United States Pet Statistics

Walking down the street, one is likely to see many families or individuals with dogs and other pets. It seems like everyone has an animal companion of some kind. Nevertheless, the ASPCA reports over 13,600 independent shelters housing animals of all kinds. There are vast quantities of animals without homes. The ASPCA offers this, and other pet owner, cat and dog statistics, on their web page.

There are 7.6 million animals who enter shelters each year which around 2.7 million are adopted, 2.7 million are euthanized, and the rest are either returned to their owners or pass away due to natural causes. Twice as many that enter the shelter are strays compared to pets who are given up by their owners. The majority of animals in shelters are dogs (3.9 million) and cats (3.4 million), and of those numbers, around 35% and 37% are adopted respectively.

Of those who choose to adopt from shelters, 40% attribute their knowledge to the word of mouth. Most adopt their pets from other family members, but of the 70-80 million dogs and 74-96 million cats that are owned in the United States, 28% of dogs are purchased from breeders and 29% of dogs and cats are purchased from shelters. Over 35% of adopted cats are strays.

Why are so many pets given over to shelters? The American Humane Associates cites places of residence not allowing pets as the most likely cause, with 29% of owners giving this reason. Other common reasons are divorce/death and behavioral issues, allergies, and simply not having enough time.

The fact is, the number of strays in the United States far surpasses the number of dogs, cats and other pets living with owners or families. Though an exact number is impossible to determine, a rough estimate for cats alone goes up to around 70 million. The reason for the high number is in part biological: cats can have two litters a year, with each litter producing four to six kittens. Dogs, meanwhile, can have one litter of four to six puppies peer year. Some pet owners choose not to spay or neuter their pets and end up with many unwanted kittens and puppies. What they do not realize is the cost of spaying and neutering is significantly less than the cost of raising four to six baby animals through adulthood. Thus, many of these kittens and puppies are abandoned or given to shelters. Only around 10% of animals in shelters are spayed or neutered, and it is unknown how many strays are.

Dogs and cats live longer lives when they are kept as pets. They do not have to go against the elements or forage for food and live in comfort and security. If they are spayed and neutered, pet owners do not have to worry about accidental litters that will present a financial burden. But pet owners should take care to account for their pets: most strays who end up in shelters are pets who were not kept indoors or properly documented. Though many are returned to their families, it is possible for a beloved pet cat or dog to be lost in the shelter system.

Millions of animals enjoy loving homes across the United States. Those animals who don’t either reside in shelters or on the streets and contribute to overpopulation by their lack of spaying and neutering. Animal lovers should think carefully about choosing to adopt a pet or doing what they can to assist in lowering the high percentage of cats and dogs left out in the cold and without a family to care for them.