Most Americans believe we have a pet overpopulation problem and accept without question the decades-old adage, "we just can't save them all." If you're like most people, you believe we have a pet overpopulation problem simply because you have been told that is the case and because the destruction of homeless animals seems to confirm your belief. Nathan Winograd, founder of the No Kill Advocacy Center, wrote:
"Sometimes the obvious eludes us. We are told something so often that we accept it a priori. We ignore evidence to the contrary, even overwhelming evidence. It is so because we believe it is so. And we believe it is so because we have been told it is so for as long as we can remember. Each time we say, read, or write it, we reconfirm it. It is so. It is so. It is so. But pet overpopulation is not so. The syllogism goes as follows: shelters kill a lot of animals; shelters adopt out few of them; therefore, there are more animals than homes. Hence, there is pet overpopulation. It is as faulty a syllogism and as untrue a proposition as exists in sheltering today. In theory, we could be a No Kill nation tomorrow. Based on the number of existing households with pets which have a pet die or run away, more homes potentially become available each year for cats than the number of cats who enter shelters, while more than twice as many homes potentially become available each year for dogs than the number of dogs who enter shelters. . . since the inventory of pet-owning homes is growing. . .adoption could in theory replace all population control killing now - if the animals and potential adopters were better introduced."
In any given year, 23 million people bring a dog or cat into their home. Of those homes, 17 million have not decided where the pet will come from and are open to the idea of adopting an animal. Of the 8 million dogs and cats who enter shelters each year, some will be returned home and some will be adopted; almost 3 million of those animals will be destroyed even though the vast majority of them are healthy and treatable.
Seventeen million homes for not quite 3 million animals is not pet overpopulation. It is a situation in which people get animals from a source other than a shelter or a rescue group for a variety of reasons, many of which have to do with a perception that shelter animals are somehow damaged or deserve their fate and none of which have to do with whether shelter animals are worthy of adoption.
Nathan Winograd adds, "It is important to note that the argument that there are enough homes for shelter animals does not also include any claims that some people aren’t irresponsible with animals. It doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be better if there were fewer of them being impounded. Nor does it mean that shelters don’t have institutional obstacles to success. But it does mean that these problems are not insurmountable. And it does mean shelters can do something other than killing for the vast majority of animals."
Although many people believe in pet overpopulation as being an issue in communities themselves, it is commonly acknowledged that there is such a thing as an overpopulation of animals in a shelter. This basically means there are too many animals in the building at any given time, a problem resolved through comprehensive use of the No Kill Equation which serves to both reduce shelter intake and increase shelter output.