Facts About Animal Sheltering


Across the United States, volunteers and staff in animal shelters and animal control facilities see the results of irresponsible pet ownership and dog and cat overpopulation every day. However, there is very little reliable data available to illustrate this issue on a national level. The following figures were gleaned from independent random studies and the best estimates by experts in animal welfare and related fields. These should be considered ballpark figures only. Most of the studies were national and there is tremendous variation by region.

There are about 5000 community animal shelters nationwide that are independent; there is no national organization monitoring these shelters. The phrases "humane society" and "SPCA" are generic terms; shelters using those names are not part of the Humane Society of the United States or the ASPCA. Currently, no government institution or animal organization is responsible for tabulating national statistics for the animal protection movement.

2002 Figures

Animal Shelters

  • Approximately 8-12 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year and approximately 5-9 million are euthanized (60% of dogs and 70% of cats). Shelter intakes are about evenly divided between those relinquished by owners and those picked up by animal control. These are national estimates; the percentage of euthanasia may vary from state to state.
  • Less than 2 percent of cats and only 15-20% of dogs are returned to their owners.* Most of these were identified with tags, tattoos or microchips.
  • 25% of dogs that enter local shelters are purebred.*
  • Only 10% of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered. 75% of owned pets are neutered.


Pet Overpopulation

  • The average number of litters a fertile cat produces is one to two a year; average number of kittens in litters is 4-6.
  • The average number of litters a fertile dog produces is one a year; average number of puppies is 4-6.
  • It is impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the US; estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million.
  • Owned cats and dogs generally live longer, healthier lives than strays.
  • Many strays are lost pets that were not kept properly indoors or provided with identification.

Pet Ownership

  • About 60% of all households in the United States have a pet.+
  • About 60 million dogs and about 75 million cats are owned in the United States.++
  • About 65% of pet owners acquire their pets free or at low cost. *
  • The majority of pets are obtained from acquaintances and family members. 15 - 20% of dogs are purchased from breeders, 10 - 20% of cats and dogs are adopted from shelters and rescues, and 2 - 10% are purchased from pet shops.+++
  • At least 20% of cats are acquired as strays.*
  • Over 20% of people who leave dogs in shelters adopted them from a shelter.*
  • The cost of spaying or neutering a pet is less than the cost of raising puppies or kittens for one year.
  • The average cost of basic food, supplies, medical care and training for a dog or cat is $400 to $700 annually.

All data are ASPCA estimates unless otherwise indicated.
* Source: The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP).
+ Source: American Veterinary Medical Association.
++ Source: The Pet Food Institute.
+++ Source: Ralston Purina and NCPPSP.

© 2003 ASPCA

Courtesy of ASPCA

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