As an open-door policy facility, we accept ALL companion animals for any reason
and in any condition. Because of this, we do perform humane euthanasia on some
animals. It is our goal to find homes for 100% of adoptable animals, but
unfortunately there are many animals that come through our doors that would be
unadoptable for a variety of reasons. First, we do not have a policy to
euthanize any animal after a set period of time. We do receive animals
that are severely injured, have serious disease or other major health issues, or
are aggressive due to their prior life experiences. In many cases, the
most humane solution for these animals is to euthanize them peacefully.
These are policies shared by the ASPCA, Humane Society of the United States, and
American Humane Association, among others. Our method for euthanasia is
the one recommended by all of the previous organizations. In extreme
overcrowding situations, we may also be forced to euthanize due to space.
In this case, the adoptability of each animal is evaluated carefully and
difficult decisions are made. If a healthy animal has been in our care for
a long period of time, but has some characteristic that has made adoptability
unlikely, we feel it is also inhumane to require the animal to spend their life
living in our shelter, despite our best efforts to
provide the best care while in our facility.
Despite our many resource and space limitations, we continue to have a
euthanasia rate FAR below the national averages, especially for a facility that
also includes animal control services. As quoted below in a study by the
American Humane Association performed in 1997, roughly 64% of animals entering
an animal shelter were euthanized.
All other animals are either returned to their owner, adopted to new homes, or
accepted to rescue organizations where they are guaranteed the chance at finding
a home without worry of euthanasia.
We take euthanasia very seriously and are continuously working on new community
education programs to help reduce the number of unwanted companion animals.
The current number of new dogs and cats each year outnumber the availability of
homes in this area. It is only through an increase in the number of
animals properly spayed or neutered that we can begin to combat this ongoing
problem of overpopulation.
ANIMAL SHELTER EUTHANASIA
National euthanasia statistics are difficult to pinpoint because animal care and
control agencies are not uniformly required to keep statistics on the number of
animals taken in, adopted, euthanized or reclaimed. While many shelters know the
value of keeping statistics, no national reporting structure exists to make
compiling national statistics on these figures possible.
However, American Humane is one of the founding members of the National Council
on Pet Population Study and Policy. The mission of the National Council is to
gather and analyze reliable data that further characterize the number, origin
and disposition of pets (dogs and cats) in the United States; to promote
responsible stewardship of these companion animals; and based on the data
gathered, to recommend programs to reduce the number of surplus/unwanted pets in
the United States.
Unfortunately, the most recent statistics published by the National Council are
from 1997, and only 1,000 shelters replied to the survey at that time. Using the
National Council's numbers from 1997 and estimating the number of operating
shelters in the United States to be 3,500 (the exact number of animal shelters
operating in the United States does not exist), these estimates were made:
- Of the 1,000 shelters that replied to the National Council's survey, 4.3 million
animals were handled.
- In 1997, roughly 64 percent of the total number of animals that entered shelters
were euthanized -- approximately 2.7 million animals in just these 1,000
shelters. These animals may have been euthanized due to overcrowding, but may
also have been sick, aggressive, injured or suffering from something else.
- 56 percent of dogs and 71 percent of cats that enter animal shelters are
euthanized. More cats are euthanized than dogs because they are more likely to
enter a shelter without any owner identification.
- Only 15 percent of dogs and 2 percent of cats that enter animal shelters are
reunited with their owners.
- 25 percent of dogs and 24 percent of cats that enter animal shelters are
It is estimated that approximately 3.7 million animals were euthanized in the
nation’s shelters in 2008. This number represents a generally accepted statistic
that is widely used by many animal welfare organizations, including the American
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
For more information on the studies done by the National Council, please visit www.petpopulation.org.
Practical solutions for reducing euthanasia numbers
American Humane believes that all dogs and cats adopted from public or private
animal care and control agencies must be sterilized before being allowed to
leave the shelter and supports passage of state laws mandating this practice.
American Humane supports the establishment and operation of low-cost spay/neuter
clinics. The reduction in cost motivates those who cannot and those who will not
pay the full cost for the operation and has proven successful in reducing
euthanasia rates in communities across the nation.
American Humane believes the percentage of animals reunited with their owners
would greatly increase if more pets were properly identified:
- Be sure your pet wears an identification tag, rabies license, and city license.
Include your name, address, phone number and pet's name.
- Keep licenses current, as they help shelters locate pet owners. If you are
willing to pay a reward, put it on the tag.
- When moving, put a temporary tag on your pet. Include a phone number of someone
who will know how to reach you.
- Don't assume that your indoor pet doesn't need tags. Many strays in shelters are
indoor pets that escaped.
- Purchase special cat collars with elastic bands to protect your cat from being
caught in trees or on fences.
- In addition to ID tags, consider getting your pet tattooed or microchipped.