Unfortunately, most of the US animal shelter statistics for 2021 paint a sad story.

There’s been a decline in the number of animals entering shelters over the past decade, but sadly, many pets are still euthanized each year.

Numbers matter. They may make some reconsider where they get their companion animal from. Others might be encouraged to volunteer.

In any case, the action is needed, and hopefully, these facts and stats will encourage you to take it.

The Top 10 Animal Shelter Statistics to Be Mindful of

  • There are 3,500 animal shelters in the US.
  • Altogether, there are around 14,000 shelters and rescue groups in the US.
  • No-kill shelters attempt to save 9 out of 10 animals.
  • More than 6 million animals enter animal shelters across the US every year.
  • 710,000 strays are returned to their owners each year.
  • Dog adoptions soared to 10–13 a day during the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • 625,000 pets were euthanized in 2019.
  • Animal shelter facts and statistics reveal that PETA euthanized 1,614 animals in 2019.
  • About 30% of animals in shelters are left there by their owners.
  • Animal shelters cost US citizens, almost $2 billion every year.

Having all the data will raise some awareness among animal lovers—and other people too. So, keep reading to learn more about the state of abandoned pets in 2021.

How Many Animal Shelters Are in the US Today?

Nonprofit rescue organizations and animal shelters care for abandoned, abused, and neglected animals. There are two types of animal shelters: municipal (kill) and no-kill shelters.

But, are there enough shelters in the US to take care of every poor abandoned soul?

1. There are 3,500 animal shelters in the US.

(HSUS)

How many kill shelters are in the US? Too many!

Municipal shelters are also known as kill shelters. They are brick-and-mortar institutions that take in strays and abandoned pets. When a shelter is full, or its animals are old and sick, it’s policy to euthanize the animals.

2.  Altogether, there are around 14,000 shelters and rescue groups in the US.

(HSUS, NPR)

No-kill shelters and non profit rescue organizations also operate in the US, in addition to kill shelters. They rely on donations and staff to keep going, unlike the government-funded municipal shelters.

No-Kill Animal Shelter Statistics

No-kill shelters try to save every animal, heal them, and treat any behavioral issues they may have. These shelters focus on safety and high-quality of life.

3. No-kill shelters attempt to save 9 out of 10 animals.

(NPR)

In no-kill shelters, 90% of the animals brought in are adopted or rehomed. But, this doesn’t mean that these institutions do not apply euthanasia. There is still a 10% margin in which elderly and sick pets can be put down.

4. No-kill shelters can become overcrowded.

(PETA)

As a result of the 90% benchmark, many no-kill shelters turn away unwanted pets, as cats and dog shelter statistics show.

5. There are over 4,000 no-kill communities in America.

(Today)

Even a no-kill community sometimes euthanizes animals. However, they can maintain their “no-kill” status as long as they achieve a save rate of at least 90%.

6. In 1994, San Francisco became the first no-kill city.

(Best Friends Animal Society)

Rich Avanzino was considered the father of the no-kill movement. Animal shelters facts point out that he established an adoption pact with the San Francisco Animal Care & Control. This made San Francisco the first no-kill city in the US.

7. Delaware became the first no-kill state in 2019.

(CBSN)

Delaware has a save rate of 92.9%. This means that around 12,000 of the 13,000 pets in shelters were returned to their owners or adopted. So far, Delaware is the first and only no-kill state in the US.

8. On average, the US saves 76.6% of shelter animals.

(CBSN)

Texas and California have the lowest save rates. According to the animal euthanasia statistics, in both these states, less than 75% of shelter animals are rehomed.

9. The goal of animal activists is to make the US a no-kill zone by 2025.

(Today)

Even though it might seem a bit challenging, animal lovers believe that it can be done. So far, the number of euthanized animals keeps going down, and the number of rehomed pets is increasing.

How Many Dogs are in Shelters?

Even though the number of dogs in shelters has declined, there are still too many abandoned pups. Let’s see the precise numbers.

10. More than 6 million pets enter animal shelters across the US every year.

(PETA)

Animal shelter statistics from 2020 show that there are about 70 million stray animals on the US streets at any given time.

Only 10% of them (a bit more than 6 million) enter the shelters. The rest lives on the street — freezing during the winter and suffering from heat exhaustion during the summer.

11. The number of pets in shelters is declining.

(ASPCA)

2011 was one of the worst years for pets in shelters. There were 7.2 million pets taken in by animal shelters in the US.

Thanks to adoption and rehoming, that number has declined by over a million by 2019, as shelter animal statistics reveal.

