In honor of Valentine’s Day, National Spay/Neuter Awareness Month (February), and World Spay Day (the last Thursday in February) — A letter from DOMESTIC ANIMAL COMPANIONS (PETS) UNITED FOR A BETTER FUTURE:
This may seem like a strange question to ask, but we really need to know…
How Deep Is Your Love?
We understand that there are a lot of important causes out there and a lot of compelling needs that demand the attention of humans and those needs are growing daily. But this is our cause. This is the one we know deeply and personally. So this is the one we feel compelled to speak up about. You see, we at DACUFABF Domestic Animal Companions (Pets) United For A Better Future are becoming concerned. (Okay, we are more than concerned. We are staring down panic and fighting paralyzing fear.)
“We” are every past, present, and future — mix-breed, pure-breed, stray, abandoned, abused, adopted, hoarded, loved, spoiled, neglected domestic animal companion (a.k.a. dogs, cats, rabbits, mice, birds, fish, ect).
And our cause is — our lives.
Despite our cute and cuddly beginnings and the adored and pampered lives of a lucky few, annually 4 to 6 million of us live lives that are short and brutal, and our deaths are ugly and inescapable. We love you humans like no others. But more than unconditional love from our human companions, what we need and ask for in return is — loving responsibility and restraint. Because as things stand right now, a death sentence is issued with the birth of each and every puppy or kitten.
Okay, your brow is furrowing now and your eyes are starting to cross. You’re thinking pet overpopulation is a sad fact of life for those “unwanted pets”. You, of course, do your part.
You spay and neuter all your pets — We luv ya and thank ya big time!
You adopt and/or rescue your pets — We luv ya with all our hearts and we’ll be thankful to you until the end of our days.
You regularly donate and/or volunteer at your local animal shelter, humane society, or rescue group — Our heroes! We luv, luv, luv ya!
But we still need to talk.
You see, the sad truth is that pet overpopulation and the uncontrolled breeding of pets has created a vicious cycle that affects humans as well as animals. And in a lot more ways than you humans imagine. And well, we need to bring you up to date. Kind of show you the big picture and give you a glimpse of the future. Because we are telling you, you will be shocked. We were. And we pretty much had our paws on the ground with this. And don’t worry. We won’t make you watch any gruesome videos or give you graphic, gory details. We promise.
So here goes…According to the 2017-2018 American Pet Products Manufacturers Association survey there are approximately 89.7 million owned dogs and 94.2 million owned cats in the US.
We don’t know exactly how many dogs and cats are unowned – feral, strays, and/or abandoned. But…According to the Humane Society of the United States, 6-8 million (a conservative estimate) dogs and cats enter shelters each year across the USA. Annually, 3-5 million are adopted or reclaimed by owners. The remaining 3-4 million dogs and cats are euthanized. Approximately 2.4 million (80%) of the euthanized dogs and cats are healthy and treatable and could have been adopted into new homes.
That’s right, every year 3-4 million of us are killed because we lack a home. That is it. That is our only crime. And our punishment is death.
Sure, there are no kill shelters and rescue groups but they can only do so much. In the end they are only a reprieve for a lucky few. The rest of us must go to a shelter where we only have on average 72 hours to find a home or we must die to make room for more homeless pets, who must be adopted or reclaimed by owners within 72 hours or they too must die, to make room for more homeless pets…Only 45% of dogs and cats are adopted from a shelter or rescue.
And so it goes, day after day, year after year. And yet, here is the thing humans. How can we not be homeless?
In the USA, more than 2,000 dogs and 3,500 cats are born every hour — but, only 415 humans. That’s right. We dogs and cats are out reproducing humans at an estimated 13 to 1.
No way, you’re thinking. Those numbers can’t be right.
Well, we don’t want to brag or anything, but we are darn good at reproduction. It’s in our nature. And well, the mechanics of it are all in our favor too. We cats and dogs reach breeding maturity at 6 months. Our average number of litters per year is 3 for a cat and 2 for a dog. Our average number of kittens per litter 4-6. Our average number of dogs per litter: 6-10.
Hey, we told you we are good at this.
So, okay. You’re seeing maybe how this overpopulation thing could happen with 5,500 pets being born per hour; 132,000 dogs and cats daily. And yes, it is all a bit shocking to the system.
But, then you think — hey, people are more educated now. They routinely spay and neuter their pets. The fact that pets have a much shorter life span than humans – about 15 years for a dog and 20 years for a cat — is sad, but it has to help. Besides the annual number of euthanized pets has been going down for years.
Our response to all that is yes, it helps. Most humans are becoming more educated and responsible about pet reproduction and spaying and neutering their pets. But we still have 28% of owned dogs and 13% of owned cats that are not spayed or neutered. And most and more sounds great until you realize that in the end, it all comes down to the amazing power of one.“One pregnant female cat and her offspring can theoretically produce 420,000 cats in seven years.” "One pregnant female dog and her offspring can theoretically produce 67,000 dogs in six years.”
Yup, we can see those eyes are wide open now. You are getting a feel for the big picture. Well, don’t rush it. Let it sink in a minute while we share a few other things that are keeping us awake at night.Approximately one-quarter (25%) of the dogs in shelters are purebreds who were originally purchased and then given up or abandoned.(5) One out of every five animal companions becomes lost at some point in their lives. Of these, only 16% of dogs and about 2% of cats are ever recovered by their guardians.(6) Most animals who are not taken in by someone or brought to a shelter, either starve or freeze to death, die from illness or get run over by cars.(7) Over 30% of the animals who wind up in shelters are surrendered by their guardians, who, for many different reasons, are either unable or unwilling to care for them anymore.(8)
Admittedly, when we get the chance, we pet companions like to run a household to our liking. But the truth is we are dependent on you humans for just about everything. Our love, our food, our shelter, and the care of our health. Yes, the best of us can get our human companions to run around in circles, but we can’t make vet appointments. We can’t drive a car or manage other forms of transportation. We can’t pay bills. We know nothing about surgeries or organs and the like.
Yes, we need you humans. And we need you to put an end to this vicious killing cycle that too many shelters have been forced into. We can not do this for ourselves. So please, show us the depth of your love by helping us to ensure that every dog, cat and companion animal gets their chance at a loving home and a long and healthy life.
Love us enough to:
- Give us a forever home.
- Spay and neuter us (find a local spay/neuter program HERE).
- Support local spay and neuter programs so even the strays and homeless pets in your area will reproduce less.
- Adopt from a rescue group, animal shelter, or humane society.
- Not breed us for fun and/or profit.
- Provide us with id tags and/or microchipping.
- Find room in your home when friends and family need to give up a loving and beloved pet.
- Find a no-kill shelter or rescue group if you can no longer care for us.
And in return for all of your love — we will be your best friend and your biggest supporter. We will bring you joy and reduce your stress. We will be at your side through thick and thin, in good times and bad. And we will love you with all our hearts and for all our days.
*I wrote and published the original version of this post in 2010. The numbers have been updated to reflect the 2017-2018 data where I could find it.