthanasia numbers, says U.S. shelters today euthanize 3–4 million animals, while there are more than 135 million cats and dogs in American homes.
These numbers are only estimates as there is no centralized reporting protocol for shelters.
"This enormous decline in euthanasia numbers — from around 25 percent of American dogs and cats euthanized every year to about 3 percent — represents substantial progress," reports HSUS. "We will make still greater progress by working together to strike at the roots of animal overpopulation."
Many pet owners — about 35 percent — do not spay or neuter their pets. Also, only 20 percent of the 17 million Americans who get a new pet each year opt for a shelter pet; most buy from pet stores, breeders or through other private arrangements. And shelters typically have many more animals than they can place in homes. In addition, most shelter pets are not from litters but are companion animals turned in by their owners.
HSUS recommends Americans spay or neuter their dogs and cats, adopt from shelters or rescue groups, and consider all the ramifications of pet ownership before deciding to take one.