12. Only 10% of the animals going into shelters are neutered.

(DoSomething, One Green Planet)

The low number of spayed or neutered animals could lead to “overpopulation,” and thus, an even greater number of euthanized animals.

Shelter dog statistics estimate that an unspayed dog and her puppies can produce 67,000 dogs in just six years if left unchecked. One female cat that hasn’t been spayed, along with her offspring, can create 420,000 cats in seven years.

13. A quarter of the dogs abandoned in shelters are purebred, Humane Society statistics reveal.

(DoSomething, One Green Planet, Humane Society)

Almost 25% of the dogs that enter local animal shelters have a documented pedigree. Most of the purebred dogs in shelters are pit bulls. Sadly, they’re among the least wanted dogs in the US.

Homeless Animal Statistics: How Many Pets Leave Animal Shelters?

The stigma surrounding shelter animals has been lifted over the years, and people tend to adopt instead of shop for a pet. But, sadly, not all homeless animals get adopted.

14. 710,000 strays are returned to their owners each year.

(ASPCA, DoSomething)

Out of all the strays that enter US animal shelters, 620,000 dogs are returned to their owners. And 90,000 cats are reunited with their owners, as the stray animal statistics show.

15. Microchipping increases return rates.

(ScienceDaily)

Cats that are microchipped are 20 times more likely to be returned to their owners. Dogs that had a microchip are 2.5 times more likely to get reunited with their owners than other strays in the shelter.

16. Approximately 1.6 million dogs are adopted from shelters every year.

(ASPCA)

Another 1.6 million cats are adopted from animal shelters each year, making the total number of adopted pets reach 3.2 million.

So, what percentage of pets are adopted? The history shows that of the 6.5 million cats and dogs brought into shelters, just under 50% get adopted.

The good news is that the adoption rates are increasing. However, there’s still much to be done to reduce the number of animals in shelters.

17. Dog adoptions soared to 10–13 a day during the Covid-19 pandemic.

(The Washington Post)

According to pet adoption statistics, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles, recorded new records. The nonprofit shelter recorded double numbers of adoption compared to the previous year.

The Animal Care Centers of NYC also reports good news. 25% of people who have taken in foster dogs during the pandemic have adopted them, shaping the history of animal shelters.

Still, more than a third of the 78 million dogs owned in the US were bought from a breeder.

(SAC)

Shelters took in over 900,000 cats during 2020. The great majority of them were stray cats. However, their number is gradually decreasing, according to the Shelter Animals Count (SAC) data.

The number of adopted cats was on the rise up until the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

19. Under 1% of the animals in shelters are irremediably suffering.

(No Kill Advocacy Center)

Irremediable suffering refers to animals who have low chances of living without severe pain or urgent medical attention. This means that 99% of pets in shelters are healthy and adoptable.

20. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, pet adoptions have decreased by 36% during 2020.

(Business Wire)

Even though dog adoptions are on the rise, the pandemic has affected the overall pet adoptions. The adoptions have slowed down, causing a significant drop in the adoption rates.

What Percentage of Animals are Killed in Shelters?

Unfortunately, many abandoned animals don’t live to see old age. Many of them are killed due to the lack of shelter space, animals’ poor health, or to protect other animals’ safety and health.

21. 625,000 pets were euthanized in 2019.

(Best Friends Animal Society)

It’s a fact that this number is incredibly high. It’s actually the second consecutive year recorded that the total number of dogs and cats killed in US animal shelters dropped to under one million, according to the animal euthanasia facts.

22. 17 million shelter animals were killed in America in 1984.

(Best Friends Animal Society)

This shockingly large number prompted animal activists to take charge and initiate the no-kill movement across the US.

23. Animal shelter facts and statistics reveal that PETA euthanized 1,614 animals in 2019.

(PETA)

Even PETA euthanizes animals. They claim they do so to relieve the animals of suffering, illness, and pain. Even though they help many animals, they still kill a substantial number of them.

24. More cats are killed than dogs.

(American Humane, Best Friends Animal Society)

About 625,000 cats and dogs entered US shelters in 2019. More dogs enter shelters, but more cats are killed. Approximately 70% of all killed animals were cats.

The majority of cats that enter shelters don’t have owner identification and thus are less likely to be returned to their owners.

25. Euthanasia means “good death.”

(PETA)

How do animal shelters euthanize animals? Proper euthanasia is done through intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital, which is quick and painless.

