Every year, an estimated six to eight million homeless pets enter animal shelters in the United States alone. Tragically, close to half of these animals must be euthanized. Most of these deaths are simply because there is not enough room to house animals as shelters receive new arrivals. The animals are loving and healthy pets who would have made great companions. Sadly, they simply were not lucky enough to be adopted in time. According to the Humane Society of the United States, these animals are not typically the offspring of stray or feral “street” animals. Instead, they are “the puppies and kittens of cherished family pets and even purebreds.” No-kill shelters might seem like a solution. However, a responsible no-kill shelter can only house so many animals before becoming overburdened.
Worldwide, the problem of pet overpopulation and homelessness is harder to quantify. In countries where spaying and neutering is virtually unknown, stray animal populations continue to explode. In 2011, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that there were more than 200 million stray dogs worldwide. Many of these dogs are feral, so-called “free-ranging urban dogs,” who have never known human companionship. Similarly, “street” or “community” cats also range on a spectrum. They can be lost or abandoned strays in need of human care. Or they can be fully wild feral cats or anything in between. Feral cats are distinguished from strays in that they are true wild animals who are descended from domestic felines. The world population of feral cats is estimated to be around 100 million.
In 1992, the International Society for Animal Rights (ISAR) declared August 18th International Homeless Animal Day. This day helps to raise awareness of these issues and support spay/neuter programs worldwide. In the U.S., the Doris Day Animal Foundation declared the last Tuesday in February to be Spay Day USA. That was in 1995, and at that time, shelters euthanized an estimated 14 to 17 million dogs and cats. Now referred to as World Spay Day and organized under the auspices of the Humane Society, Spay Day has grown to worldwide proportions. Despite these efforts, more than 2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs in the U.S. still die by euthanasia each year. In order to shed light on the plight of homeless pets throughout the U.S. and abroad, PugetPets is devoting this mid-August blog post to them.
This Saturday, August 18th is the 27th Annual International Homeless Animals Day. To find out what this means worldwide and get ideas for how you and your school, community or organization can participate, visit the ISAR website.
As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” For the homeless pet crisis, prevention means birth control. Spay/neuter is the only 100% effective and permanent birth control method for dogs, cats and other household pets such as rabbits. Reducing pet homelessness is just one reason to spay or neuter. To explore some other reasons, check out this article from the Humane Society.
Everyone from local governments to veterinary professionals and concerned individuals can participate in the Doris Day Foundation’s World Spay Day. For ideas on how to contribute through education and action, visit the Humane Society’s animal sheltering page.
Make a gift of funds or much-needed supplies to your favorite shelter or to a low-income or mobile spay/neuter clinic. Alternatively, you can donate time by volunteering. Some of our community members simply cannot afford the spay/neuter procedure. Consider sponsoring one or more spay or neuter surgeries for an individual pet guardian.
Participate in a Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program in your area. TNR helps reduce the feral cat population. This is accomplished by trapping feral cats, spaying or neutering them, marking them (usually with a nick in an ear) and returning them to the wild. To learn more about TNR and cat adoption, check out this PugetPets blog post.
One of the best ways you can help homeless pets is to adopt one. If you are considering a companion animal, why not take the opportunity to provide a shelter animal with a loving forever home? Save a loving pet from euthanasia or a life of lonely confinement and you may find yourself among those asking “who rescued who?”