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Dog Shortage? Availability of Shelter Dogs at All-Time Low, Study Finds




Each year, 2.6 million dogs are adopted.

ORLANDO, FL — The supply of dogs in animal shelters is at an all-time low, even as demand for pet canines increases, according to a new study.

Shelters take in 5.5 million dogs a year, and 2.6 million are adopted, researchers at the College of Veterinary Medicine for Mississippi State found. Another 969,000 are returned to their owners, while 778,000 are transferred and 776,000 are euthanized, a press release from the Pet Leadership Council explains.

“When you consider that it’s estimated as many as 20 million dogs were euthanized a year in the 1970’s, it’s truly astounding to see how effective the efforts of shelters and the responsible pet industry have proven,” said Bob Vetere, chairman of the council. “We believe this new research demonstrating the progress we have made will inspire an increasingly strong demand for and focus on efforts to ensure responsible breeding and opportunity to meet the growing desire for dogs in our country.”

Pet Leadership Council states that the results of the study, coupled with a 2015 survey on sources of where people get their dogs conducted by the Moore Research Group, demonstrate a continued and significant need for responsibly bred dogs.


According to the Moore study, Americans own roughly 89 million dogs. With the average lifespan of a dog being 11 years, this indicates a need for 8.1 million dogs per year just to maintain current levels of ownership, according to the press release. With 2.6 million dogs being adopted from shelters each year and fewer being transferred or euthanized, that means millions more must come from other sources, the Pet Leadership Council states.

The results were announced this week at the North American Veterinary Community Conference in Orlando. The study was overseen by the Animal Policy Group and funded by the Pet Leadership Council.

The Washington Post notes that the MSU study “suggests that euthanasia estimates by the Humane Society of the United States and the No Kill Advocacy Center, both of which estimate that about 2.5 million animals are killed in shelters each year, may be based in large part on animals other than dogs.”

“This new data from MSU will be especially helpful for shelters to design more specific strategies to continue to reduce the homeless dog population,” said Ed Sayres, Pet Leadership Council consultant and former ASPCA President of 10 years. 

Mike Bober, president of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and consultant to the Pet Leadership Council, said the new study will “have a significant impact on the national conversation about responsible pet ownership.”

“Without this concrete data as a starting point, it has been all but impossible to discuss solutions because we couldn’t agree on the scope of the problem,” he said. “This data also provides valuable information for those contemplating legislation that impacts the availability of dogs in their communities.”




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