26. Some shelters use inhumane methods to euthanize animals.

(PETA)

The sad truth is that many animal shelters still use decompression or gas chambers. This method not only euthanizes animals in an inhumane manner, but it also allows other animals to watch them suffer.

Some municipal officers euthanize pets with gunshots to the head, which is even more upsetting. This isn’t always immediately effective and causes even more pain and suffering to the pet, as the animal shelter euthanasia facts indicate.

27. Animal activists are trying to put an end to inhumane euthanasia.

(HSUS)

Since 2013, around 70 shelters in 13 US states have chosen to shut down their gas chambers. There are currently 27 states that entirely ban the use of these chambers on pets, while four still use gas to euthanize shelter animals.

The end goal is to pass a ban on gas chambers in all 50 states.

28. The main reason for euthanasia is overpopulation.

(Petful)

Why do animal shelters kill animals? The answer is overcrowding, meaning that there are too many animals for shelters to take in.

Other reasons for euthanasia include elderly or sick animals. When an animal becomes ill, animal shelters euthanize the animal to stop the disease from spreading. Often when an animal is ill and in pain, the humane choice is to end its suffering.

29. 5 states account for 50% of shelter animals being killed in America.

(Today, Best Friends Animal Society)

And, according to the cat and dog euthanasia rates by state, almost all are in the South.

Texas tops the list with around 125,000 animals killed in shelters. California is second with 110,000, followed by Florida with 66,000, and North Carolina with 62,000 euthanized animals.

According to the Georgia animal shelter statistics, the state follows with 43,000 killed shelter animals round out the five states.

30. Three out of four Americans are against euthanizing animals.

(No Kill Advocacy Center)

Around 75% of Americans believe that it shouldn’t be legal to kill an animal if it’s healthy or can be treated by a vet. According to animal shelter facts and surveys, as many as 96% of US citizens believe humans are morally obliged to protect animals.

Abandoned Pets Facts: Why Do People Leave Their Pets in Animal Shelters?

Sometimes life happens. People get sick, get into debt, or move to the other side of the world and can’t take care of their pets. Of course, sometimes people abandon their pets for selfish reasons. Here are some of the most common ones.

31. About 30% of the animals in shelters are left there by their owners.

(Animal Foundation Platform)

Just for comparison, 42.5% of the animals in US shelters are impounded by animal control. Even though animal control takes in more strays, the percentage of abandoned pets is still pretty high.

32. Problems with the pet are the primary reason people abandon their animals.

(ASPCA)

So, how many animals are abandoned each year?

Looking at the stats, almost 47% of rehomed dogs and 42% of rehomed cats are abandoned by owners due to pet problems.

Pet problems include aggressive behavior, animals growing larger than expected, and health issues the owners couldn’t deal with.

33. Moving to a new place is why 8% of owners leave their pets.

(Petfinder)

Other causes for people abandoning their pets include living in a no-pet zone, incompatibility with other pets, and expenses.

About a third of the US is allergic to cats and dogs. Some 4% of cat and dog owners said they abandoned their animal companion due to personal problems, as animal shelter stats indicate.

Surprisingly, 11% of cat owners said they left their pet because they had too many household animals.

34. Most of the pets in shelters had been owned for less than one year.

(Petfinder)

Around 37.1% of dogs and 30% of cats were kept up to a year in shelters before being relinquished by their owners.

35. Pets from friends are the most likely to be abandoned.

(Petfinder)

Animal shelters statistics reveal that 32% of dogs and 33.2% of cats left in shelters were present from a friend. Gifted pets account for the largest number of relinquished companion animals.

36. Only 20% of people return an animal to a shelter.

(Animal Foundation Platform)

Around a fifth of the people who adopted a pet from an animal shelter end up taking it back.

Animal Shelter Funding Statistics

Taking care of millions of abandoned animals requires extensive funds. They’re typically collected by donations and funded by the government.

37. Animal shelters cost US citizens up to $2 billion every year.

(One Green Planet, PetMD)

The total cost of animals picked up by animal control and their sheltering, euthanasia, or disposal ranges between $1 to $2 billion annually.

Government funding for animal shelters is how most shelters get their funds. However, shelters also raise money through crowdfunding, fundraising events, and donations.

38. Not all animal organizations need donations.

(Activist Facts)

One of those organizations is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Their 2019 total registered revenue counted $271,999,050, according to the animal shelter statistics from 2020.

39. Maddie’s Fund alone has donated over $237.6 million in grants.

(Maddie’s Fund)

Maddie’s Fund is one of the leading animal rights foundations. They’ve made numerous donations toward community lifesaving, medical education, foster care, etc.

