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Most people are aware that animal shelters exist but what exactly is an animal shelter and why do we need them? An animal shelter is a building or area devoted to the temporary care and shelter of homeless or unwanted animals. Nearly every city in the United States has at least one animal shelter. Shelters require many employees and volunteers, and must follow various state and local laws and regulations.
The reason shelters are crucial is evident whenever you drive down the street. Those scared, starving homeless dogs and cats you see need someone to care for them. Uncontrolled breeding and irresponsible pet owners have resulted in a serious pet overpopulation problem and drastic measures are needed to curb the ever-increasing number of stray homeless dogs and cats.
Shelters are necessary to deal with the repercussions of pet overpopulation. They do not treat or stop the problem of unwanted pets. Without shelters, the stray pet population would be insurmountable. This would increase the spread of disease as well as increase the risk of injuries such as bites or scratches from these stray animals, living on the edge of survival.
Since many shelters function as non-profit entities, they rely on donations and gifts, as well as adoption fees, to function. Any donation, whether food, newspapers or even your time, would be greatly appreciated. Contact your local animal shelter if you would like to make a donation or volunteer.
It is estimated that there are currently over 62 million dogs with loving, caring owners in the United States. There are also over 64 million cats in the same situation, loved and well cared for. In addition to these fortunate pets, there are millions more that do their best to survive as homeless stray animals.
Throughout the United States, there are about 4,000 to 6,000 shelters. These shelters are responsible for temporarily caring for the 8 to 10 million dogs and cats that enter shelters every year. These animals are brought to the shelter either when found as strays or turned over by owners who no longer want them. Of these, about 4 to 6 million are euthanized annually, due to a lack of available homes or people willing to adopt them.
The cause of most of this overpopulation is irresponsible pet ownership and uncontrolled breeding. One female dog can produce about 2 litters of puppies a year. Each litter averages 6 to 10 puppies. If allowed to continue, over a 6-year period, one female dog and her offspring have the potential to produce around 67,000 puppies. Cat statistics are even more startling. One female cat has the potential to give birth to 3 litters per year with an average of 4-6 kittens per litter. Over a 7-year period, one cat and her offspring have the potential to produce 420,000 kittens!
Shelters and Euthanasia
Euthanasia of animals in shelters is a controversial issue. Unfortunately, most shelters have limited space, food and even love to provide to these unwanted animals. Someone decides which pets would have the best chance of being adopted and the others are euthanized, in order to allow the facility to care for the ever-increasing number of stray animals. There are a few “non-kill” shelters that provide a home for every pet housed at their facility until they are adopted or expire. The goal of “non-kill” shelters is to avoid the euthanasia of healthy, normal dogs and cats. The unfortunate aspect of “non-kill” shelters is the lack of space available. Many of these shelters run at full capacity and have long waiting lists of animals to join their shelter.
In our society, it seems that both types of shelters are necessary. The hope is that one day, overpopulation will be controlled and all shelters will be allowed to function as “non-kill” facilities.