Pet abandonment, pet overpopulation and animal shelter/rescue overcrowding are all significant problems in the US and also other countries.
In this guide, we look at potential solutions to these problems.
Summary – How To Decrease The Rate Of Pet Abandonment, & Overcrowding In Animals Shelters & Rescues
Some of the main solutions addressing the main reasons leading to pet abandonment might include:
Decrease the number of pets being bred, and the number of pet breeders in total
Increase the level of responsibility and standards of both the breeder and the owner have in providing a home for a pet for the pet’s entire life
Increase adoption and rescue rates of pets in shelters and rescues
Increase the number of pets being spayed and neutered (to prevent unwanted and unplanned births and litters)
Focus particularly on helping or educating the main groups of people at risk of giving up their pets – low income earners earning less than $50,000 a year, and those living in rental homes or those with housing issues such as a lack of space. Older people over 65 can also sometimes fit in these groups
Provide more emergency funding to assistance programs that help these groups of people in particular, but also other people with short and long term issues they are facing with keeping their pets. These programs might conditionally help with low cost or free pet health and veterinary care, spaying and neutering, pet behavioral/obedience training (some reports show that over 90% of surrendered pets have had no obedience training), pet supplies and food, pet boarding (for people moving house or going away for a period of time), rental housing pet deposits, and so on
Particularly focus on dogs between 5 months and 3 years of age (make up 40 to 47% of dogs surrendered), and dogs owned between 7 months to 1 year (make up 30 to 37% of dogs surrendered (petfinder.com)
More education and awareness on, and more legal regulations introduced that support and enforce the above points
We put together a list outlining the main reasons why people give up their pets in the first place.
Understanding these reasons can help us figure out where to focus our attention, time and money in preventing people giving up pets, but also decreasing pet overpopulation, homelessness, abandonment and overcrowding in animal shelters and rescues.
The full list of solutions we list below are:
Better regulations on, more restrictions on, and more accountability and responsibility on pet breeding
Better screening and testing of, and more accountability and responsibility on potential owners
Consider mandatory enforcement of ethical/responsible pet networks and associations (with standards and rules)
Better enforcement of responsible spaying and neutering of pets
Emergency pet retention and support programs
Better awareness and education for pet owners on how they can afford emergency vet care
More awareness about the importance of pet insurance
More awareness about increasing the rate of adoption and rescue
Have pet support helplines and ‘last line’ pet surrender portals – to help people who are immediately thinking of giving up their pets
Educate owners on re-homing, and also advance planning for their pet/s
Increase education (perhaps in schools and workplaces) of what the commitment of owning a pet for a lifetime really entails (to reduce novelty and impulse buying)
Explore the potential for expanding the number of pet friendly rentals
More funding to pet surrender and support programs
Consider how co-owning pets could work in reality
1. Better regulations on, more restrictions on, and more accountability and responsibility on pet breeding
A huge reason there are so many pets given up or sent to animal shelters and rescues every year is because of the number of pets being bred by breeders.
This increases the number of pets that need to be cared for, and as a consequence, the number of pets that are given up.
Some breeders are responsible and care their animals find forever homes, but, some sell purely for profit.
Reducing the number of breeders overall (especially backyard breeders and pet shops), and better regulating of who is allowed to breed dogs (and how), is one solution to this problem.
2. Better screening and testing of, and more responsibility and accountability on potential buyers/owners
Certain groups of people are significantly more likely (according to surveys and reports conducted on pet abandonment) to give up their pets.
These groups are low income earners (earning $50,000 or less), and those living in communities with high poverty rates.
Introducing an income test (provide evidence of past pay cheques for example) for prospective owners and pet buyers is one way to address this risk.
With renters being another group of concern, and also those with a lack of housing space or those with housing issues that are incompatible with keeping a pet – there could also be a screening process and testing for these groups of people to see that the dog is suitable for a particular living situation.
3. Consider mandatory enforcement of ethical/responsible pet networks and associations
There are already ethical pet networks/associations out there that match responsible breeders with responsible owners.
A requirement of some of these associations is that breeders and/or owners have to commit to a lifelong re-homing program for pets i.e. the pets are never without a home.
An example of one of these associations is the Australian Association of Pet Dog Breeders.