FAQ

40. Why are there so many stray cats?

Overpopulation is the number one reason for stray or abandoned animals—only 2% of stray cats are neutered or spayed. Public opinion also plays a role. 81% of Americans think that leaving a cat outside is better than having it euthanized.

41. How many animals are abused each year?

It’s estimated that around one million animals are abused every year. 250,000 alone are victims of animal hoarding.

Animal abuse statistics report that there’s a close relationship between animal and domestic violence. 71% of domestic violence survivors reported that their abuser had also injured, killed, or threatened to kill the household pet.

42. Do animal shelters need volunteers?

Volunteers are always needed, especially in nonprofit rescue organizations. If you’re 16 or over and wondering how to help animal shelters, volunteering is always a good idea.

Bear in mind that volunteers at no-kill shelters and rescue groups work for free. Unlike the workers in government-funded animal shelters who make about $35K a year.

The jobs they’re given range from walking dogs, feeding and cleaning cages to offering adoption counseling, and doing administrative chores.

Animal shelters also need pet foster parents to look after the animals. The animal usually stays with a foster parent for a few weeks to a couple months.

43. How long do animals stay in shelters before being put down?

As a rule, animal shelters wait at least 72 hours from when an animal is brought in before euthanizing it.

44. How many animals die in shelters each year?

For dogs, pit bulls take the lead. Almost 93% of the pit bulls that enter animal shelters are killed. They’re also the hardest to find homes for, as only one in 600 pit bulls will be adopted.

For cats, it’s the color, not the breed. Black cats have the highest euthanasia rate and are the least likely to be rehomed.

The Bottom Line

Why are animal shelters important? Animal shelters care for homeless or abandoned animals and try to give them a home or a humane death if there’s a need for it. Without them, there would be countless animals on the street.

However, not all animal shelters care for pets as they should. Many of these animals end up being euthanized or abused.

The primary way to help animals and animal shelters, for that matter, is to spay or neuter your pets. As the animal shelter statistics for 2021 indicate, it’s the best way to reduce the number of abandoned and euthanized animals.

Sources:

3 comments
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  2. Great article but you left out one of the cruelest methods used for killing dogs and cats. It’s called the heart stick or intracardial injection. It is absolutely disgusting, barbaric, and cruel as a gas chamber. They take a long needle filled with heart stopping medication and stab it directly into the animals heart. The animal is awake during this procedure. As you may have guessed, they miss a lot, even if the animal stays still which they don’t thus end up stabbing the dog or cat multiple times. Miami Dade used to use this method now they are no kill. But many shelters still use the heart stick today, even if laws state otherwise. South Carolina expressly allows it.

    Also, some cities have animal control offices but don’t offer adoptions at all! Only reclaims by owners. If no one claims the pet, its killed. The poor animals have no chance in these areas. Some, smaller cities transfer picked up animals to a county shelter. But not all.

    Finally, some shelters immediately put down animals that are surrendered by their owners. Of course, they don’t tell the owner that, not that they’d care since they are dumping them. Some other reasons people dump their pets. ( these are actual reasons that really happen across the country.)

    The pet doesn’t match my new sofa (No kidding, I heard them say it.) Apparently; the cat was white and the sofa was black. But this happens more than you think.)

    We are having a baby. (so what, your pet is your baby and your responsibility)

    We are moving to a place that doesn’t allow pets. (Seriously!)

    I am about to be homeless. (many homeless people have pets.)

    It sheds too much. (um, yeah what did you expect)

    It doesn’t want to play or run and has diarrhea. ( Purebred Doberman was returned to the shelter twice before we got him. He was suffering from heart worms and was close to dead. No wonder he didn’t want to run and play!!! We got him treatment, and he lived another 10 years. One of the best dogs I’ve ever known)

    It has something wrong with it, and we don’t want to deal with it. (Very common, people bring in animals that are very sick due to neglect, many are emaciated, and others have broken bones with no explanation of how they got them.)

    I don’t have time for it. (Same as the previous but some idiots think dumping a pet at a kill shelter is better than living inside a house. No matter if they’re home or not. )

    It’s got a disability. (Backyard breeders and puppy mills get lots of puppies that are deformed or have other disabilities due to inbreeding and breeding animals that should never be bred in the first place. They are dumped. Even blind puppies are dumped. Imagine how scary that would be for them. Breeders don’t care.)

