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Animals 2018, 8(5), 68; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8050068

Dog Population & Dog Sheltering Trends in the United States of America

1
Chief Scientific Officer, The Humane Society of the United States, 1255 23rd Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037, USA
2
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
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Animal Sheltering)
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Simple Summary

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.

Abstract

Dog management in the United States has evolved considerably over the last 40 years. This review analyzes available data from the last 30 to 40 years to identify national and local trends. In 1973, The Humane Society of the US (The HSUS) estimated that about 13.5 million animals (64 dogs and cats per 1000 people) were euthanized in the US (about 20% of the pet population) and about 25% of the dog population was still roaming the streets. Intake and euthanasia numbers (national and state level) declined rapidly in the 1970s due to a number of factors, including the implementation of shelter sterilization policies, changes in sterilization practices by private veterinarians and the passage of local ordinances implementing differential licensing fees for intact and sterilized pets. By the mid-1980s, shelter intake had declined by about 50% (The HSUS estimated 7.6–10 million animals euthanized in 1985). Data collected by PetPoint over the past eight years indicate that adoptions increased in the last decade and may have become an additional driver affecting recent euthanasia declines across the US. We suspect that sterilizations, now part of the standard veterinary care, and the level of control of pet dogs exercised by pet owners (roaming dogs are now mostly absent in many US communities) played an important part in the cultural shift in the US, in which a larger proportion of families now regard their pet dogs as “family members”. View Full-Text
Keywords: humane dog management; shelter statistics; sterilization; human-canine relationship humane dog management; shelter statistics; sterilization; human-canine relationship
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Rowan, A.; Kartal, T. Dog Population & Dog Sheltering Trends in the United States of America. Animals 2018, 8, 68.

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