The Starkville Daily News reports that researchers at Mississippi State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine have released new data on the canine populations of animal shelters in the United States.
The study, conducted by Mississippi State University faculty members Kimberly Woodruff and David R. Smith and funded by the Pet Leadership Council, used capture/re-capture methodology to estimate the number of dogs in U.S. animal shelters, including the number of those adopted, transferred, and euthanized. The results suggest that every year:
- 5.5 million dogs are taken in by shelters
- 2.6 million dogs are adopted from shelters
- 969,000 dogs are returned to their owners
- 778,000 dogs are transferred to another shelter
- 776,000 dogs are euthanized
According to Woodruff, no official registry exists for shelters in the United States and there are no organizations that exist to provide oversight. As a result, the size and nature of shelters can vary, with some being massive facilities while others consist of only a small number of kennels. This variability can be challenging for researchers attempting to get an accurate measure of shelter populations.
Regarding the number of dogs transferred and those euthanized, Smith said that transfer programs have enabled a form of load balancing among shelters that gives many dogs a second chance. These programs allow shelters with intake rates higher than adoption rates to transfer dogs to shelters with smaller populations and better adoption rates.
“Prior to those programs developing, there were probably more dogs in the Southeast that got euthanized because there were more dogs in shelters in the Southeast. Those transport programs have at least given dogs an opportunity to go someplace else where they have a better chance of being adopted.”
— David R. Smith, Mikell and Mary Cheek Hall Davis Endowed Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine, Mississippi State University