There is a bit of a flap in the world of animal rescue about the claim by some that pet overpopulation is a myth. These are fighting words for many who labor in the trenches and especially to those who champion pet population reduction via wide-ranging spay/neuter programs. Spay/neuter is the point of the spear in our collective efforts to end shelter killing.
How can pet overpopulation be a myth when more than 9,000 dogs and cats die in shelters every day for lack of homes? Good question.
There are not enough homes! There are plenty of homes! THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH HOMES! THERE ARE PLENTY OF HOMES!
And so it goes.
Given the task at hand, this argument is really a waste of time and energy, but here’s the gist of it, in case you need a refresher.
The pet overpopulation myth busters point out that the annual demand for the acquisition of new pets has been running at about 17 million per year, according to the folks who do market research for pet supply manufacturers. About 20-25 percent of those new pets will come via adoption. That leaves about 12 million slots to fill. Upwards of four million shelter pets are killed annually. If every one of those shelter pets found their way into a new home, there would still be an unmet demand for about eight million pets every year, and hence no overpopulation problem.
The challenge, according to this logic, is better marketing of shelter pets both by the shelters themselves and by rescue groups, which serve as halfway houses for shelter animals. All that is needed to end the killing of dogs and cats is to up our market share of new pet acquisitions.
OK, fair enough, but the shelter door swings both ways. We should be as concerned about reducing the number of “noses in” (decreasing the number of pets entering shelters) as we are about increasing the number of “noses out” (by ramping up adoption to this annual market of people acquiring a new pet).
Why do we need to be concerned about reducing “noses in” if there are plenty of homes? Because the overly simplified market analysis above omits an important business principle. When you have a surplus inventory of any product, you reduce production so that you don’t have surplus inventory sitting on loading docks and in warehouses waiting for sales to catch up. In this case, the surplus inventory comprises dogs and cats (who have a relatively short shelf life) sitting in crowded shelters.
If we want to apply a supply and demand model to the business of no-kill, we should not only increase sales (adoptions), we should reduce production.
Lowering production to reduce the number of “noses in” is achieved by economically targeted spay/neuter programs, disruption of the puppy mill supply chain and shelter surrender intervention programs (helping folks who are planning to surrender a pet to the shelter to keep that pet instead).The idea that there is a large enough pool of potential adopters to absorb the current shelter population should in no way devalue the importance of low-cost spay/neuter services, trap/neuter/return (TNR) programs, shelter surrender intervention or any of the various strategies available to reduce inventory as we crank up adoptions. Even the most ardent myth busters are quick to vouch for the importance of spay/neuter.
What these numbers tell us is that our goals are achievable and, given the task before us, we need every tool in the toolbox used to the max — both those to increase “noses out” and those used to reduce the numbers of “noses in.”
Together, we can Save Them All.
Love reading the Best Friends Blog? Make sure you never miss a post by clicking here to subscribe and receive every post right in your inbox.
Best Friends Animal Society