Most loves animals; at least the ones attending veterinary technician school. But they do have their place. Some people like them for a while, and then get tired of them and don’t get rid of them the proper way. A lot of them are just dropped off in cemeteries or fields. Many are not even fixed. When these animals are set back to the wild, they do what animals naturally do: procreate. We need to better educate the public about animal care and responsibilities, and the effects that happen when they dispose of them improperly. Pet overpopulation is out of control and there’s only so much the animal lovers can do.
Analyzing the numbers associated with animal overpopulation is staggering. One estimate said there are 10 million cats and dogs that are euthanized each year by shelters and veterinary offices because they are unwanted. The number of unwanted animals is even higher than that. There are animals that owners personally dispose of and animals that are dumped in fields, cemeteries and such. Most of the animals that are dumped somewhere are not fixed. They do what animals naturally do: procreate. One model showed how these numbers create the overpopulation that is currently faced. “A fertile unsprayed cat produces an average of three litters a year. In a seven-year span, one cat and her offspring can produce an overwhelming 420,000 cats… An average unsprayed dog can produce two litters a year, leading to 67,000 births over six years.” (Spears, 1995) As hard as they may try and with the best intentions, animal lovers just can’t keep up with these staggering numbers of both in the shelter and dumped animals.
Dr. Stephen Zawistowski of the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy says: “I see it as a commitment issue… There just aren’t enough homes willing to commit to the lifetime of an animal.” He also says that “…overpopulation problem as part of the ‘throwaway’ mentality that pervades our society.” The pet population needs to equal the demand. Right now, population way out numbers the demand. Some of it is because of irresponsibility on the part of the pet owner. Some is from a lack of education informing prospective owners what all is needed to care for a pet, and how long they will need to commit to this acquisition.
There are a couple of suggestions on how to deal with this overpopulation. Frequently, one shelter is filled to beyond capacity while another has space because they have a lot of adoptions being done. One thought is to move the animals from the overpopulated shelter to the shelter that has a high rate of adoptions. The problem faced with this is the transmission of diseases and over stressing the animal. It could be accomplished. It would just take a detailed plan of disease prevention to work effectively. Another thought was to capture feral animals, spay or neuter them, and then release them back out. That wouldn’t completely solve the problem, but it would slow down the increasing numbers. Robert Weedon, DVM, MPH has offered another suggestion. When animals are captured, inject them with rabies vaccine and a sterility. He says that this would help the animal population, and save human lives. Researchers published their findings from a study done in the September 2006 issue of The Veterinary Record that tested this theory. The study was carried out in Jaipur, India on almost 25,000 unowned dogs over an eight-year period. They found that “the number of unowned dogs in the community decreased by almost one-third.” An estimation done by the Association for the Prevention and Control of Rabies in India said that more than 20,000 people die of rabies each year; most of them being children. With the study that was done, they not only saw a decrease in unowned dogs, but the number of people infected by dogs that had rabies decreased to zero. That is a win-win for dogs and humans.
The animal overpopulation problem is far from over. It is going to take education and hard work to make any significant difference. Animal owners need to be more responsible and try to be more educated regarding the care for their animal. Veterinaries need to help new pet owners completely understand all that is going to be involved in caring for their animal: for the lifetime of the animal. There are both traditional ways and new ideas on how to physically treat the issue. No matter the way, something needs to be done. It is not the sole responsibility of the animal lover to remedy the issue of animal overpopulation.
- Boone, et al. (2019, July). A Long-Term Lens: Cumulative Impacts of Free-Roaming Cat Management Strategy and Intensity on Preventable Cat Mortalities. Frontiers in Veterinary Science, 6:238, 1-9. doi:10.3389/fvets.2019.00238
- Spears, B. E. (1995, Sep). Pet Overpopulation: The Problem Multiplies. the Environmental Magazine, 6(5), 32. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/229069055?accountid=144845
- Weedon, G. R. (2010, Jan). The Potential to Control Pet Overpopulation – and Save Human Lives. Veterinary Medicine, 105(1), 8.
- Whitcomb, R. (2010). Understanding Pet Overpopulation. DVM Newsmagazine, 30.