Shelter Intake and Surrender

The Issue
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One of the largest challenges facing animal welfare organizations today is the sheer number of animals in need of assistance. Every year, approximately 6.3 million companion animals arrive at one of the community animal shelters nationwide.

Although animals enter shelters for a variety of reasons, the majority of shelter populations are comprised of strays, rescues and surrenders:

  • Stray animals are often found on the streets and brought in by Good Samaritans or local law authorities. Unchecked stray populations tend to grow in areas without accessible and affordable spay/neuter services.
  • Animals rescued from cruelty can come from situations like hoarding cases, dog fighting rings and puppy mills. These animals often suffer from trauma and require specialized care and rehabilitation.
  • Surrendered animals are animals whose owners can no longer care for them due to financial, behavioral or other unforeseen barriers.

Due to these overwhelming intake rates, shelters often struggle to adopt out all—or even most—of the animals who come through their doors. With so many lives at stake, it’s important to understand exactly what we’re up against:*

  • Of the approximately 6.3 million companion animals who enter shelters nationwide every year, approximately 3.1 million are dogs and 3.2 million are cats.
  • Each year, approximately 920,000 animals are euthanized (390,000 dogs and 530,000 cats).
  • Approximately 4.1 million shelter animals are adopted each year (2 million dogs and 2.1 million cats).
  • About 810,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners (710,000 dogs and 100,000 cats).
  • Of the dogs entering shelters, approximately 65% are adopted and 13% are euthanized
  • Of the cats entering shelters, approximately 66% are adopted and 17% are euthanized
  • About twice as many animals enter shelters as strays compared to the number that are relinquished by their owners.

*These estimates are based in part on Shelter Animals Count data and other known and estimated sources, 2019. These are national estimates based on data obtained from shelters and rescues; the figures may vary from state to state.