    It won’t walk on a leash. (Yep, people actually say this! Funny part is that the staff will put a leash on them when they take the animal from the owner and it walks perfectly. Making the owner look like a fool. Nope, they looked like a fool already! )

    It wants too much attention. (Is this, not what all of us want? Is that too much to ask? Does your child want attention too? Yes, I bet they do.)

    The list of pathetic excuses from people who abandon their pets goes on and on. The truth is there isn’t a good reason to dump a pet. You wouldn’t dump your child, so what’s the difference. Pets are family, not status symbols or accessories that you can trash whenever you want. When you become the soul care giver for a pet, you are responsible for that pet for its entire life. Not just when you feel like it.

    Breeders are a huge problem and should be mentioned. Backyard breeders and puppy mills breed for money, not quality. Breeding millions of puppies, and kittens each year causing severe overpopulation They inbreed and continually breed the same females over and over again. Why? Because getting a new female costs money that they don’t have or want to spend. They spend the absolute least amount of money on basic care and food. Honestly, some don’t spend a dime on basic care; puppy mills are known for this. Many are kept in tiny cages their entire lives.Terrified of people and with good reason. So, the animals suffer. Some breeds require c-sections to deliver puppies.Imagine having a c-section every year of your life. Until they no longer can produce and are dumped at the shelter. Very similar to dairy cows except they’re slaughtered for dog food. People that breed pit bulls and labradors are insane and well plain stupid! Those two breeds make up the bulk of dogs killed in shelters! Many counties will not allow a pit bull or any dog that the shelter “thinks” may have pit bull in it to be adopted. No matter how sweet they are. Shelters rarely get breeds correct. They call everything that has a bull dog looking face a pit bull. When none of them look anything like a pit bull. Some call them all pit mixes. In fact most people have no idea what a real pit bull looks like! It makes no sense why they’d want to doom a dog over their ignorance.

    I recall a shelter having a purebred mastiff and a purebred Belgian Malinois. The shelter tagged these dogs as pit mix and shepherd mix. WTF! Thankfully, for these two dogs I got in touch with breed rescues, and they were saved. But it happens all the time, every day. Someone may search for a mastiff and never see it because its breed was not listed correctly. I’ve seen purebred Havanese, Vizsla, Rhodesian Ridge backs, PBGVs, Brittany Spaniels, Dutch shepherds, Giant Schnauzers, Chihuahuas, rare breeds, and countless others almost die because they were marked mix breed, lab mix, pit mix, terrier mix, etc.

    Shelters also mark small dogs like Chihuahuas with a sign that says bites! Small dogs that are terrified and scared to death will snip at you. But you take that little one out of the hell hole they’re in and you’ll have a loving little angel. It happens to big dogs as well. Shelter staff for the moat part are clueless and cost more lives due to incompetence that you could ever imagine. PLEASE NEVER BUY A PET, ALWAYS ADOPT AND GO TO THE SHELTER. MOST PETS ARE NOT LISTED ONLINE OR ARE INCORRECT!!

    REMEMBER, EVERY TIME SOMEONE BUYS A PET; A SHELTER PET DIES.

  3. A family member just had a female dog have 12 puppies. She claims it was an accident. Two or three of them died. She kept two and the others were given away. My point is there never should have been twelve pups to start with as the dog should have been spayed. She got a new boyfriend with an unneutered male dog and well her female got with him and hey it was an accident and accidents happen. I have been preaching spay and neutering to her. WE WERE TOLD TO MIND OUR OWN DAMN BUSINESS. Spaying and neutering and unwanted litters are everybody’s business near as I am concerned. I have volunteered for a low cost spay and neuter clinic and I worked for a vet for four years. Unwanted litters and animal shelters bursting at the seams are everybody’s business. To be honest I would love to smack her in her mouth for that rude comment. Now the pups are gone minus two that they decided to keep which means they now have mom/dad and two pups with the possibility of any of them being spayed and or neutered remote. One of the pups went to a small home with seven people. Seven people who most times are trying to find help for food and help with bills. Not to mention the house is always full of smoke. What animal wants to live in that mess. This pup did not find a good home and most likely will be surrendered before all is said and done. The comment to MIND MY OWN DAMN BUSINESS WAS CRAP…TIL EVERY DOG AND CAT HAS A HOME AND TIL ALL SHELTERS ARE EMPTY ACCIDENTAL LITTERS ARE AND SHOULD BE EVERYBODY’S CONCERN AND BUSINESS. Like the post says REMEMBER, EVERY TIME SOMEONE BUYS A PET; A SHELTER PET DIES. That is my business. To all who take this seriously and preach it THANK YOU…

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