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Pet Abandonment, Pet Overpopulation, & Pets In Animal Shelters: Stats, Impact, & Cost - Better Meets Reality

Pet Abandonment, Pet Overpopulation, & Pets In Animal Shelters: Stats, Impact, & Cost

Pet abandonment & overpopulation, as well as the number of pets entering animal shelters each year worldwide (and in individual countries), are significant problems.

In this guide, we outline the size of the issues with stats, outline the impact and effects, and also what it might cost society from a financial perspective.

This guide compliments our separate guides on the top reasons why people give up their pets, and, potential solutions to pet abandonment, pet overpopulation, and pet shelter overcrowding


Summary Of Pet Abandonment, Overpopulation, & Pets Entering Animal Shelters

Size Of These Issues – Stats

– Stray Animals

The number of stray animals living just in the US is roughly 70 million, and in countries with poor dog and cat population control, that number can be higher


– Re-Homing

In the US, about one million owners re-home their pets annually


– Animals Entering Shelters, & How Many Are Euthanised 

In the US, about 5 to 7 million pets are admitted to animal shelters annually

In the US, roughly 2.7 million pets of the 5 to 7 million that enter animal shelters annually are euthanized


– Shelter Animal Adoptions, & Returning Shelter Animals To Owners

In the US, roughly 3.2 million shelter animal are adopted yearly

In the US, about 710,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners


Potential Effects Of These Issues

There’s a range of potential effects and impacts of pet stray animals, pet abandonment, pet overpopulation, and shelter overcrowding, including but not limited to:

– The impact on pets themselves

– The impact on pet owners and families that own pets

– The impact on public and private resources, and the opportunity cost of where else these resources could be allocated

– Impact on human health and public health

– The impact on cities, towns and places where pets and people live


Potential Financial Costs Of These Issues

– Overall

In just the US, estimates indicate that the cost of stray animals and animals that enter shelters costs taxpayers and society into the billions of dollars annually.


– Stray Animals

The cost of caring for stray pets is roughly $2 billion a year in total in the US

Tax payers pay roughly $150 per stray pet (from capture, through to euthanizing).

The public or private cost for pets entering stray pet or abandoned pet care programs per day, per pet, can be roughly $25 according to some sources


– Other

However, there’s also the financial cost of running shelters and rescues, and of veterinarian fees specifically for euthanization


Top Reasons Why People Give Up Their Pets

Read more on the reasons why people surrender or give up, or even re-home their pets in this guide.


Potential Solutions To Pet Abandonment, Pet Overpopulation, & Animals Entering Shelters

There’s a range of potential solutions to deal with the issues of pet abandonment, pet overpopulation, and pets entering shelters and rescues.


How Many Stray Animals Are In The US?

Paraphrased from onegreenplanet.org, there might be around 70 million stray animals living in the US right now


How Many Pets Are Re-Homed In The US Each Year?

Paraphrased from aspca.org, there might be over one million owners that re-home their pets each year (on average) in the US right now


How Many Pets Enter Animal Shelters Each Year?


[It’s estimated] that 5–7 million pets are admitted to shelters each year in the US (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)



More than 100,000 dogs and more than 30,000 cats enter animal shelters annually in Spain (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)


How Many Pets In Shelters Are Euthanized Each Year?

Of the estimated 7.6 million animals who enter animal shelters each year, approximately 2.7 million are euthanized (aspca.org)


How Many Pets From Shelters Are Adopted Each Year?

In the US: Approximately 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats) (aspca.org)


How Many Pets From Shelters Are Returned To Their Owners?

In the US: About 710,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners. Of those, 620,000 are dogs and only 90,000 are cats (aspca.org)


Stats On Total Pet Ownership Numbers In The US

Read more about pet shelter stats, pet surrender and other pet statistics at aspca.org 

These statistics are updated yearly, and can change


Potential Effects Of Animal & Pet Abandonment On Society

The potential effects might include:

– The physical and mental suffering of the pet

There is the neglect and loneliness that the animal has to deal with, along with basic survival such as having food, water, a safe and weather protected place to sleep and live

In extreme cases when owners are told they will have to wait or pay to drop a pet off at an animal shelter – animals can be tortured or killed by the owner

Read more about potential issues with some animal shelters and how animals can suffer at the peta.org resource


– The suffering of the owner and family members (especially children)

This can happen when owners have to unexpectedly give up their pet, or, they are forced to give up their pet because of financial factors or other factors


– Financial resources and people resources have an opportunity cost

Taxpayer dollars, and local council resources go towards managing stray animals

Donation and sponsorship dollars, and volunteer resources go towards managing shelters and rescues

Veterinary resources go towards treating abandoned animals and shelter/rescue animals

All of these costs and resources have an opportunity cost and could be 


– Impact on human health and public health

There can in some instances be an impact on human health and public health with stray animals

One example is the risk of rabies for humans when there are stray animals in an area


– Impact on cities, towns and places where people and animals live

One of the major impacts can be on the aesthetics of a place if there are more stray animals living in the streets.


Financial Cost Of Stray Pets To Society

The financial cost of stray animals and animals that enter into shelters can reach into the billions annually in some countries.


Stray Animals

… the care of stray pets carries a large public and private cost (e.g. $2 billion per year in the in the US) (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)


It costs approximately $150 to capture, house, feed, and eventually kill each stray animal – a cost which you, the taxpayer, eventually pay (petsforliferescue.rescuegroups.org)


Shelters & Euthanasia

[For] the impoundment, sheltering, euthanasia and subsequent disposal of homeless animals – U.S. taxpayers shell out between one to two billion dollars annually (onegreenplanet.org)




1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4494419/

2. https://www.aspca.org/blog/new-study-spotlights-need-help-people-keep-their-pets

3. https://www.aspcapro.org/resource/disaster-cruelty-animal-cruelty/costs-caring-seized-animals

4. https://petsforliferescue.rescuegroups.org/info/display?PageID=9515

5. https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/aspca-report-pets-given-up-to-shelters_n_56896846e4b06fa68882a134

6. https://www.petfinder.com/pet-adoption/dog-adoption/pets-relinquished-shelters/

7. https://www.nextavenue.org/why-people-give-up-beloved-pets/

8. https://www.rspcaqld.org.au/blog/breaking-news/top-reasons-people-surrendered-their-pets-2017 

9. https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/about/2018-annual-report

10. https://www.peta.org/issues/animal-companion-issues/animal-shelters/

11. https://www.aspcapro.org/blog/2015/12/16/we-cant-fix-poverty-we-can-fix-%E2%80%A6

12. https://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics

13. https://www.aspca.org/about-us/press-releases/more-1-million-households-forced-give-their-beloved-pet-each-year-aspca

14. https://www.americanhumane.org/position-statement/animal-population-control/

15. https://blogs.uoregon.edu/ladislayw15gateway/

16. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/pet-abandonment-up-adopti_n_349626

17. https://www.onegreenplanet.org/animalsandnature/12-alarming-facts-about-pet-homelessness/

18. https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/pet-helpline

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