Dog Population & Dog Sheltering Trends in the United States of America
Chief Scientific Officer, The Humane Society of the United States, 1255 23rd Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA
Companion Animal Division, Humane Society International, 1255 23rd Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 2 November 2017 / Revised: 16 April 2018 / Accepted: 24 April 2018 / Published: 28 April 2018
The pet overpopulation problem in the United States has changed significantly since the 1970s. The purpose of this review is to document these changes and propose factors that have been and are currently driving the dog population dynamics in the US. In the 1960s, about one quarter of the dog population was still roaming the streets (whether owned or not) and 10 to 20-fold more dogs were euthanized in shelters compared to the present. We present data from across the United States which support the idea that, along with increased responsible pet ownership behaviors, sterilization efforts in shelters and private veterinary hospitals have played a role driving and sustaining the decline in unwanted animals entering shelters (and being euthanized). Additionally, data shows that adoption numbers are rising slowly across the US and have become an additional driver of declining euthanasia numbers in the last decade. We conclude that the cultural shift in how society and pet owners relate to dogs has produced positive shelter trends beyond the decline in intake. The increased level of control and care dog owners provide to their dogs, as well as the increasing perception of dogs as family members, are all indicators of the changing human-dog relationship in the US.