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The Cat and Dog Shelter Crisis

dog shelter

Are you sitting down? This won’t be easy to read.

The number of dogs and cats put to death in U.S. shelters increased for the first time in five years.

Prior to this heartbreaking year for strays and abandoned companion animals, the U.S. was experiencing a steady decrease in the number of animals put to death in cat and dog shelters.

We are experiencing a global crisis. The number of dogs and cats worldwide is increasing. And we can’t keep up.

Overpopulation leads to overcrowded cat and dog shelters in which perfectly healthy animals are killed to make more room for more strays.

How COVID led to overpopulation of cat and dog shelters

You might remember at the beginning of the pandemic how some cat and dog shelters were essentially empty!

dog shelter

As people began to work from home and spend limited time outside of the house, they suddenly had more time to provide for an animal companion.

In the short term, this was great for animal shelters.

However, separation anxiety in dogs was a huge concern for veterinary facilities and dog shelters. When dogs are used to spending all day and every day with their guardians, the shift to massive amounts of time alone can be painful and distressing.

Many dogs with separation anxiety will whine, howl, and bark when they are not in the company of a human. This can lead to issues with neighbors and landlords.

Some dogs with separation anxiety may turn to destructive behaviors, such as destroying furniture or urinating in the house.

But most importantly, the distress the dog endures is incredibly painful and scary. In some cases, the dog may injure him or herself due to the stress.

While lockdown measures as a result of the COVID pandemic helped dogs and cats find homes in the short-term, it was short-lived.

Challenges cat and dog shelters face

Animal shelters face many challenges in providing care to abandoned animals.

Animal shelters often depend on donations and volunteers. This makes it difficult for them to have a sense of stability.

But the biggest challenge shelters deal with is the fact that there is limited space to keep abandoned dogs and cats.

Shelters end up making a terrible choice – who lives and who dies – to make room for more strays. In the U.S., lethal injection by sodium pentobarbital is the most common method used. ((source))

Sometimes, dogs come into the shelter with an illness or disease. Illnesses can spread quickly and infect many animals.

dog shelter

One illness that is incredibly common in dog shelters is kennel cough – hence the name “kennel” cough. Kennel cough is an upper respiratory infection that is highly contagious.

While kennel cough isn’t life-threatening to dogs, the fact that it spreads so easily can be a huge risk to shelters that struggle to have the funds to provide veterinary care to all of the animals. It can be nearly impossible to get rid of because, once the spread starts, it will continue to spread amongst all of the dogs.

No dog should ever be put to death over kennel cough.

Ideally, shelters are able to find foster homes for dogs in the case of illnesses like kennel cough. But some diseases might be more severe. Shelters might euthanize a sick dog if the chance of recovery is low.

Additionally, shelters may not have the money to provide care for all of the animals.

Regardless, a long-term solution is essential.

Spay and neuter programs seek to prevent overpopulation by reducing the number of unwanted animals that are born, which can help address the issue right at its source. But unfortunately, COVID also led to disruption of this crucial procedure.

COVID disruptions to spay & neuter surgery

The COVID pandemic meant lockdowns: staying home, canceled plans, and canceled appointments.

Medical procedures that weren’t deemed “essential” were no longer an option in many cases.

Spay and neuter surgery should have been considered an essential surgery. But unfortunately, it wasn’t.

Especially in the case of outdoor cats and stray cats, this poses a huge problem.

While an average unspayed cat has a litter about 3 times a year, cats can technically give birth to a new litter every 2 months, making it possible for a cat to have 5 litters in one year. Cats can have 4-12 kittens in a litter.

cat shelter

You can imagine how quickly this can get out of control.

The best way to limit the amount of unwanted animals is to reduce the number who are born in the first place.

Without enough homes, shelters quickly become overcrowded.

It’s a never-ending Cycle of Suffering.

No matter how hard we try, we just can’t keep up with the numbers. Globally,

600 million stray dogs will continue to reproduce, amounting to a whopping 1 billion strays born every year.

Could a Cookie be the cure to overcrowding in cat and dog shelters?

Many cities around the world have a “trap, neuter, release” scheme. This involves catching stray or feral cats, spaying and neutering them to prevent the birth of future litters, and releasing them once again.

While this helps to prevent the birth of future litters, it is costly and time-consuming.

The animals must undergo surgery and heal before release.

That’s why we are working tirelessly to make the Spay and Neuter Cookie a reality.

Once completed, the Cookie will provide safe, effective, and permanent birth control for animals.

The number of dogs and cats put to death in U.S. shelters may have increased this year, but we won’t stop fighting until the Spay and Neuter Cookie is complete,

offering a permanent solution to this global crisis.


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