Shelter Euthanasia Rates Drop with Increases in Spay/Neuter and Adoptions

The New York Times recently shared some good animal welfare news:  companion animal euthanasia rates have fallen an impressive 75% since 2009.

The Times collected animal shelter data from 20 US municipalities.  They found that shelters in many cities are reporting significant drops in dog and cat euthanasia rates.

Why has there been such a decline in recent years?  The Times points to several factors, including:

  • Increased animal welfare activism
  • Changes in shelter management approaches
  • Shifting cultural attitudes about stray and homeless animals

Some large US cities with open-intake shelters (municipal institutions that are required to take in animals) have gone from euthanizing hundreds of animals per day to around 10.

Two of the biggest factors in the decline in euthanasia rates are increased spay/neuter (especially for community cats) and the growing public perception that owning a rescue animal is a “badge of honor.”

There’s also an increase in interstate relocation of homeless animals, generally from the southern US to northern states.

Shelters are still facing many challenges, including overcrowding and the spread of contagious diseases.  But the overall of trend of more adoptions and less euthanasia is welcome news for all animal lovers!


The 6 Cat Life Stages

The American Association of Feline Practitioners has outlined the 6 distinct cat life stages, and what cat owners can do to provide the best care for their cats at each stage of life, from kittenhood to geriatrics.

Here’s a quick overview, and be sure to visit the AAFP website for the full details, and for lots of other useful cat care information as well!

Kitten (0-6 months):  This is the easiest stage to introduce your kitten to children and other pets.  It’s also the best time to establish a regular routine for nail trimming and tooth and coat brushing.  Teach your kitten to become comfortable with the carrier and rides in the car.

Junior (6 months-2 years):  Cats become sexually mature as young as 6 months of age, so be sure to have your cat spayed or neutered by this stage to avoid unwanted litters and improve your cat’s behavior.

Prime (3-6 years):  While cats are often at their healthiest at this stage, it’s still important to bring your cat to the veterinarian for regular wellness checkups and preventive care like dental cleanings.

Mature (7-10 years):  Some cats become more sedentary and less playful at this stage.  Be sure to keep your cat at a healthy weight to avoid the health problems associated with feline obesity, a common problem in older cats.

Senior (11-14 years):  Cats at this stage are roughly equivalent to human seniors in the 70+ age range.  Consider increasing vet visits to once every 6 months at this stage of your cat’s life.

Geriatric (15 years and over):  While the average cat lifespan is around 15 years, many cats can live well beyond their teens and into their 20s.  Monitor your older cat for health and behavior changes and talk to your vet about managing chronic health issues.


“Humane Puerto Rico” Initiative Gears Up to Save Animals


The Humane Society of the United States recently announced the creation of their new “Humane Puerto Rico” initiative. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the U.S. and according to HSUS, there are many dogs, cats, and other animals there that are in urgent need of help. Did you know that the euthanasia rate for shelter dogs and cats is 95%, and that many thousands of homeless pets roam the streets of this island?


What will the initiative do? There will be a multi-faceted effort to improve the lives of the animals of Puerto Rico in several areas, including:

  • Training law enforcement officers and prosecutors on animal cruelty crimes.
  • Donating law enforcement evidence-gathering kits.
  • Cracking down on puppy mills.
  • A humane education program that will reach every K-12 public school student.
  • New tools and technology for animal shelters on the island.
  • Partnering with Humane Society International on low-cost spay/neuter programs.


Puerto Rican government officials signed an agreement pledging their cooperation to help solve critical issues such as animal cruelty, the street dog population, and the euthanasia rate. HSUS notes that many tourists visiting Puerto Rico have been struck by the number of homeless animals in poor condition wandering the streets, and have contacted various organizations to see what can be done.

Interested in learning more about the HSUS Humane Puerto Rico initiative? Click HERE for the original story.  For an update on what’s been going on lately, including a contraception program for the free-roaming horses of Vieques, and the launch of the Sister Shelter Project, in which shelter professionals from several states will provide assistance to Puerto Rican shelters, click HERE.


10 Tips on Responsible Pet Ownership

Pet owner top

Caring for our companion animals is a big responsibility. What goes into being a responsible pet owner? The elements of responsible pet ownership go beyond providing our animals with food, water, and shelter. We’ve collected a few basic but important tips on the components of good pet care, courtesy of the experts at the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Pet owner ID

  1. Make sure your dogs and cats have proper, up-to-date identification (tags, microchips, registration) in case they get lost.

Pet owner spay

2. Spay and neuter your companion animals so they do not contribute to the pet overpopulation problem. Low-cost spay and neuter options are widely available.

Pet owner poop

3. Always be sure to clean up after your dog and be aware of local ordinances like licensing requirements and leash laws.

Pet owner stray

4. Don’t allow your cat to stray or wander off. Indoor cats lead safer, healthier, and longer lives than cats allowed to roam outdoors.

Pet owner vet

5. Keep your pet healthy with regular trips to the vet for preventive veterinary care.

Pet owner impulse

6. Your companion animals depend on you for a lifetime of care, so avoid impulsive decisions to get a new pet.

Pet owner exercise

7. Make sure your pets are well-socialized and trained, and that you provide them with plenty of mental stimulation and physical exercise.

Pet owner budget

8. Budget for unexpected pet-related expenses like veterinary emergencies.

Pet owner disaster

9. Don’t forget about your pets when assembling home first aid kits or making a disaster preparedness plan for your household.

Pet owner sneak

10. Limit the type and number of pets you have to those you can adequately care for (and never “sneak” an animal into a residence with a no-pets policy).



Chilean Scientists Develop Canine Contraceptive Vaccine


Veterinary scientists from the University of Chile’s Veterinary and Livestock Faculty have created a contraceptive vaccine for both male and female dogs, intended to address that country’s growing population of homeless dogs.


The concept of “immuno-castration” is not new. Research began in the 1980s in Australia and it has already been used successfully, mostly in pigs. The vaccine is reversible and works by creating antibodies that neutralize a hormone called Betatrophin, blocking reproductive hormones and activity in males and females.


Immuno-castration is easier and safer than surgical castration, and has none of the side effects of contraceptive drugs (such as cancer) since it works in a totally different way.


Research is also underway in other countries that are seeking to develop similar contraceptive vaccines for pets. Feral cat advocates are especially interested in this technique as an easier alternative to TNR (trap neuter return), which requires surgery, in controlling feral cat populations.

To learn more about the Chilean vaccine, click HERE.