What Is the Future of Animal Shelters in the US?

While animal shelters were once considered a bleak, rundown place to house stray pets, strides are being made to change the animal adoption industry as we know it.

How Have Animal Shelters Changed in Past Decades?

Decades ago, an animal shelter was more likely to resemble a concentration camp, providing animals with no more than the basic necessities needed to get by until adoption or euthanization. Today, many animal shelters now represent hope as their purpose and mission are being redefined to support unwanted, abused, or neglected pets in need of a good home.

To understand the trends of the future, it’s important to grasp the big picture of how animal shelters were structured years ago.

  • In the 1970s, the Humane Society confirms that euthanasia rates and shelter populations peaked; roughly 100 cats and dogs were killed per 1000 people. Fortunately, it was around this time that the first affordable spay and neuter clinic opened in Los Angeles to help control pet overpopulation.
  • In the 1980s, pet shelter populations were under control and even declined in some areas.
  • In the 1990s, pet sterilization became routine, and cat and dog shelter euthanasia rates dropped another 10% from 1970s estimates.

Today, the number of household pets in the US has more than doubled in the past 40 years. American pet owners are now more aware than ever before about animal welfare issues; animal shelters in the US spent roughly $2.4 million on animal welfare in 2007.

Animal Shelter Trends for the Future

Experts agree that changes still need to be made in the current animal shelter system in the US. It is the goal of organizations like the Humane Society that no animal in a shelter will be euthanized if it is healthy and adoptable.

As a result, no-kill animal shelters throughout the US are on the rise, intended to retrain and rehabilitate unwanted pets to save their lives. No-kill shelters are targeted specifically at up to 75% of shelter pets that are considered “unadoptable” because of behavioral issues.

Many animal shelters hold fast to the belief that a solid spay and neuter program is the key to decreasing numbers in animal shelters and preventing overpopulation. As animal shelters reach out to local communities to promote pet sterilization, fewer animals will end up in shelters. As a result, funds can be stretched to rehabilitate unwanted pets in a no-kill setting so that they can be placed in good homes.