PetSmart Keeping Pets Phase II

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Background and Literature Review In 1974 and 1976 the National Conferences on Dog and Cat Control were held in Denver, Colo., to address the topic of pet overpopulation in the United States5. These conferences were the combined effort of American Humane Association, the American Kennel Club, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the United States, and the Pet Food Alliance, and were held at a time when animal shelters were overrun with litters of abandoned puppies and kittens5. In the years following the conferences, the sheltering community’s primary method for lowering abandonment and euthanasia was curbing reproduction through national low-cost spay/neuter campaigns, and the slogan “LES is More,” an acronym for Legislation, Education, and Sterilization, evolved as the cornerstone of the campaign against overpopulation6.

“Although the number of pets euthanized each year in U.S. shelters today is considered far lower… than numbers reported in 1990, a civilized nation that cares about its pets seeks to have the number as low as possible.”

In 1992, pet overpopulation in the U.S. was again addressed with leaders of national humane organizations and breed registries, veterinary professionals, and epidemiologists. As a result, the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP) was launched. Ten organizations funded the two largest national research studies to date that examined pet owner characteristics and demographics and investigated characteristics and reasons for relinquishment of dogs and cats7. A multitude of meaningful findings came from the studies and have served as predominant sources of evidence informing the companion animal welfare community that are still widely cited today. In 1990, the number of dogs and cats estimated to be euthanized annually at U.S. shelters was between 11.1 and 18.6 million8. The NCPPSP has been credited with providing information that led to successful intervention strategies for retaining pets in homes (e.g., behavioral training classes in many pet stores and veterinary clinics) and reducing national euthanasia rates. Twenty years have passed since the initiation of the NCPPSP studies, and the sheltering community is eager to learn about the current dynamics of the unwanted pet population and the characteristics of adoption and retention in the U.S. today. Although the number of pets euthanized each year in U.S. shelters is now considered far lower (3 to 4 million) than numbers reported in 1990, a civilized nation that cares about its pets seeks to have the number as low as possible. Precise national estimations of unwanted, euthanized, and adopted pets are difficult to determine because of variable reporting methodologies between shelters, the absence of a centralized database, and differences in definitions of terms such as euthanasia and homelessness9. Mandatory spay/neuter laws at the local and state level across the country have yielded mixed results in decreasing homeless pet populations10. Local and regional low-cost, high-volume spay/neuter programs have also accomplished varying degrees of success around the country, with shelters in Asheville, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., reporting significant declines in euthanasia rates11, and experts in Austin, Texas, reporting far less impact than anticipated12. 5

Proceedings of the National Conference on Dog and Cat Control. (1976). Denver, Colo.: American Humane Association. 6 Rowan, A. N., & Williams, J. (1987). The success of companion animal management programs: A review. Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People & Animals, 1(2), 110-122. 7 Retrieved January 12, 2013. 8 Animal Shelter Reporting Study, 1990, American Humane Association. 9 Kass, P. H. (2007). Cat overpopulation in the United States. In: I. Rochlitz (ed). The Welfare of Cats, 119-139. Netherlands. 10 Coppola, R. (2010). Communities as Shelters: Examining America’s Pet Overpopulation Crisis, Controversy and Solutions, Part One: Starting a Dialogue. American Humane Association. 11 Retrieved December 31, 2012. 12 Retrieved December 31, 2012.


© 2013 American Humane Association.