Pet Overpopulation

February 7, 1975

Report Outline
Impact of Pets on Urban Society
Increase in Ownership of Animals
Growth of American Pet Industry
Special Focus

Impact of Pets on Urban Society

Growing Dimensions Pwts Amid World Food Shrtage

The united states is the most pet-happy nation in the world, but Americans soon may be forced to make some unpleasant decisions about their pets. There are already at least as many household pets as there are people, and a pet population explosion is under way. While 360 babies are being born in the United States in a given hour, between 2,000 and 3,500 puppies and kittens are also being born. “An overpopulation of unwanted dogs and cats does exist” was the central conclusion of a national conference last May on the “Ecology of the Surplus Dog and Cat Problem.”

No one knows exactly how many pets are in this country, but even conservative estimates are enormous. The Humane Society of the United States puts the number of dogs at 34 million and cats at 46 million. There may be as many as 23 million pet birds, 340 million fish, and 125 million miscellaneous and exotic pets. The last category runs the gamut from rabbits, turtles, mice and hamsters to leopards, lions, raccoons, iguanas, monkeys, snakes and even gorillas.

Americans clearly derive great pleasure and enjoyment from their pets. In a complex world, pets are an important source of companionship and affection for millions of people. Pets help combat anxiety, loneliness and alienation. But the large pet population, coupled with the irresponsibility of many pet owners, has begun to create serious problems and arouse considerable controversy. The pet issue invariably provokes extreme and emotional reactions from pet owners. Most Americans seem to feel that pet ownership is a fundamental right, not a privilege. But anti-pet sentiment is gaining strength in numerous areas.