Humane Society of Central Illinois

The Homeless Animal Population.  What's the Problem?

Causes of Overpopulation

In the United States 2,000 to 3,000 puppies and kittens are born every hour. That averages out to more than 30 million animals a year. The sad fact is every litter, planned or accidental, adds to pet overpopulation. The cycle must stop before it starts -- before that first litter.

Only one out of ten of these animals will find a permanent home. The rest of these animals will be abandoned on the street or in shelters. An abandoned dog has a life expectancy of one year, a cat slightly longer.

Why is there such a swollen animal population?

Where do these animals come from?

Lack of Commitment and Responsibility

Pets require a good deal of commitment and responsibility. Many people do not realize the care and commitment a pet requires until it is too late. They think they can simply let an animal loose once they tire of it, or they think the animal shelters can provide it a home.

The Disposable Pet

Our disposable society has created a new commodity: the disposable pet. Over the years the homeless animal population has skyrocketed due to the following reasons: lack of commitment on the part of the pet owner, the belief that pets are disposable, the misconception that the Humane Society or shelters can take care of all unwanted pets, and failure of the pet owner to spay and neuter animals.

Pet overpopulation is not the millions of surplus animals born each year but one animal or one litter turned in, given away, sold, abandoned or no longer cared for. This correlation is rarely understood by the individuals turning in, giving away, selling, or abandoning their animals.

Getting a Pet for the Wrong Reasons

People may buy a pet for several reasons: They want company, they want a cute animal, it would be nice for the children, or they get a pet as a present. The novelty of a pet quickly wears off once the owner realizes the animal requires commitment - food, shots, neutering, and attention.

Taking the dog outside and cleaning out the cat box are not fun and often the owner does not anticipate the care involved. After perhaps a year, the animal needs a new home. Many people buy kittens and puppies because they are young and cute, but are unwilling to care for these animals once they reach adulthood and are no longer small and cute.

Dumping Pets

Once an owner doesn't want a pet they may think they can simply let it loose. Animals left in the street to fend for themselves have a life expectancy of less than a year. They will die of starvation, overexposure, or get hit by a car. Pets are domestic animals; they are used to being taken care of and their survival instincts are poor. On their own, they are totally helpless.

Pet owners don't realize that cats' and dogs' survival skills have been dulled considerably by domestication. These animals do not know how to survive in the wild, how to stay alive, where to find food and shelter. It is cruel and inhumane to turn an animal out into the streets.

As a consequence, large groups of dogs have been know to form packs and roam underpopulated areas of town. These animals may have rabies in addition to other diseases and fleas. If the animals don't die, there is a chance that they will reproduce, further adding to the growing homeless animal population.

The Humane Society Can Always Find It a Good Home

The truth is that for every ten pets in need of a home, there is only one person willing to adopt. The rest of these animals will be sent to shelters and will ultimately be destroyed. Because of the overcrowding at local shelters, stray animals that are brought in are kept for a maximum of three days. If they are unclaimed by that time they are destroyed.

Pet Owners Don't Spay or Neuter Their Animals

This oversight on the part of the owner is the biggest contribution to the number of unwanted animals that are overpopulating animal shelters. The operation is not very expensive and will assure your pet's happiness.

One of the reasons owners do not spay or neuter their pets is because they think it will hurt the animal. Some owners are even concerned it may make a cat or dog lazy or inactive. The truth is that spaying or neutering your animal will make it friendlier and more content. If an animal is neutered while it is still young, it will usually not become aggressive.

All animals acquired through the Humane Society of Central Illinois must be spayed or neutered in order to prevent further population growth.

Solving The Overpopulation Problem

By taking simple steps, you as a pet owner can slow the overpopulation process. If every pet owner followed the guidelines below, there would not be an overpopulation problem.

Realize That Owning a Pet Takes a Commitment

Before you buy a pet be sure you understand the care and commitment involved. A pet requires a lot of time, attention and money.

Are you willing to pay for food and veterinary bills? Will you take a dog for a walk at night, even in the cold and rain? Realize that this is a lifelong commitment to the animal. Do not adopt or buy a pet if you are not sure you are ready to make this commitment.

Realize That Pets Are Not Disposable

They cannot be turned loose in the street. If you can no longer keep a pet, do not turn it loose in the street. Try to get it a proper home by going through your local Humane Society or a related organization.

Shelters And Pounds Are Overcrowded

Think twice before you breed your pets even if they are purebred. Do you want to bring more animals into an already glutted population? Don't breed your pets simply for the reason that "children should witness the birth process." If you want to educate them, show them a film.

Spay And Neuter Your Pets

A simple operation can stop the growth of the animal population. Unless you are a professional breeder, your pets should be "fixed" to prevent unwanted and unneeded growth in the animal population.