U.S. shelters killed 2.3 million cats & 1.9 million dogs last year. Nearly half of the dogs were pit bulls.
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2008:
Six of the eight major geographic regions of the U.S. show
continuing declines in shelter killing, but two have gone backward
according to the 15th annual ANIMAL PEOPLE review of recent shelter
Newly received data from shelter polls in Ohio and Louisiana,
covering the years 2004 and 2005, respectively, show that the
headline “U.S. shelter killing toll drops to 3.7 million dogs & cats”
above publication of our 2007 analysis was much too optimistic.
The Ohio survey was directed by Ohio State University
graduate student Linda Lord. The Louisiana survey was done by Garo
Alexanian of the Companion Animal Network. Lord et al found that the
Ohio rate of shelter killing was within 1.5 animals per 1,000 of the
2007 ANIMAL PEOPLE projection, but Alexanian found that the ANIMAL
PEOPLE projection for Louisiana was 3.2 animals low. Together, the
Ohio and Louisiana findings pushed a recalculation of the mid-2007
national shelter killing toll up to 4.0 million animals, at a rate
of 13.6 per 1,000 Americans.
As the increase was chiefly among dogs, the recalculation
returned the cat/dog balance from by far the most lopsided tilt
toward cats that ANIMAL PEOPLE had ever reported (63%) to a more
modest 58%–which remained well beyond the previous norms.
The remainder of the 2007 ANIMAL PEOPLE findings are
unchanged: The rate of shelter killing per 1,000 Americans both last
year and now is still the lowest since data collected by John
Marbanks in 1947-1950 suggested a rate of about 13.5–at a time when
animal control in much of the U.S. was still done by private
contractors, who often simply killed strays or sold them to labs
instead of taking them to shelters, and unwanted puppies and kittens
were frequently drowned.
The rate of 13.8 found by the 2008 ANIMAL PEOPLE analysis is
not enough higher than the 13.6 rate found in recalculating the 2007
findings to be statistically significant.
The 2008 and revised 2007 ANIMAL PEOPLE analysis both project
2.3 million cats per year killed in shelters, mostly classed by
shelter staff as “feral.” This is about 300,000 more cats killed per
year than early in the present decade, but the increase has occurred
at just a fifth to a sixth of the rate of increase of both the U.S.
human population and the pet cat population, and has coincided with
intensified intolerance of feral cats by U.S. government agencies and
organized birding groups. The numbers suggest, in short, not more
feral cats, but rather more aggessive cat catch-and-kill policies.
The ANIMAL PEOPLE analysis continues to indicate that the U.S. feral
cat population is stable at about 6.9 million in winter, 11.5
million at the summer peak, 9.2 million on year-round average.
The dog toll in U.S. shelters has two components showing
distinctly different trends: admissions and killing of all breeds
and breed types other than pit bull terriers continuing a long
decline, while pit bull admissions and killing have climbed for more
than 20 years, with the most marked increase coming since 2001. The
advent of temperament testing has somewhat lowered the pit bull toll
in recent years, from a peak of about 1.2 million a year, by
allowing shelters to adopt out pit bulls with greater confidence.
However, ANIMAL PEOPLE single-day surveys of the dog
population in dozens of animal control and open-admission shelters
around the U.S. found that pit bulls made up 23% of the shelter dog
population in January 2008, and 22% in June 2008–about the same as
in 2003. The numbers indicate that about 825,000 to 920,000 pit
bulls were killed in U.S. shelters last year, with little likelihood
of killing fewer until the volume of surrended and impounded pit
bulls drops closer to their proportion–about 5%–of the total U.S.
dog population, as indicated by classified ads for dogs available
for sale or adoption.
The ANIMAL PEOPLE projection of regional and national
shelter killing tolls each year is based on compilations of the tolls
from every open admission shelter handling significant numbers of
animals in specific cities, counties, or states. The sample base
each year is proportionately weighted to ensure regional balance.
Only data from the preceding three fiscal years is included–with the
exception, this year, of the 2004 Ohio data.
Using a three-year rolling projection tends to level out
flukes that might result from including different cities, counties,
and states each year, but has the disadvantage of sometimes not
showing changes in trends until a year or two after they start.
Thus, the complete 2005 Louisiana data projects a higher shelter
killing toll in the Gulf Coast region before Hurricane Katrina than
ANIMAL PEOPLE anticipated, but it is not yet possible to predict the
cumulative impact of Katrina. Several of the disaster relief
missions mounted by national humane societies after Katrina have
evolved into ongoing commitments to improve humane services
throughout the Gulf region. This may be lowering the shelter death
toll, but we do not yet have the data to assess the effect.
A new projection of the toll in the Appalachian region shows
an apparent drop of five animals killed per 1,000 humans, after the
projected toll rose to 30 per 1,000 in 2007. But 23 of the 95
counties in Tennessee have no animal shelter. A lack of shelters
also afflict the more remote parts of Kentucky, Arkansas, and West
Virginia. Homeless animals are often killed in these states by
traditional methods such as shooting and drowning–and never enter a
shelter to become part of the statistical record. The new
Appalachian data, incorporating a new count and projected estimate
from Tennessee, hints that shelters in the Appalachians may be
killing fewer animals than earlier projected simply because they
receive a smaller share of the regional homeless animal population
than earlier surveys indicated.