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Good News, Bad News: Fewer Pets Are Dying in Shelters, But More People Still Shop Instead of Adopt

The A.S.P.C.A. recently released updated euthanasia and adoption rates, which show both promise and that we still have far to go in lowering the homeless pet population.

Jackie Brown  |  Mar 16th 2017


The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recently published updated data about homeless pets and shared current statistics about pet ownership from the American Pet Products Association. The news is promising. Here are five facts you should know:

1. Fewer pets are being euthanized in animal shelters

In 2011 (the last time the ASPCA updated its homeless pet statistics), an estimated 2.6 pets were put to sleep in U.S. shelters annually. Today, ASPCA estimates that number is 1.5 million (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats). The improved numbers are likely due to increased adoptions and more stray pets being returned to their owners (about 710,000 every year).

2. People adopt just as many cats as dogs

Of the 3.2 million shelter animals adopted every year, approximately 1.6 million are dogs and 1.6 million are cats.

Kittens in an animal shelter by Shutterstock

Kittens in an animal shelter by Shutterstock

3. Fewer pets are entering shelters

In 2011, an estimated animal shelters took in 7.2 million pets annually. Today, that number is 6.5 million.

4. More dogs are bought from breeders than are adopted

The APPA 2015-2016 National Pet Owners Survey showed that 34 percent of dogs are bought from breeders and 23 percent are adopted from a shelter or humane society. An additional 6 percent are found as strays, and 20 percent come from friends or relatives.

5. More cats are adopted than are bought from a breeder

According to the APPA survey, 31 percent of cats were adopted from a shelter or humane society. Just 6 percent came from breeders. Another 28 percent came from friends or relatives, and a whopping 27 percent were found as strays.

Based on these new statistics, the number of pets dying in animal shelters has dropped by more than 1 million since 2011. “This is tremendous progress for America’s dogs and cats, and is the direct result of innovative, life-saving programs and hard work from local shelters, rescues and national organizations, like the ASPCA, to end homelessness and needless euthanasia of shelter animals,” ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker said in a press release. “It also reflects the public’s dedication to rescuing homeless animals.”

However, as Bershadker points out, there is still much work to be done. “While the overall numbers are encouraging, millions of animals continue to enter the shelter system and still too many never come out,” he said.

If you’re thinking about bringing home a new pet, consider adoption first. You will personally be making a difference to help pets who desperately need homes. If you wish to buy from a breeder, do your research to make sure you’re patronizing someone reputable.