Americans May Want More Dogs Than Shelters Can Provide

By Briana Hansen

According to new research published in The Washington Post, more dogs than ever are being taken in by shelters and fewer are being euthanized.

Americans May Want More Dogs Than Shelters Can Provide, Suggests Study
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The study found that, on average, 780,000 dogs are euthanized every year. That number is especially significant when you consider animals shelters also reported taking in about 5.5 million animals per year.

Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, the researchers behind the figures, collected nationwide data from 413 different shelter's survey responses. They discovered that many more animals were taken in by shelters than previously thought, with many of those animals being returned to their owners, adopted, or transferred to rescue shelters.

Americans May Want More Dogs Than Shelters Can Provide, Suggests Study
credit: Giphy

The ASPCA had before claimed that 1.2 million dogs are euthanized each year, with only 3.9 million entering shelters. This new study seems to suggest that significantly more animals enter shelters, and that many of those euthanasia statistics come from animals other than dogs. The study responses also suggest that many of the dogs who are euthanized have major health or behavioral issues.

Americans May Want More Dogs Than Shelters Can Provide, Suggests Study
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For many people, these numbers suggest that shelters may not have the capacity to meet America's growing demand for canine companionship. The Animal Policy Group estimates that Americans are demanding an average of 8 million dogs per year. And this research seems to make the point that the "adopt, don't shop" methodology simply isn't sustainable. These numbers could make a reasonable case for continuing to support responsible breeding practices.

Americans May Want More Dogs Than Shelters Can Provide, Suggests Study
credit: Giphy

It's worth noting that the research was funded by the Pet Leadership Council. That group is supported by many pet organizations, including the American Kennel Club. These groups may have different interests than many animal shelter organizations, like Maddie's Fund.

For shelter advocates, these numbers don't paint a full picture. They argue that this study leaves out a great number of smaller rescue organizations who don't report their figures. And they also overlook the huge number of homeless pets in outlying U.S. territories who could help meet the growing demand, rather than continued breeding.