A smooth-haired white cat sitting in a cage in an animal shelter.
(Photo Credit: Mariia Zotova | Getty Images)

Less Cats Euthanized Than Dogs in 2023

For the first time since 2016, the number of cats euthanized in the United States was lower than that of dogs last year. This significant shift occurred against the backdrop of a substantial increase in the population of animals in shelters across the nation. The surge has pushed the animal welfare community into a state of crisis, with dogs bearing the brunt of the consequences.

As shelters face overcrowding, less cats than dogs were euthanized last year

Over the past three years, shelters across the country have seen an alarming influx of pets, totaling an increase of approximately 900,000 animals. This overcrowding has led to difficult decisions, resulting in shelters euthanizing more than 359,000 dogs in 2023 alone — the highest number in five years. This is in stark contrast to the 330,000 cats euthanized, reflecting a pivotal change in the demographics of shelter animals facing this unfortunate fate.

Shelter Animals Count, an Atlanta-based nonprofit, has been monitoring these trends since its establishment in 2012. The organization’s annual report reveals a grim reality: shelters are struggling to manage the increasing number of animals coming through their doors. Stagnating adoption rates, particularly for dogs, have made this challenge more difficult — according to USA TODAY.

For years, cats were the most vulnerable in shelters, suffering from high euthanasia rates and low adoption numbers, explained Stephanie Filer, executive director of Shelter Animals Count. However, through dedicated advocacy and community efforts, the fate of cats in shelters has seen significant improvement. “Adoption rates are high and intakes have decreased, and there are efforts to keep cats at home or in their communities,” said Filer.

Conversely, dogs are now finding themselves in a precarious position. Despite the public’s love for man’s best friend, adoptions have not kept pace with the number of dogs entering shelters. Moreover, the surprising variety of dogs left in shelters, including large breeds and designer dogs, emphasizes the urgent need for focused intervention.

Describing the crisis, Kelley Kimble of Briscoe Animal Resource Center said, “We are trying to empty a river of unwanted pets with a small bucket.”

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