And how many are euthanized?
The Humane Society of the US estimates that animal shelters care for 6-8 million dogs and cats every year in the United States, of whom approximately 3-4 million are euthanized.
In the 1970s, American shelters euthanized 12-20 million dogs and cats. Today, shelters euthanize around 2.7 million animals. This enormous decline in euthanasia numbers—from around 25 percent of American dogs and cats euthanized every year to about 3 percent—represents substantial progress.
Low adoption rates are one factor driving the high number of animals in shelters, but every year, millions of dogs and cats are relinquished by their owners—or rescued from the streets by animal control officers and private citizens—and brought to animal shelters. These circumstances leave shelters and rescue groups with a large number of animals in need of homes. One of those animals recently found a home.
I'd like to introduce you to McKenzie, a dog rescued from a kill shelter.
We adopted Mac this weekend. She's an 8 month old Shepherd/Labrador mix.
Mac has a beautiful personality. She is very good with my kids.
My 21 month old Jacob named her and is just fascinated with her big ears.
This is one of the sweetest dogs I've ever met. I can't imagine her being put down.
Most animal shelters have no set time limit for holding an animal. In the vast majority of shelters, decisions about adoption and euthanasia are based on factors that include the temperament and health of the animal, and the space and resources available to humanely house and properly care for the animal.
Some animal shelters take in strays, and many of those facilities have an established holding period for those animals to allow their owners a chance to find and claim them. This stray holding period is typically set by local or state law, so it will vary from one community to the next.
If an animal becomes sick, stressed, or exhibits challenging behavior, the shelter should take steps to treat these conditions, working with available veterinary and behavioral assistance, and using responsible foster homes to get the animal into a less stressful environment.
However, if efforts to treat the illness or behavioral problem fail and the animal is not showing signs of recovery, some shelters may not have the resources to continue treatment and may not have access to a reputable rescue group or foster home. In some of these cases, euthanasia may be warranted.
Ending the euthanasia of homeless animals is a goal that all animal welfare organizations share. But the reality is that shelters, with their limited space and finite resources, cannot achieve this goal without high levels of community support.
The Humane Society focuses on the root of the homeless animal problem by educating pet owners, helping them deal with behavior problems and other issues so that they can keep their pets for life. They encourage spaying and neutering to reduce animal overpopulation, promote adoption from shelters and rescues, and seek to end the mass breeding of dogs in puppy mills and their sale in pet stores and on the Internet.
You can make a difference! Support community-wide efforts to prevent overpopulation. Encourage your local shelter to work as diligently as possible to find loving homes for the animals in their care. You can even volunteer!
Adopt your next companion animal from a shelter, have all your pets spayed or neutered, and be a responsible pet owner—protect your pets with current identification tags and don't let them roam.