The Awful Truth About Dog Shelter Statistics

There are several organizations that research and publish animal shelter statistics. The ASPCA, HSUS, NPR, and PETA, to name a few. The numbers, however, can never be accurately reported. 

The American Humane Association has reported that euthanasia data are difficult to obtain, due to the fact that animal agencies are not required to keep statistics on the number of animals that are taken in, adopted or killed.

In fact, the ASPCA includes the following statement on their shelter-statistics page, ‘These estimates are based in part on Shelter Animals Count data and other known and estimated sources, 2015-2018’.

Dog on concrete

How Do Dogs End Up In Shelters?

The most common reason that animals are being collected and taken into municipal shelters is because they are strays.

Dogs who were taken to shelters by their owners were surrendered for the following reasons:

  • Owners moving
  • Landlord not allowing pet
  • Too many animals in household
  • Cost of pet maintenance
  • Owner having personal problems
  • Inadequate facilities
  • No homes available for litter mates
  • Owner having no time for pet
  • Pet illness(es)
  • Biting

Can I Drop My Dog Off at The Shelter?

Unfortunately this is a question which is common. For most people I’m sure it is a heart-wrenching decision. The simple answer is yes, you can take your dog to a shelter, but they are busy, overcrowded places so may be unable to take them immediately.

How Many Dogs Are Euthanized in Shelters?

As already stated, the data are difficult to obtain. There is no statutory requirement for Shelter and Rescue organizations to provide information regarding animals in their care.

A study carried out by PEEVA in 2019, estimates the number of pets euthanized in U.S. shelters every year to be between 9.4 to 9.6 million.

This is a hugely different number to the toll of 670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats reported by the ASPCA.

Best Friends Animal Society reports the five states in which the most animals are being killed are:

  • California (100,239) 
  • Texas (96,707)
  • North Carolina (47,652)
  • Florida (45,503)
  • Louisiana (32,150) 

Collectively, these states account for 52% of the animals killed in U.S. shelters during 2019.

Delaware is the only state which has a 100% no-kill policy.

Shelters which are termed ‘no-kill’, are not actually saving 100% of dogs in their care. But they are committed to saving 90% of the animals they take in. There are currently 2278 no-kill shelters in the U.S.

How Are Animals Euthanized In Shelters?

Most shelters in the US practice humane euthanasia which is a lethal injection of Pentobarbital.

There are four states, Ohio, Wyoming, Missouri and Utah, that are known to still actively use gas chambers in animal shelters. This is a situation which The Humane Society of America is hoping to change. For more information on this, visit humanesociety.org/gaschambers.

How Do I Find a New Home For My Dog?

If at all possible, you could consider rehoming your dog yourself. At least then they have a chance of a happy life, with someone you have deemed worthy of having a dog. REHOME is a fabulous organization where you can put your hound’s details in and search for potential adoptees.

How Do I Adopt A Dog?

If you are serious about giving a dog a second chance and providing a loving home for them, please read this guide, which takes you through every step of the process. These are just some of the questions to ask yourself before you even get to the shelter. 

  • Do I really want a dog?
  • What kind of dog will fit in with my lifestyle?
  • What can I offer a dog?
  • What type of dog will suit the whole family?
  • Can I make time for a dog?
  • Is it better to adopt from a shelter or rescue?
  • Is it better to adopt or buy a dog?

These are important considerations because you need to set yourself up for success, both for you, and your new dog.

2021 State Number of Shelter and Rescue Organizations

  • Arizona         225 
  • Arkansas        108 
  • California        1158 
  • Colorado         175 
  • Connecticut     188 
  • Delaware         26 
  • Florida         583 
  • Georgia          294 
  • Hawaii          11 
  • Idaho              56 
  • Illinois              331 
  • Indiana          242 
  • Iowa              102 
  • Kansas         97 
  • Kentucky         150 
  • Louisiana         122 
  • Maine              54 
  • Maryland         176 
  • Massachusetts  157 
  • Michigan         357 
  • Minnesota        186 
  • Mississippi         70 
  • Missouri         222 
  • Montana         31
  • Nebraska         69 
  • Nevada         63
  • New Hampshire  52 
  • New Jersey         392 
  • New Mexico         62 
  • New York         331 
  • North Carolina    411 
  • North Dakota        18 
  • Ohio             468 
  • Oklahoma         145 
  • Oregon         142 
  • Pennsylvania       195 
  • Rhode Island         43 
  • South Carolina     159 
  • South Dakota        15 
  • Tennessee         275 
  • Texas             871 
  • Utah             66 
  • Vermont         39 
  • Virginia         241 
  • Washington         218 
  • West Virginia         63 
  • Wisconsin         186 
  • Wyoming         35 
  • Washington DC     8

Reported Numbers of Dogs Killed By State Shelters in 2019

  • California         100239
  • Texas             96707
  • North Carolina   47652
  • Florida         45503
  • Louisiana         32150
  • Georgia         29245
  • Alabama         23695
  • Oklahoma         18390
  • Hawaii             14730 
  • Michigan         14419 
  • Virginia         13169
  • Kentucky         12197
  • Arkansas         11417
  • Illinois             11393 
  • Indiana         11015 
  • South Carolina   10911
  • Tennessee         10882
  • New Mexico       10692
  • Mississippi         9186 
  • Maryland         9172 
  • Arizona         8783
  • Pennsylvania       8181
  • Ohio             7322
  • Missouri         6491
  • West Virginia      5966
  • New York         4056
  • New Jersey         5467
  • Colorado         5144
  • Kansas         4656
  • Nevada         4164
  • Minnesota         4005
  • Wisconsin         3976
  • Nebraska         3560
  • Washington       3186  
  • Idaho             3117
  • Massachusetts   2780
  • Iowa              2040
  • Utah             1990
  • South Dakota     1810
  • Oregon         1775
  • Alaska             1117
  • Wyoming         891
  • Washington DC    703
  • Montana         486
  • Maine              293
  • Connecticut         232
  • New Hampshire    159
  • North Dakota         148
  • Rhode Island         86
  • Vermont         52
  • Delaware         0

TOTAL = 625400

How Can You Help? 

Best Friends Animal Society aims to have 100% no-kill shelters by 2025. Animal shelters can only operate within their budgets, but communities can help by being informed and supporting local and national organizations. Visit https://bestfriends.org/2025-goal to get involved.

Since the major contributor to shelter numbers is strays, get your pet micro-chipped. Once your pet and their microchip are registered with a company like PEEVA, there is less chance of your beloved hound (or puss) being lost forever.
And finally, the big one. ADOPT, ADOPT, ADOPT!

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