Bartlett, P. C., Bartlett, A., Walshaw, S., & Halstead, S. (2005). Rates of euthanasia and adoption for dogs and cats in Michigan animal shelters. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 8(2), 97-104.
Research Question: What are the 2003 rates of euthanasia and adoption for dogs and cats in Michigan animal shelters?
Study Sample: 2003 outcome data for all dogs and cats processed in Michigan animal shelters. Since 2000, the State of Michigan mandates that all animal shelters report these data annually. The study sample included 140,653 dogs and 134,405 cats.
Methodology: Animal shelter outcome data for dogs and cats processed in 2003 were collected for all 176 shelters operating in Michigan during this time period; 8 of these shelters were missing data for 2003, so data from their most recent year were used as an estimate. Data included numbers of animals that were received or admitted, returned to owner, adopted, sold (i.e. research), transferred, euthanized, or other (i.e. died, stolen, otherwise disappeared). Data were further broken down by age (younger or older than 6 months) and whether the animal was altered.
Findings: Of the 140,653 dogs that were discharged from Michigan shelters in 2003, 40% (n = 56,972) were euthanized and 28% (n = 40,005) were adopted; this translates to an annual euthanasia rate of 2.6% for the estimated 2003 Michigan population of dogs. The annual rate of euthanasia for cats in 2003 was higher than that of dogs (3.1% vs. 2.6%). Of the 134,405 cats discharged from Michigan shelters in 2003, 57% (n = 76,321) were euthanized and only 24% (n = 32,251) were adopted. For both dogs and cats, altered animals had much lower rates of euthanasia than nonaltered animals. Among private and government owned shelters, private shelters euthanized 20% of their dogs and 29% of their cats compared to 30% of dogs and 50% of cats euthanized in government owned facilities. Additionally, results indicate that the larger the shelter, the higher the rate of euthanasia for both dogs and cats regardless of private or government ownership. An extrapolation of this study’s results to the national level suggests that approximately 1.6 million dogs and 2.2 million cats were euthanized in shelters nationally in 2003. The 2003 euthanasia rates estimated from this study are lower than earlier estimates described in the existing literature. The authors conclude that the 2003 data suggest that progress is being made in Michigan toward reducing pet overpopulation; however, the authors recognize that it is possible that earlier overpopulation estimates were overstated.
Limitations: Caution should be used in evaluating these results for an indication of the success of statewide animal control efforts; low rates of animal shelter admission and euthanasia may not be reflective of a declining pet overpopulation, but rather an inactive animal control effort. Additionally, study data only reflect dogs and cats euthanized in animals shelters. These data do not include stray and owned animals that died outside of shelters in 2003, and thus are not an accurate measure – likely an underestimation – of the overall pet population problem.
Summary by Katie Lynn Murtough