How much of pet overpopulation do euthanasia statistics measure?

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1993:

Somehow in the deadline rush we mislaid a
letter we’d intended to publish from Cam
Martinez of San Diego, California, who
asserted that all the published shelter
euthanasia statistics are far low in providing
an index of pet overpopulation because they
don’t include the animals euthanized by vet-
erinarians, or killed by pet owners using var-
ious do-it-yourself methods.
Martinez claimed we should take
the highest available number and multiply it
at least by 10 to get an accurate count of the
surplus puppies and kittens born each year.
In fact there have been several seri-
ious attempts to estimate total pet births and
mortality, but none have yielded figures on
that order:

Using random survey data, Rudy
Nassar found a 13.6% rate of turnover in the
Las Vegas pet population during 1983,
including 7.2% mortality in shelters and
6.4% non-shelter mortality.
Using veterinary survey data,
David C. Cooke in 1984 put veterinary
euthanasias (primarily of elderly or terminal-
ly ill or injured animals) at 50% of the total
number of shelter euthanasias.
In August of this year, Lewis R.
Plumb of the Promotion of Animal Welfare
Society in Paradise, California, projected
that 24% of dog deaths occur in shelters and
5% are owner-administered population con-
trol. Plumb’s projection was based on a
model of the total U.S. dog population,
attempting to reconcile recently published
statistics from a variety of reasonably reliable
Early in 1994, the Delta Society
journal Anthrozoos is to publish a paper by
Gary Patronac and Lawrence Glickman,
based on survey data and projecting a 12.4%
annual rate of turnover in the dog populations
of Washington and Iowa., with 4% shelter
mortality and 8.4% non-shelter mortality.
Though they come at the question
from different directions, all four estimates
essentially agree that the overwhelming
majority of dog killing due to overpopulation
does take place in shelters. There is no rea-
son to believe that cat killing due to overpop-
ulation follows a different pattern. In fact,
t h e ANIMAL PEOPLE survey of nearly
200 cat rescuers published in November 1992
found that of the mortality they had observed
among homeless cats, 49% was from shelter
euthanasia. Other population control-related
killing accounted for 10%. These death rates
are twice as high as those Plumb projected for
dogs, but the shelter euthanasia rate for cats
overall is also markedly higher: 56% of all
dogs received, but 76% of all cats received,
according to the shelter-by-shelter euthanasia
counts from nine states published in our
October issue.
Those counts, covering a represen-
tative 39% of the U.S. human population
(balanced for region, race, education, and
income), projected total shelter euthanasias
at about five million a year. Taking into con-
sideration that 15% to 20% of shelter
euthanasias and the majority of veterinary
euthanasias are for medical reasons rather
than population control, the total number of
population control-related
dog and cat
killings in the U.S. per year is probably close
to 7.5 million.
It is finally worth noting that the
fading practice of kitten-drowning, once
common in rural areas, probably never had
any significant impact on the cat population
(as some of the people who did it undoubted-
ly came to suspect), and has even less impact
today, now that approximately 90% of
owned cats and 80% of feral cats live in
cities, where kitten-drowning is generally
considered socially unacceptable, while only
2% of Americans still live on farms.
Customarily, kitten drowners spare
one kitten to placate the mother and keep her
nursing, so that she won’t come into heat
again. But kitten mortality is so high from
respiratory ailments, accidents, and preda-
tion, that from a third to a half of all kittens
who are born will die before weaning any-
how, even under the best conditions, and
only about half of the survivors live long
enough to breed a litter. Since the kitten who
is spared gets her mother’s full attention and
usually becomes something of a pet at least
through kittenhood, her chances of survival
to breeding age are greatly enhanced.
If one kitten is not spared from
drowning, the mother typically soon pro-
duces another litter––and does a better job of
hiding them.
––Merritt Clifton
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