According to 2013 figures, over 7 million pets enter animal shelters in Canada and the US every year. 60% of dogs and 70% of cats are euthanised, meaning over 4 million potentially healthy, adoptable animals are euthanised each year. Dr Andrew Jones investigates.

We have a pet overpopulation problem that is not going away, and animal shelters (and their staff), should not be the ones who have to bear the brunt of irresponsible pet owners.

A reason for sterilisation

According the the American Pet Products Association (AAPA), only 10% of the animals received by shelters have been spayed or neutered (78% of which are dogs and 88% of which are cats).

In just seven years, one unspayed cat and her subsequent offspring can produce over 450,000 cats. That estimate comes from an average litter of three, twice a year. In seven years, one dog and her offspring can produce over 4,000 dogs, with an average litter of 4 once every year.

The number of stray dogs and cats is staggering. According to the ASPCA, it is impossible to determine how many stray dogs and cats live in the US; estimates for cats alone range up to 70 million. From the organisation 600million.org, there are an estimated 600 million stray dogs in the world, hence the organisation’s name.

So what can be done?

Animal sterilisation

Dogs and cats need to be spayed and neutered. The cost of spaying or neutering a pet is less than the cost of raising puppies or kittens for a year. Organisations such as SpayUSA, developed in 1993, have helped hundreds of thousands of people nationwide obtain low-cost, quality spay/neuter services.

SpayUSA provides referrals to over 1,500 low cost sterilisation programs and clinics nationwide with 5,000 veterinarians in the network as of 2011.

600million.org is an organisation that proposes an animal sterilisation pill to cut down on animal population, and in turn, reduce animal abuse and killings. The Alliance for Contraception in Cats and Dogs wants to humanely control pet populations worldwide by introducing methods to non surgically sterilise dogs and cats. Scientists have yet to develop a universally safe and effective non surgical sterilant, but ongoing research is promising.

couple-with-cat

Stop purchasing from pet stores or puppy farms

Puppy farms are still thriving, fulfilling the consumer demand for inexpensive and always available types of purebred dogs.

The majority of puppies in pet stores ultimately come from puppy farms, and as long as pet owners keep purchasing these dogs, puppy farms keep pumping out puppies. I would encourage stricter government legislation, along with serious fines to help put an end to these unethical operations.

Sterilising feral cats

Feral cats are a large part of the cat overpopulation problem. The most effective way to reduce feral cat numbers is through Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) programs.

These cats are trapped, brought to a participating veterinarian to be spayed or neutered, and then returned to the area they were trapped in. These organisations need ongoing support, so please support them as they are doing wonderful work in helping decrease the incidence of unnecessary cat euthanasia.

Adopt from a legitimate shelter or non-profit rescue group

There are millions of dogs and cats in shelters now waiting to find a home. By adopting from a shelter you will help with pet overpopulation, and also financially support the shelter to continue their work of rescuing, spaying or neutering, and adopting more animals.

If you are focused on a specific breed, still consider a shelter as 30% of dogs are purebred. Additionally, there are hundreds of pure bred rescue groups that you can contact.

In summary

Pet overpopulation is a staggering problem, resulting in over four million potentially healthy adoptable animals being euthanised each year in just Canada and the US alone. More dogs and cats need to be spayed or neutered, and all animals should be adopted from legitimate shelters or non-profit rescue groups - not pet stores.

If developed, an animal sterilisation pill could help to reduce the worldwide pet overpopulation problem. The ongoing efforts of TNR programs also need continued support.

Dr Andrew Jones

Check out Andrew’s blog for more valuable animal-related content.

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