Shelter Animals Count, a trustworthy source that keeps up with animal sheltering data, recently released a disturbing report.
The number of homeless animals entering shelters in the U.S. has been increasing. According to the report, "not only are more dogs entering shelters than are leaving, the non-live outcome rate for dogs has nearly doubled (from 5.6% to 10%) when comparing Q1 2021 to Q1 2023."
"This means nearly twice as many dogs did not leave shelters alive during the first three months of 2023 compared to the same period in 2021."
The increase was especially noteworthy for dogs compared to cats. For cats, the numbers remained "largely unchanged."
Stray overpopulation is increasing across the world, with shelters struggling to keep up.
In a county in Ireland, the number of stray dogs entering shelters doubled from 2022 to 2023. In Ireland, dogs have only 5 days to be claimed by their guardians or find a new home before they are at risk of being killed.
Stray overpopulation is the biggest crisis facing dogs and cats. Hundreds of millions will be born on to the streets, where they suffer and starve without access to shelter, a consistent source of food, or a loving guardian. But also contributing to this crisis is the issue of abandonment. Many stray dogs and cats had homes originally, but were then abandoned.
Overcrowded shelters means that an alarming number of animals will be killed just for existing.
In this blog, we will discuss the causes of overcrowding in shelters, the impact of overcrowding on shelters, how to prevent overcrowding in shelters, and the various costs associated with adopting a companion animal.
What causes overcrowded shelters?
1. Deliberate Breeding
Deliberate breeding of dogs (and to a lesser extent, cats) by humans has become a major cause of companion animal overpopulation in animal shelters. Breeders end up creating far too many dogs and cats, with many of them eventually ending up in shelters.
2. Lack of Spaying and Neutering
Failure to spay or neuter dogs and cats leads to unwanted litters, contributing to the overcrowding of shelters. Many companion animal guardians either neglect this crucial aspect of guardianship or are unaware of its importance.
3. Abandoning Companion Animals
Whether due to financial strain, lifestyle changes, or behavioral issues, people frequently abandon their companion animals. This has become a significant problem, as shelters struggle to keep up with the inflow.
4. Stray Animals
When dogs and cats end up on the streets, they will continue to breed unless they are spayed or neutered. This means stray animals end up populating the streets, leading animal control to capture them and bring them to shelters.
How Overcrowding Impacts Shelters
1. Animals Put to Death
One of the most heartbreaking consequences of companion animal overpopulation in animal shelters is the high rate of animals being put to death. Many shelters simply don't have the resources to care for the number of animals they receive. This leads to the tragic situation where healthy, adoptable pets are killed to make room for others.
2. Stress and Disease
Overcrowded shelters lead to stressful environments for both animals and staff. Lack of space, increased noise, and competition for resources can cause behavioral and health problems. Contagious diseases spread quickly in such environments, further jeopardizing the animals' well-being.
3. Financial Strain
The financial burden on shelters is immense. Providing food, medical care, and proper housing for a growing population of animals stretches budgets thin, leading to a decrease in the quality of care and difficulty in maintaining the facilities.
How to Prevent Overcrowding in Shelters
There are many actions we can take to help fight dog and cat overpopulation and the tragic impact it has on animal shelters and the lives of countless individuals. Through education, responsible companion animal guardianship, community engagement, and government intervention, we can begin to address this growing crisis.
1. Promoting Spaying and Neutering
Educating companion animal guardians about the benefits of spaying and neutering, as well as providing low-cost or free services, is essential. These efforts can help reduce the number of unwanted animals and subsequent shelter admissions.
2. Responsible Companion Animal Guardianship
Educational programs promoting responsible companion animal guardianship, including proper training, care, and long-term commitment, can also help curb the surrendering of companion animals to shelters.
3. Adoption Campaigns
Encouraging adoption through campaigns, special events, and collaboration with local businesses can help place more animals in loving homes. Highlighting the importance of adopting rather than buying companion animals can change public perceptions and behaviors.
4. Legislation and Regulation
Governments must play a role by implementing regulations on breeding and selling companion animals. Strict laws and penalties for cruelty can have a significant impact. Public pressure can help make these laws stronger and better enforced.
5. Community Involvement
Engaging communities in volunteer programs, fostering, and local support can create a network that alleviates the pressure on shelters. Building a community culture that values and supports animal protection is vital to long-term change.
The Costs of Companion Animals
Some animals end up needing new homes because well-intentioned people are unaware of the various costs associated with bringing a companion animal into their lives. Here's a look at what you need to think about money-wise before adopting a dog or a cat!
1. Food and Treats
Obviously, providing healthy food and clean water to your companion animal will be a daily necessity. Depending on the size and dietary needs of your animal, you might spend anywhere from $20 to $60 a month on food. Don't forget treats and special diet foods if required!
2. Vet Visits and Health Care
Routine check-ups, vaccinations, and emergency care can add up. Pet insurance might be a good idea but can cost anywhere from $10 to $100 a month. Regular vet visits without insurance could cost several hundred dollars a year. When serious illness strikes, vet bills can easily go into the thousands.
3. Grooming and Hygiene
Some animals require regular grooming, while others might just need occasional nail trims or baths. Professional grooming for dogs can range from $30 to $90 per session, while cats might be a bit cheaper.
4. Supplies and Equipment
Your companion animal will need a bed, bowls, a leash, a litter box for cats, toys, and more. These start-up costs can range from $50 to $300.
5. Training and Behavior
Especially for dogs, obedience classes or professional training might be needed. This could range from $50 to $250 for a series of classes.
6. Unexpected Expenses
Companion animals can be unpredictable, and unexpected expenses like emergency vet visits or damage to furniture can occur. It's wise to have some savings set aside just in case.
Whether you're going on vacation, taking a business trip, or taking care of relatives in other states, you'll want to make sure your companion animal is happy and well-cared for while you're away. Reliable petsitters can be pretty expensive, especially if you have several animals or if they have medical problems.
8. Long-term Commitment
Remember, companion animals live for many years. Cats often live 15 years or more, and dogs can live anywhere from 10 to 20 years. Be sure you're ready for the financial commitment that spans over their lifetime.
Having a companion animal is a joyous and fulfilling experience, but don't forget about the financial aspects of care. By planning ahead and being aware of potential costs, you can ensure that both you and your new companion are set up for a happy, healthy life together.
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