Shelter Overload

By: Katie Jenkins, Junior

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (ASPCA), about 44% of all American households own dogs, and an overall estimated 78 million dogs are owned in the US.  This seems like a lot of dogs, and it is, yet there are still about 70 million homeless dogs in just America, with shelters euthanizing about 920,000 unadopted animals.  

   During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people adopted what are referred to as “Pandemic Puppies.”  Over 23 million American families adopted pets during the COVID-19 pandemic.  These pets were adopted during a time when people had a lot of time on their hands to fill, but as the world returns to somewhat of a state of normalcy, people’s time has decreased.  In Philadelphia, shelters and rescue organizations, such as The Philly Bully Team, are reporting an increase in people wanting to return their pets.  Jessica Mellen-Graaf reports that in one 48 hour period, she once received 20 requests from owners to take their pets.  As people return to their lives, work, and school, families have less time to take care of their pets.  The best option to them seems to be to give their pets to shelters and rescue organizations so they might find another home that could better care for the pets, but shelters are running out of space.  

   Shelters already receive about 6.3 million pets a year.  They are struggling to find homes for them all and with budget issues, leading shelters to end up euthanizing about 920,000 animals a year to make space for more animals.  While this number has declined since it was about 2.6 million a year when the data was collected in 2011, 920,000 is still a very large number of animals. About 20% of dogs in shelters end up being euthanized, and 27% of cats in shelters are euthanized.  In a recent post, Sweet Paws Rescue, a local rescue organization that has a policy of not euthanizing animals unless necessary for their medical situation, asks prospective pet owners to adopt, as they are currently dealing with an overload of rescue requests.

   Now remember the 44% of American households that own pets? While shelters are overflowing with animals, 34% of dogs are purchased from breeders, and only 23% from shelters. While owning a pet seems like a wonderful idea, it is important to think about how much time and dedication you can give to caring for your pet, and how ethical the source you are looking at purchasing your pet from is.  Would you rather buy a pet bred specifically to match your requirements, for the profit of the breeder and puppy mills themselves, or would you adopt one of the millions of animals looking for a home?  Would you be willing to possibly save them from being euthanized, with profits going to the shelter, so it can continue to help other animals?  While there are upsides to breeders, such as when a prospective pet owner is allergic to certain allergens found in certain dogs’ fur, adopting from a shelter or rescue organization is overall the better choice.  

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