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An Important Question About Pet Dogs and Pet Cats

Dogs and cats are the most common pets everywhere that people live. However, a lot of people don’t know about the serious plight that dogs and cats face.

Before getting to the actual numbers, it is astounding that there are a number of people who are so totally against eating meat on the basis of the belief that they are saving animal lives if they eat nothing but fruits and vegetables. Never mind the fact that more animals are killed yearly to produce fruits and vegetables than are raised for meat. 

The sad part is that very few of the vocal ‘animal-saving’ vegans and vegetarians do much about the problem that dogs and cats face. What problem am I referring to? This is where the numbers come in.

In the United States alone, 3.3 million dogs and 3.2 million cats enter pet shelters in the US each year, to be adopted out. Only 3.2 million out of the 6.5 million cats and dogs that enter shelters are adopted each year. Another 710,000 dogs and cats that enter shelters are returned to the owner.

There are an estimated 3,500 animal shelters in the US. There are also 10,000 animal sanctuaries and rescue groups. Some of the animal shelters are “no-kill” shelters. Unfortunately, it is extremely expensive for shelters to care for what is obviously a huge number of animals. 

Sadly, 1.5 million cats and dogs are killed each year by shelters. Many of them have no choice. Groups like ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) ironically routinely kills cats and dogs in gruesome and inhumane ways, such as putting many into suffocation chambers together. That part is a topic for a different post. The point is that good, healthy, loving cats and dogs are being put to death. To be fair, sometimes it is humanely done, but it is still death when the only thing the animal did to deserve it was to be born.

Yet, people still buy pets from breeders and pet stores rather than going to a shelter to find a pet. Some people donate to their local shelter, but truth is that not nearly enough people do. Most shelters operate at a deficit. That is especially true of no-kill shelters that might need to care for some animals for a protracted period of time. This doesn’t even include millions of stray animals left to fend for themselves.

For a time, although it was totally unintentional on our part, we cared for many ‘throw-away’ pets, so it is a hot-button topic for me. We were the only house on a road that was a quarter-mile long. People would dump their unwanted pets off on our road, expecting them to fend for themselves. That is a death sentence that is every bit as cruel as a suffocation chamber because most would eventually starve without some help.

The animals, mostly cats, would find their way to our place and seemed to know that we wouldn’t let them starve. There were times when we didn’t have enough money for food for ourselves because we were getting food for the animals. We might go days without eating, just to make sure the animals did. Of necessity, we had to call the pound so many times that we were on a first name basis. I hated calling the pound because it wasn’t a no-kill center. Still, at one time, counting our own cats, we were caring for 52 cats. Believe me, we weren’t hoarding, either.

This happens in other countries, too.

I’m asking people to think about this. If you can, donate to your local shelter. If you want a pet dog or cat, get it from the shelter instead of a pet store or breeder. And be responsible. Have your pets spayed or neutered so they don’t accidentally add to the problem.

  • Question of

    Have you ever adopted a dog or cat from a shelter?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I’ve thought about it and might in the future
    • I haven’t lived in places that allow pets
  • Question of

    Have you ever donated to a pet shelter?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I plan to
  • Question of

    Did you realize that the situation was this dire for cats and dogs?

    • Yes
    • No

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What do you think?

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Written by Rex Trulove

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27 Comments

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  1. I know in some country, shelters can only keep animals up to 7 days (for the reasons you mentioned) … I’ll not get dour-legged pets as my family doesn’t like the idea but I do sometimes feed stray cats …

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    • Even in the US, some shelters and pounds have a time limit. It is usually a couple of months, but that is still too short. I sometimes wish that I was wealthy enough to have an animal preserve for dogs and cats.

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        • It might, but the initial set-up would be quite expensive. There are plenty of properties here that could be used for that purpose, but it wouldn’t surprise me that the initial costs might exceed a million dollars. That includes the land and buildings.

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          • Ah… I guess I haven’t think too much about the initial setup cost and rentals, space …. etc…

            I guess it might be a little too much to achieve that way… It’d perhaps be more realistic to crowdfund for existing shelters so that they can keep pets longer…

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  2. Unfortunately, the problem of dogs and cats seems an unresolved problem everywhere in the world. I never adopted a pet from shelter but I have taken my cat from park. I found her very sick. Now she is a family member. Maya(my dog) was adopted from my son.

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    • Yes, it is a worldwide problem. It might always be, but people can make a huge difference in the lives of many dogs and cats. If more people at least tried, there would be far fewer unfortunate cats and dogs that are forced to suffer or die.

  3. I have already adopted a dog from the shelter and I frequently feed street cats and dogs that most of the time feel that my house is their house. I can’t stand seeing an animal suffering.

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  4. I don’t think the situation is quite as dire in the UK, but there are still problems. We have the long-established RSPCA (Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals) that will bring criminal prosecutions against individuals or shelters that treat animals inhumanely.

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    • That is what I find especially hypocritical here, John. The ASPCA also commonly brings criminal prosecutions against anyone who treats animals inhumanely, yet far too often, they’ve been guilty of it themselves. Unfortunately, when they are, it seldom gets the spotlight, so many Americans never hear about it. If they did, there would be public outrage.

      Not counting the numbers in this article, it is estimated that there are as many as 70 million stray dogs and cats in the US.

  5. That’s sad. I agree it’s better to adopt pets from shelters than from pet shops. It will help reduce their big numbers than adding to their numbers. In my country, I don’t even know if there are any shelters. I have never heard of any. We normally get our pets from our friends who their cats have given birth to kittens. Same with dogs.

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  6. The first thing I did when I had my dearly departed and still going strong pets were to have them spaded or neutered. I thought that was essential. I have adopted a few cats from friends but never from a shelter. My next dog, if ever I get one, will be from a shelter as purebreds have more health problems than mixed or stray breeds… Extremely interesting and to the heart post…

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    • Getting the pets spayed or neutered is a very good thing. I’m also glad that you will seek your next pet from a shelter. Of our last 20 cats that we’ve had, 16 of them were rescues. The other four were born to a pregnant cat that was that way when we rescued her. All three of our dogs came from our local no-kill shelter.

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  7. I am from India and shelters for animals are not common here. I am a pet lover and have nurtured many They are treated as family.
    It is not known why those who treat animals badly are not aware that what they are doing is wrong

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    • I can’t help but think it is because of how those people were raised. If they are never taught to honor and love animals, they don’t know any better. That is why messages like this post are important, if for no other reason, to educate those people who don’t know any better.

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