The two studies, conducted by Colorado
State veterinary epidemiologist Dr.
M.D. Salman and sponsored by the National
Council on Pet Population Study and
Policy, reveal that moving and other
lifestyle issues were the main reasons
given by pet owners when surrendering
their animals to shelters. But the majority
of those pets--64 percent--are euthanized
instead of adopted into new homes.
The studies also found that the majority
of pet owners who surrender their
animals to shelters are under 30 years
of age and that more dogs are taken
to shelters than cats and all other
"Euthanasia of domestic pets
in the United States is an epidemic,"
Salman said. "These studies give
us the first glimpse of why so many
pets are entering shelters and what
happens once they are surrendered
by their owners."
About 1,000 shelters in the United
States responding as part of Shelter
Statistics Survey accepted an estimated
4 million pets each year in 1994,
1995 and 1996. Of those sent to the
reporting shelters that participated
in the study, about 64 percent--or
8.2 million pets--were euthanized.
The survey also revealed that, on
average, 42.5 percent of pets that
entered animal shelters were submitted
by animal control authorities and
nearly 30 percent were surrendered
by their owners. The remainder were
relinquished by other sources. Twenty-four
percent, or 3 million, of the animals
taken to shelters over the three-year
period were adopted by new families.
Only 10 percent, or 1.2 million, were
reclaimed by their owners.
The studies mark the first, large-scale
national effort to quantify pet overpopulation
in the United States and identify
reasons why pet owners relinquish
their animals. With this information,
the National Council on Pet Population
Study and Policy hopes to develop
strategies to curb the epidemic of
pets entering animal shelters.
Of the 70 reasons pet owners could
cite for relinquishing their pets,
15 percent said their animals were
ill or old and needed to be Euthanized;
7 percent said they were moving; 5
percent felt they had too many animals;
4 percent said owning a pet cost too
much; and 3.5 percent said the animals
had soiled the house.
In addition, the majority of respondents--62
percent--were under 30 Years of age
and 52 percent had at least finished
"Some of the reasons pet owners
cited for giving up their pets to
shelters may be resolved through educational
or other types of programs,"
Salman said. "Most of the problems
are really not with the animals, but
rather with pet owners who may not
be knowledgeable enough about or prepared
for the realities of owning a pet."
The council is composed of 11 non-profit
and scientific organizations. Members
include the American Animal Hospital
Association, American Humane Association,
American Kennel Club, American Society
for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,
American Veterinary Medical Association,
Association of Teachers for Veterinary
Public Health and Preventative Medicine,
Cat Fanciers Association, The Humane
Society of The United States, Massachusetts
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Animals, the National Animal Control
Association and the Society of Animal
Colorado State University's Epidemiology
and Animal Disease Surveillance Systems
is the scientific co-ordinator for
the council. The center is based in
the department of environmental health
in the College of Veterinary Medicine
and Biomedical Sciences.
Firmness, but kindness.