2011 U.S. shelter data update
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2011:
The 18th annual ANIMAL PEOPLE analysis of U.S. shelter exit
data has confirmed that the encouraging findings of the 17th analysis
were no fluke: U.S. shelters are now killing fewer cats and dogs per
1,000 Americans than at any time since relevant data first was
published, early in the 20th century. The total numbers of cats and
dogs killed are the lowest in more than 50 years.
However, while the 2011 ANIMAL PEOPLE survey found that the
cat toll fell by about 207,700 from the 2010 survey data, a 10%
improvement, the dog toll increased by about 76,500.
Pit bull terriers
The increase in dogs killed in shelters was entirely
attributable to an increase of 120,000 in the number of pit bull
terriers killed. The pit bull toll rose to 930,300, the highest
number in three years, but still slightly below the average of the
decade 2001-2010. This was 60% of the total number of dogs killed in
Though pit bulls appear to be currently the breed rehomed in
the greatest numbers, the volume arriving at shelters is so high
that intensive promotion by organizations including the Best Friends
Animal Society, the American SPCA, the American Humane Association,
and Maddie’s Fund has only cut the rate at which pit bulls are killed
in shelters from about 93% ten years ago to 89.5% now. Even the Los
Angeles Department of Animal Services, which appears to rehome more
pit bulls than any other agency in the U.S., kills about 40% of pit
bull intake, and has reported increasing pit bull intake since 2008.
The major U.S. cities killing the fewest pit bulls–San
Francisco, Denver, and Miami–all enforce breed-specific
legislation. San Francisco requires pit bulls to be sterilized;
Denver and Miami prohibit keeping pit bulls within city limits.
Cumulatively, San Francisco, Denver, and Miami kill about
40% fewer dogs of any breed than the U.S. national average.
Pit bulls are currently 3.3% of the U.S. dog population,
according to the 2011 ANIMAL PEOPLE survey of classified ads offering
dogs for sale, but now account for about 29% of dogs surrendered to
shelters or impounded by animal control, up from 23% in 2003. While
most pit bulls arriving at shelters are surrendered by their primary
caretakers, who are typically the third primary caretaker each dog
has had in about 18 months of life, pit bulls also account for about
22% of the dogs impounded in cases of individual abuse and neglect;
46% of the dogs impounded for injuring humans; 51% of the dogs
impounded for attacking other animals; and virtually all of the dogs
impounded in dogfighting cases.
Chihuahuas were the only other dog breed mentioned to ANIMAL
PEOPLE by shelter directors as arriving in conspicuously
disproportionate numbers in 2010-2011–but were mentioned only in the
U.S. Southwest, particularly southern California, where Chihuahua
intake has risen since 1997.
Conventional wisdom long has been that about 70% of the cats
killed in shelters are feral, but National Pet Alliance founder
Karen Johnson insisted as far back as 1994 that this could be true
only if the overwhelming majority of unweaned kittens who are
euthanized as unviable were believed to be from feral mothers.
Johnson appears to have been right: neonatal kittens actually appear
to account for more than half of the cats killed in shelters, while
identifiable ferals–including feral kittens–are far fewer.
ANIMAL PEOPLE asked shelter directors more questions about
cats in 2011 than in most previous years, discovering more changes
in cat-handling procedures than we had imagined might have occurred.
As of June 2011, 56% of the cats occupying shelter cage space were
kittens, not surprising at the peak of “puppy and kitten season,”
but of the cats known to have been feral before impoundment, only
14% were kittens.
This might have indicated impoundment of large numbers of
adult feral cats, perhaps leaving feral litters orphaned, but such
was not actually the case. ANIMAL PEOPLE found that only 20% of
limited admission shelters and 55% of open admission shelters
acknowledged knowingly accepting feral cats, except in emergency
cases. 45% of open admission shelters mentioned promoting
neuter/return as an alternative to accepting feral cats, usually
working in partnership with local nonprofit neuter/return
organizations. Even at open admission shelters that do not promote
neuter/return, only 19% of the cats in custody were known to be
feral. Overall, just 6% of the cats at open admission shelters and
8% of the cats at limited admission shelters were known ferals.
The ANIMAL PEOPLE estimates of shelter killing each year are
based on reports from every shelter known to do more than incidental
dog and cat killing within a specific jurisdiction–a city, a
county, a multi-county metropolitan region, or a whole state. We
include data from the three preceding fiscal years. Each year new
data is added, and the oldest data is dropped. The data is
regionally grouped and proportionally weighted to ensure the most
accurate possible representation.
The data used to produce the 2011 estimates came from
jurisdictions including 36% of the total human population of the
U.S.. A considerable amount of information was incorporated this
year which was originally collected and posted by the Asilomar
Accords program of Maddie’s Fund. Supplemental data is gathered
through a single-day survey of animal shelter populations done
usually in June; the survey of classified ads offering dogs for
sale, covering 275,000 ads in 2011, electronically screened to
eliminate duplicate listings; and a variety of other compilations of
data from the ANIMAL PEOPLE news archives.