A new study suggests that the number of dogs saved by animal shelters is much higher than previously thought.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine and funded by the Pet Leadership Council, found that the number of dogs taken in by U.S.-based shelters exceeds 5.5 million per year while the number of dogs euthanized in those shelters has dropped to less than 780,000 per year.
This new data from the Mississippi State University study appears to be well under previous estimates made by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and the No Kill Advocacy Center, which place euthanization numbers between 1.2 million and 2.5 million. Such a wide variation in results may be attributable to the studies’ methodologies. Arriving at a representative number of shelters was one of the challenges the Mississippi State University team sought to address. Using the same capture-recapture methods employed in studies of wildlife populations, the researchers were able to conclude that approximately 7,100 shelters exist in the United States.
While the findings of this study may come as good news for shelters and the dogs saved by them, they may suggest potential challenges for pet owners. With many communities having adopted legislation to prevent pet stores from selling puppies sourced from breeders, many of those looking for a pet have become increasingly reliant on shelter dog populations. If the number of dogs in shelters is shrinking, those looking for a dog may have a more difficult time finding one.
“Our concern was that so many very different estimates have been generated by a number of entities that have often led to conflicting conclusions. It is important to have a solid understanding of the facts before making decisions impacting the supply and availability of healthy dogs.”
— Bob Vetere, President & CEO, the American Pet Products Association