4. Better enforcement of responsible spaying and neutering of pets
Not desexing pets means a higher incidence rate of unwanted litters and unwanted births.
More awareness around this and subsidized spaying and neutering services could help solve this issue.
In some reports, approximately half of the pets (42.8% of dogs; 50.8% of cats) surrendered were not neutered (petfinder.com)
5. Pet retention and support programs
These have already proved to be hugely beneficial – increasing pet retention by as high as 80%.
They offer assistance to owners in need via low cost or free pet support services such as:
- health care and veterinary services,
- registration and microchipping,
- spaying and neutering,
- vaccines and medicine,
- obedience/behavioral training and socialisation,
- pet supplies and dog food (pet food banks)
- pet boarding and temporary stay or foster services,
- paying for pet deposits in rentals,
- giving advice on how to deal with pet allergies
- having rehabilitation programs for dogs with aggression issues
- …and so on.
One example is the ASPCA launched a “Safety Net” program, and another example is the program run by the Animal Humane Society.
In regards to vet help and obedience help in particular, some surrendered pet studies show:
- Many of the pets relinquished (33% of dogs; 46.9% of cats) had not been to a veterinarian.
- Most dogs (96%) had not received any obedience training
6. Teach people what their options are for affording veterinary care, or emergency veterinary care
There can be more affordable ways to get veterinary care for pets that people aren’t aware of – and knowing your options in regards to pet health services can certainly help.
Read more about working with vets, financial assistance, and fundraising and temporary credit at https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/having-trouble-affording-veterinary-care?referrer=https%3A//www.google.com/
7. More awareness about the importance of pet insurance
Pet insurance can save thousands in the event of an emergency.
There are affordable options out there, but there needs to be more awareness around it. Breeders and vets might play a role in this.
8. More awareness about increasing the rate of adoption and rescue
Existing animal shelters and adoption places need to continue to empty out (so resources and money/time can be directed to solving other pet problems)
Increasing awareness about how potential owners can find suitable pets might be one way to achieve this.
9. Have pet support helplines, and ‘last line’ pet surrender portals – for people who are thinking about giving up their pet/s
Support lines and pet portals have already been shown to help owners assess their options when thinking about giving up their pet, and know the resources that are available to them to help them keep their pet/s.
In many cases, these services have helped drastically improve pet retention rates.
Read more about pet portals at https://www.rspcaqld.org.au/blog/breaking-news/top-reasons-people-surrendered-their-pets-2017
Read more about pet helpines at https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/pet-helpline
10. Educate owners on re-homing, and also advance planning for their pet/s
Re-homing may be the only option for some owners – people should know how to do this in an easy but responsible way so they don’t have to resort to shelters and rescues.
Furthermore, some owners might age, or experience mental or physical challenges that render them incapable of caring for their pet for a period of time.
Advance planning the care of your pet in the event something happens to you one way to address this.
Speak to friends, family or start researching re-homing programs and options.
11. Increase education and awareness on what owning a pet for the entirety of its life entails
Some people just have no idea what is required to own a pet.
Breeders might produce standard documents in the future for owners to sign that shows they have read, understood and accepted the financial, time, exercise, socialisation and other responsibilities and investments that owners with have to take on and make.
12. Increase the number of pet friendly rentals, or explore the need for wider acceptance of pet bond deposits
This is a tricky one because landlords have a right to refuse pets on their properties.
But, increasing the number of pet friendly rentals and having a wider acceptance of pet bonds/deposits could help more owners keep their pets.
13. More funding to pet surrender and support programs
Programs like the ones mentioned above that provide basic pet care services and basic support for owners thinking of giving up their pets need more money.
More funding would help more pets stay out of shelters and rescues, and help less pets be euthanized.
14. Consider how co-owning pets could work in reality
One idea floated by some people is the idea of co-owning a pet.
This is the idea that two groups of people share ownership of the pet, and agree to or 50/50 split care, bills, and other ownership responsibilities.
It would provide a safety net in the situation that one group of people can’t care for the pet anymore.
Another similar idea to this is the idea that an owner has to name a secondary party who would be required to take care of their pet should they be unable to anymore. This party would have to be identified/registered at the time of buying the pet.
Some Stats & Numbers On Pet Abandonment, Overpopulation & Animal Shelters