Posted by: Linda Trunell | June 5, 2014

Where Do All These Shelter Dogs Come From?

If you are reading this blog, it’s a pretty safe bet that you are an animal lover – or at least a dog lover.  You may have a dog that you adopted from a shelter, purchased from a pet shop or a backyard breeder, or from a reputable, responsible breeder. Maybe your dog was a gift from a friend or a family member or a stray who showed up at your door and moved in.  You believe, as I do, that every dog deserves a good home where he is loved and cared for properly.

Why are there so many dogs without homes? Where do they all come from? You may be surprised by the answers.

  • 2.5 – 3.5 M dogs enter shelters or rescues each year.
  • 90% come from the 22% of pet dogs that are not spayed or neutered.
  • Purebred dogs make up only about 25% of shelter dogs.
  • Only 3-4% of all pet dogs are pit bulls but 29% of all shelter dogs are pit bulls or pit mixes. 
  • About 1.5 – 2 M shelter dogs are euthanized.
  • About 60% of the euthanized dogs are pit bulls or pit mixes.

There is no central data reporting system for U.S. animal shelters and rescues.  Statistics will vary greatly depending on the region of the country.


Statistic Verification
Source: American Humane Society, Born Free U.S.A., Pet Finder
Research Date: 8.22.2012
Animal shelters house homeless, lost, or abandoned animals, typically cats and dogs.
The goal of the modern animal shelter is to provide a safe and caring environment until the animal is either reclaimed by its owner, placed in a new home, or placed with another organization for adoption. Some public animal shelters around the world euthanize animals that are not adopted within a set period of time (usually 1 to 2 weeks); others have a policy of only putting down animals that are in distress due to age or illness. Most private shelters are typically run as no-kill shelters. Most shelters will test the animals to see what type of home would be most suitable for living before they are placed for adoption.
Animal Shelter Statistics
Total number of nationwide animal shelters 5,000
Number of companion animals that enter into animal shelters nationwide annually 5 million
Average annual number of companion animals that are euthinized at shelters 3.5 million
Percent of dogs in animals shelters that are euthanized 60%
Percent of cats in animal shelters that are euthanized 70%
Percent of cats that are returned to their owners 2%
Percent of dogs returned to their owners 15%
Total percentage of dogs claimed to be spayed or neutered 78%
Total percentage of cats that are claimed to be spayed or neutered 88%
Total number of animals that end up in a shelter that are spayed or neutered 10%
Percent of dogs brought to shelters that were adopted by a shelter 20%
Percent of dogs and cats that are adopted from shelters 25%
Total number of dogs and cats that are bought at pet stores 6%
Percentage of people that get their pets free or at low cost 65%
Cost of taxpayer money annually to round up, house, kill and dispose of homeless animals $2 billion
Total percentage of dogs in shelters that are purebred 25%
Total percentage of U.S. homes who own at least 1 companion animal 63%
Total number of homes that own at least 1 companion animal 70 million



New data released by the ASPCAHSUS, and the American Pet Products Association‘s National Pet Owners Survey show that shelter killings are at an all time low in both whole numbers and percent of pet dogs in America. Down from a high of nearly 25% of all dogs per year in the 1970s, as little as 2% of dogs now find their end in US shelters per year, the majority of them are pit bulls.

Despite both the human and pet dog populations in America rising, the number of dogs entering and dying in shelters has fallen steadily for decades. While this vast improvement hasn’t stemmed the degree of vitriol against “breeders” by those in the shelter/rescue community, a look at statistics shows that there is little foundation for their anger.  The situation is getting better every year and very little of the past or remaining problems have anything to do with hobby breeders or people who buy their dogs.



Purebreds are under-represented in shelters versus their proportion of the 78 million pet dogs, but up to a quarter of intakes are deemed to be pure versus 75% deemed mixed-breed.  The most significant disparity between the general population of dogs and dogs that enter shelter and are euthanized is being designated as a “pit bull” or a pit bull mix

The most significant factor in the steady decline in shelter intakes is widely credited to the advancements made in spay/neuter programs. Nearly four out of five pet dogs are now desexed. Despite making up only 1 in 5 pet dogs, intact dogs account for 9 out of 10 shelter intakes, a staggering asymmetry.



  •  Purebreds are less likely to end up in shelters than mixed-breeds.
  • Dogs purchased from breeders or pet stores are less likely to end up in shelters.
  • Dogs given as gifts or acquired for more than $100 are less likely to end up in a shelter.
  • Dogs acquired for less than $30 or dogs adopted from a shelter are more likely to end up in a shelter.

The rising status of dogs in our families combined with spay/neuter, foster and rescue, and no-kill programs have made the last 30 years an increasingly better time to be alive for dogs. While there’s still work to be done, and there will always be animals in need, the old paradigm of blame and internecine hatred–especially attacks aimed at people who endeavor to do right by their dogs from conception to old age–are misguided and distract from the real problems.

Read more:

Here’s to being our dog’s best friend,




  1. Human caused tragedy is so unnecessary.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The graphic seems to indicate friends and family contribute to breeding the greater proportion of dogs compared to others.

    Sad that 90% of shelter dogs come from 22% of pets intact. That 29% of shelter dogs are pit bulls and pit mixes, also gives a bleak picture of pit bull pet ownership. Despite only 2 – 3 % of pet dogs are pit bulls… this suggests to me that pit bull owners really need to address spay and neuter issues.

    The stats is surprising and I’m not sure how accurate or believable it is since I totally understand how the data will be spotty in these cases.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s sad to see the numbers. The worst is that this 90% could be avoided, if some people would show more responsibility.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been wondering where the strays come from at the shelter where I volunteer. Perfectly friendly, nice-looking dogs. Poorly trained maybe, but how do they wind up wandering a neighborhood where no one claims to know them?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on Scott's K9 Working Dog Blog.



%d bloggers like this: