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Dog Population & Dog Sheltering Trends in the United States of America

By Andrew Rowan, Tamara Kartal

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The pet overpopulation problem in the United States has changed significantly since the 1970s. The purpose of this review is to document these changes and propose factors that have been and are currently driving the dog population dynamics in the US. In the 1960s, about one quarter of the dog population was still roaming the streets (whether owned or not) and 10 to 20-fold more dogs were euthanized in shelters compared to the present. We present data from across the United States which support the idea that, along with increased responsible pet ownership behaviors, sterilization efforts in shelters and private veterinary hospitals have played a role driving and sustaining the decline in unwanted animals entering shelters (and being euthanized). Additionally, data shows that adoption numbers are rising slowly across the US and have become an additional driver of declining euthanasia numbers in the last decade. We conclude that the cultural shift in how society and pet owners relate to dogs has produced positive shelter trends beyond the decline in intake. The increased level of control and care dog owners provide to their dogs, as well as the increasing perception of dogs as family members, are all indicators of the changing human-dog relationship in the US.


Katie Osborn

Publication Title Animals
Volume 8
Issue 5
ISBN/ISSN 2076-2615
Publisher Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • Andrew Rowan; Tamara Kartal (2018), "Dog Population & Dog Sheltering Trends in the United States of America,"

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  1. Animal housing
  2. Animal management
  3. Animal shelters
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Dogs
  6. Euthanasia
  7. Human-animal relationships
  8. Mammals
  9. open access
  10. peer-reviewed
  11. shelters
  12. sterilization
  1. open access
  2. peer-reviewed