- Animal welfare—Animals may face novel hardships, including starvation, untreated disease, climatic extremes, uncertainty of rescue, and if rescued, uncertainty of adoption [5,6,7,8,9]. Consequently, many or most such animals are euthanized due to lack of space and resources [10,11]. Relatedly, some governments have established rules on zero sacrifice [12,13,14], which can become inoperable when pets accumulate unmanageably.
2.1. Historical and Current Management of Pet Overpopulation and Abandonment
- Legislation usually prescribes for identification of animals using microchips [52,53,54]—While microchips allow for identification of animals and owners, and thus avoidance of them being discarded on, for example, public roads, this approach does not prevent delivery of animals to shelters or kennels, which effectively constitutes abandonment. Owners may also abandon animals and claim they were lost, accidentally released, or that there were problems with the microchip data [55,56,57,58,59,60].
- Lack of legal alternative to abandonment—Pet owners may feel pressure to abandon when they face or experience unforeseen or unpredictable situations such as loss of employment, changes of residence, family health, pet behavior problems, incorrect expectations about pet owners’ responsibilities, pet biological needs, and feel they can no longer provide adequate care [64,65,66,67,68,69,70,71,72]. Although national laws may prohibit abandoning a pet, personal, family, economic or other circumstances may point to abandonment as the most feasible solution. This conflict of interests appears not to be legislated for and has therefore remained unresolved. Because of these applied legislative deficiencies, owner and state responsibilities are de facto shared, yet dictated by the owner’s personal situation and his ethical and moral principles. In our view, ameliorating pet overpopulation and abandonment requires fundamental shifts in promoting owner understanding of their responsibilities, as well as changes in the current management of breeding and sale.
- Lack of a comprehensive management system to address overpopulation and abandonment. The aforementioned characteristics lack of connection and coordination among them, and this is essential to tackle the problem properly.
2.2. Economic Factors and Costs of Overpopulation and Abandonment of Pets: Negative Externalities
- Negative impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems due to predation and disease transmission. Abandoned cats and dogs can present a threat to livestock and place native fauna at risk [84,85,86]. Abandoned or escaped exotic pets can impact local fauna due to predation and disease transmission and also cause irreversible damage to agriculture . Once established, eradication of exotic species is difficult and expensive. Currently, invasive species affect all countries [48,88]. In Europe, the economic cost from damage caused by invasive species (animals and plants) has been estimated at approximately €12.5 billion per year, although this figure may represent only 10% of the potential cost [89,90]. In the United States, economic losses caused by invasive alien species are estimated at a minimum of $120 billion per year .
- Pets are associated with more than 60 zoonotic diseases [92,93,94,95,96], most of which are linked to exotic pets. Dogs are carriers of several potentially debilitating and dangerous diseases, including rabies, which is endemic is parts of Europe [95,96], the United States , and Asia ). In the U.K. alone, the annual cost of treating zoonotic diseases transmitted from dogs to humans is around £10 million per year, and the cost of dog attacks on humans is £4 million per year . Exotic pets can transmit infections through stings, bites, or simple physical contact, potentially resulting in serious injury, disease, or even death [99,100]. Estimated costs for treating injury or infection caused by abandoned exotic pets are difficult to quantify but range from €250 per medical visit to €2500 per day of hospitalization . The trade and keeping of exotic pets are recognized as a significant factor in the emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases . Exotic pets are estimated to cause 60–75% of emerging diseases [48,103,104,105,106,107,108], including avian influenza and psittacosis from birds; salmonellosis from amphibians, reptiles, and birds; and hepatitis A, tuberculosis, monkey pox, and herpesvirus simiae-B from primates. SARS-Cov-2 (COVID-19) is thought to have been transmitted from wild animals to humans in wildlife markets in China  and the international trade in small carnivores . In some cases, these disease introduction risks are increased by the illegal trade in pets that are smuggled into countries by circumventing border controls , although for most invertebrates, fishes, amphibians, and reptiles, no border quarantine is applied. Cumulatively, the management costs of these diseases incur trillions of dollars, to which the many human losses of life must be added.
3.1. Ameliorating Overpopulation and Abandonment Using Control of Breeding and Sale
3.2. Improving Owners Responsability Using Compulsory Owner Health and Survival Liability Insurance
- Owners who, for any reason or unexpected circumstance, cannot continue to care for their pet can contact an insurer-approved pet shelter (under veterinary supervision and with a general no-kill policy) for collection.
- Pets can spend the rest of their lives in an approved shelter or be adopted under supervision.
- Inclusive civil liability insurance against personal and material damage arising from the ownership of the pet.
- Costs for lifelong pet support are assured, thus avoiding costs to the public purse.
3.3. Fostering Pet Welfare through Institutional, Legal, and Executive Guardianship
Institutional Review Board Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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