While 164 million pets in the United States are lucky enough to have a home, there are millions that are not so lucky.
6-8 million dogs and cats enter shelters each year, and there are currently 70 million strays living on the streets.
Why are there so many unwanted animals?
The main reason is that people do not spay or neuter their pets.
Let’s say that you bring home a cat and it stays indoors so you do not see the need to get her fixed. Then one day, she slips out the front door, never to be seen again.
That one unspayed female cat and its offspring could theoretically produce 420,000 cats over the span of just 7 years.
An unspayed female dog and her offspring could theoretically produce 67,000 dogs.
Despite these scary numbers, an average of 25% of owned pets in the US have not been spayed or neutered.
There is no excuse for not spaying or neutering your pets; ever.
The crisis of pet overpopulation has left shelters overcrowded and with no other choice than to euthanize unwanted animals.
Around 3 million healthy cats and dogs are put down in U.S. shelters each year, approximately 10,000 per day.
The word euthanasia translates to “good death,” and is an injection of sodium pentobarbital.
The injection is quick, painless, and takes a person to administer it who is with the animal to comfort them when they die.
Unfortunately many of the unwanted animals in US shelters are killed inhumanely by electrocution or in decompression chambers.
Many facilities still use barbaric gas chambers.
They shovel or throw the animals into the chamber, where they suffer slow and stressful deaths. It can take over ten terrifying minutes for an animal to die using these methods.
The most shocking fact about these cruel killing methods is that they cost more than twice as much as euthanasia by injection.
A study of an animal sheltering organization in North Carolina revealed that the cost to use carbon monoxide gas was $4.98 per animal. The cost to use carbon monoxide poisoning without a tranquilizer was $4.66 per animal. The cost of the chemicals needed for euthanasia by injection, however, was only $2.29 per animal.
So why are these methods still being used?
Lack of training, indifference to animal suffering, and lack of legislation are all reasons. Some states like California have banned the killing of dogs and cats with gas chambers.
The states that still allow these cruel practices simply have not been challenged by taxpayers to ban them.
The good news in all of this is that according to The Human Society of The United States, In the 1970s, American shelters euthanized 12-20 million dogs and cats. Today, shelters euthanize around 2.7 million animals.
This substantial progress can be contributed to more people spaying and neutering their animals, the efforts of fostering and rescue shelters, and the growing movement of no kill shelters.
In 1985, my family bought a puppy from The Humane Society shelter in Tucson, Arizona. The puppy was given to us with the assumption that we would get her spayed.
I adopted a puppy from the same shelter in 2001, and they would not give him to me until he was neutered.
Changes in policies like this are a sign that we are moving in the direction of a manageable pet population.