MSU research focuses on dog populations in shelters

Kimberly Woodruff (Photo by Tom Thompson)
David R. Smith (Photo by Tom Thompson)

Researchers at Mississippi State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine recently revealed new data focusing on canine populations in animal shelters across the country.

A press release from the CVM highlights a study conducted by faculty members Kimberly Woodruff and David R. Smith, who used survey and capture/re-capture methodology to estimate the number of dogs in U.S. animal shelters, along with adoption, transfer and euthanasia rates.

Woodruff and Smith found that animal shelters take in 5.5 million dogs every year. The release then said 2.6 million dogs are adopted from shelters, 969,000 are returned to an owner, 778,000 are transferred and 776,000 are euthanized.

“For many years, people have quoted numbers of animals going in and out of shelters, but there’s never really been any research behind them,” Woodruff said. “Even beyond that, nobody really knows how many shelters are in the United States.“

Woodruff said there is no official registry for shelters and no group providing oversight, meaning shelters can be anything from a few kennels to a huge facility that adopts out thousands of animals a year.

Researchers surveyed 413 animal shelters across the country and limited it’s focus to look at brick-and-mortar shelters and those that adopt out dogs.

Smith said that regions with high shelter populations are transporting more dogs to areas of the country where there are fewer shelter dogs available.

“Prior to those programs developing, there were probably more dogs in the Southeast that got euthanized because there were more dogs in shelters in the Southeast,” Smith said. “Those transport programs have at least given dogs an opportunity to go someplace else where they have a better chance of being adopted.”

Study funding was provided by the Pet Leadership Council.

The release said Woodruff and Smith presented their findings at the North American Veterinary Conference in Orlando last week and they hope to publish the full results in a peer-reviewed journal.