Overpopulation in domestic animals

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The phenomenon of overpopulation in domestic animals refers to the surplus of domestic animals, such as cats and dogs, and exotic animals. In the United States alone, between 5–7,000,000 animals are brought to shelters each year. 3–4,000,000 of those animals are subsequently euthanized. This is sometimes attributed to the fact that most shelters do not have the resources for the long-term care of these animals.[1] As a result, most humane societies, animal shelters and rescue groups urge animal caregivers to have their animals spayed or neutered to prevent the births of unwanted and accidental litters.

Dog population statistics[edit]

The National Animal Interest Alliance in a pet overpopulation article[2] discussed an extensive dog population statistical research led by Gary Patronek of Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine and Andrew Rowan of Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. The comprehensive data compilation from multiple sources such as the American Kennel Club, the American veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the US, the American Humane Association and others provided the following statistics:

  • 52 million dogs live in 35 million US households
  • Approximately 6.2 million dogs die each year
  • 3.8 million die in homes, veterinary hospitals and hit by cars
  • 2.4 million die in shelters

They also provided the following information about animal shelters:

  • Approximately 4 million dogs enter shelters each year
  • Approximately 2.2 million are stray dogs
  • Approximately 600,000 are reclaimed by their owners (leaving 1.6 million strays available for adoption)

Effects upon animals[edit]

Unwanted dogs and cats may have been acquired from any source. Large numbers of animals are placed in shelters by pet owners each year for reasons such as moving, allergies, behavioral problems, and lack of time or money. Another common reason for surrendering a pet is because of milestones, like marriage or the birth of a new baby.[3]

Pet overpopulation is a controversial topic, with both the causes of the problem and the existence of the problem being the subject of dispute.[4][5]

Purebred preference[edit]

One contributing factor in domestic animal homelessness is the cultural preference for young, purebred animals. Many people who prefer purebred animals choose to purchase them, often at significant cost, from breeders. One reason some owners choose to purchase a pet through a breeder or store is because people know what size and characteristics the animal will eventually have. This is not often possible with puppies acquired at a shelter. It should be noted, however, that approximately 25% of the dogs who enter animal shelters are purebred.[citation needed]

Recognizing the high demand for purebred animals, some people choose to engage in backyard breeding or operate puppy mills. This practice, where operators breed purebred animals for profit, is often without concern for the health or welfare of the animals involved. These animals may be sold through pet stores or directly from the breeders themselves.[6]

Additionally, individuals seeking purebred animals may not realize that a homeless animal adopted from a shelter can have many advantages: often the shelter will have performed all necessary veterinary procedures, such as spaying or neutering, vaccination, deworming, microchipping, etc. Also, the personality of a kitten or puppy is not always an indicator of how the animal will behave in adulthood. Many shelter animals have reached adulthood and their personalities are apparent, allowing the would-be caregiver to select an animal with a personality that suits them. However, disease issues should be considered with shelter animals. Some shelter animals are transported to Northern states where there is no overpopulation problem.[7] Such animals may be incubating disease or have parasites. Animals without a documented history may also have behavioral issues.

Organizational impact[edit]

There are several nonprofit organizations that are attempting to solve the problems associated with the overpopulation of animals, like euthanasia and high costs, through spay and neuter services.

  • American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) [8]
  • American Humane Association [3]
  • Sante D'or Foundation in Southern California [9]
  • Pet Project Rescue in the Twin Cities in Minnesota [10]
  • AnimalKind in North Carolina [11]
  • Project CatSnip in Georgia[12]

Global effects[edit]

Dealing with a population of unwanted domestic animals is a major concern to animal welfare and animal rights groups. Domestic animal overpopulation can also be an ecological concern. It is also a financial problem: capturing, impounding and eventual euthanasia costs taxpayers and private agencies millions of dollars each year.[13] Unwanted pets are also commonly released to the wild, sometimes contributing to severe damage to ecosystems (e.g., the effect of introduction of exotic snakes to Florida's Everglades).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Humane Society of the United States. "HSUS Pet Overpopulation Estimates : The Humane Society of the United States". Humanesociety.org. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  2. ^ "ARE THERE TOO MANY DOGS AND CATS? - Pet overpopulation myths and facts". National Animal Interest Alliance. Retrieved 10 July 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Pet Overpopulation". Americanhumane.org. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  4. ^ http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=12245
  5. ^ http://www.spanieljournal.com/33lbaughan.html
  6. ^ "Puppy Mills : The Humane Society of the United States". Humanesociety.org. Retrieved 2012-10-16. 
  7. ^ "ASPCA Launches National Relocation Program for Shelter Animals". Prweb.com. 2011-05-12. Retrieved 2012-10-16. 
  8. ^ "The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals". ASPCA. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  9. ^ "Sante D'Or Foundation - An Atwater Village Animal Rescue —". Santedor.org. 2011-11-16. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  10. ^ "Pet Project Rescue". Pet Project Rescue. 2012-05-08. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  11. ^ "**". Animalkind.org. Retrieved 2012-07-24. 
  12. ^ "Project Catsnip — Experts in Feline Spay-Neuter". Projectcatsnip.com. Retrieved 2012-10-16. 
  13. ^ "New Research Exposes High Taxpayer Cost For ‘Eradicating’ Free-Roaming Cats". Prweb.com. Retrieved 2012-10-16. 

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