Second Chance: Animal Shelters, US Trends

Second Chance: Animal Shelters, US Trends

BennyAs we try to address the daily challenges we face because of the millions of dogs and cats who end up in shelters across the country every year, it is common to lose sight of the tremendous advances that have been made to date. While there is still much to be done to ensure the end of the euthanasia of healthy and adoptable dogs and cats, it is useful to look at the trends and try to determine what programs have led to improvements over the past three to four decades.

Prior to 1970 Milestone: Shelter populations and euthanasia rates peak with 100 cats and dogs killed per 1,000 people.

1970s Milestone: First low-cost spay/neuter clinic opens.

The 1970’s proved to be a defining decade in decreasing euthanasia trends in animal shelters. In 1971, the first low-cost spay/neuter clinic was established by an animal shelter (in Los Angeles). That clinic launched an impassioned national debate about the issue and private practice veterinarians began to perform surgical sterilizations at a much greater rate. The number of animals handled annually by shelters entered a period of rapid decline—especially in the west and northeast.

1980s Milestone: Declining shelter numbers level off.

1990s – Milestones: 

  • Sterilization becomes routine; clients must choose to “opt out”
  • Feral cat TNR programs emerge along with high volume spay/neuter clinics
  • Euthanasia rates of dogs and cats in shelters drops to 10 percent of 1970 figure

Today’s Milestone: The number of cats and dogs in U.S. households has more than doubled in the past four decades.

As a nation, over the past four decades, Americans have become much more aware of animal welfare issues. As the human population has increased, the number of animals welcomed into American homes each year has also gone up.

The cost of saving lives

Animal welfare expenditures have increased over the past few decades. In 1972, American shelters spent approximately $800 million on animal welfare versus around $2,400 million in 2007 We can now see a direct correlation between the dollars spent per capita on shelters and the decrease in shelter populations/euthanasia.

20__? –Milestone: Becoming a nation where no healthy and adoptable animal is euthanized in a shelter.

The United States still has many challenges to overcome in our animal shelters. The U.S. currently has around 3,350 shelters and a large and increasing number of non-sheltered rescue and fostering groups that help to alleviate some of the influx into shelters.

We are facing exciting and challenging times as we begin to close in on the possibility of a nation where no healthy and adoptable animal is euthanized in a shelter.

Reaching that goal will require not only the continuing enthusiasm and energy of the communities that support shelters like Second Chance Humane Society but also a continued education, outreach and accessibility of spay/neuter practices.  As pet parents continue to accept the responsibilities  they hold in making sure they are not contributing to the pet overpopulation problem, this goal will be attainable. And then adorable loving little dogs like me will never again have to be homeless.


My name is Benny, a cool and calm nine-pound Jack Russel Terrier mix. I am just 2-3 years old, house trained, crate trained, and very loving. I was rescued from a difficult situation, but you would never know that as gentle and sweet as I am. All I want is a lap to sit on and a gentle touch. So if you are looking for a mellow and chill small dog, I might be your man…


My name is Cedar , but they call me “Crouching Tiger” because I am quiet and stealthy and although on the small side for my litter, I have a big and delicious personality. At only 10 weeks old, I have a lot to discover about life and I look forward to it one exuberant leap at a time…Won’t you join me?


Editor’s note: It’s no secret. The Telluride region is dog heaven. Well, pet heaven. Unless you are one of our furry friends who gets caught in the maw of neglect and abuse. Then heaven is on hold until Second Chance Humane Society comes to the rescue. Second Chance is the region’s nonprofit dedicated to saving animals’ lives and promoting responsible pet parenting and human-animal bond. In her weekly blog, executive director Kelly Goodin profiles at least one, generally two of the many animals now living at the no-kill shelter, Angel Ridge Shelter, a dog and a cat, hoping to find them loving permanent homes. The column is sponsored by Ted Hoff of  Cottonwood Ranch & Kennel, who from time to time exercises his skills as a dog whisperer, partnering with Kelly and her staff to help train a particularly challenging animal.

By the by, there is no better place to park your pup than Cottonwood whenever you head out of town (for locals) or are heading to town and staying somewhere that does not allow pets. Consider joining Ted’s Very Important Dog (VID) Club for added benies. (Details on Ted’s website.)

Second Chance Humane Society Animal Resource Center and Thrift Shop are both located in Ridgway, but service San Miguel, Ouray & Montrose Counties. Call the SCHS Helpline at 626-2273 to report a lost pet, learn about adopting a homeless pet, or about the SCHS Spay/Neuter, Volunteer, Feral Cat, or other Programs. View the shelter pets and services

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