The Humane Society of the United States reports that in 2012, there were 164 million owned pets across the nation. 62% of the population owned at least one pet. That same year, the American Pet Products Association reported that Americans spent more than $50 billion on their cats, dogs and other animal companions. Wildly progressive, given that less than 40 years ago, only an estimated 67 million households had pets.
It's clear that as a nation, Americans love animals. But here is still the hard truth:
- Six to eight million cats and dogs still enter animal shelters each year*
- Of those numbers, three to four million of those healthy animals are still euthanized every year*
- 2.7 million healthy shelter animals are not adopted each year*
- Only 30% of pets in homes come from shelters or rescues*
With an estimated 3500 animal shelters and rescues across the nation, it is obvious that as a society we go through great strides in an effort to save and rehabilitate as many animals as possible. Are we doing enough? Nearly half of all animals entering shelters in the United States are still being put to death; and that number has very little to do with dog attacks, bites or aggressive animals, and every bit to do with the fact that money and resources are scarce. We simply don't have the means to save every single one.
In the city of Austin, it is almost a prerequisite to love animals. Everywhere you go, and at every turn, there are a number of people walking their dogs or partaking in some kind of animal-friendly event. In this city, while we welcome all newcomers, an animal lover is immediately given unspoken respect. It's part of our culture. And we love it. But despite the obvious love for our four-legged companions, an estimated 700,000 dogs and cats are still destroyed in animal control facilities each year across the state of Texas. This figure does not take into account the thousands of abandoned animals on city streets and highways that face even more tragic deaths.
The Austin Animal Center - the largest municipal animal shelter in Central Texas - has helped to combat the odds in the effort to bring the number of euthanized animals in Texas as close to zero as possible. For three years running, Austin has established itself as the largest "no-kill" city in the country. Meaning, the city as a whole, maintains a 90% [or higher] survival rate for all of the animals that enter its shelters and rescues. AAC is a large impetus in helping to maintain this status for the city of Austin.
Serving Austin/Travis County, AAC provides care to more than 20,000 animals annually, whether they are strays or surrendered animals. They take all animals in regardless of age, health, species or breed. The number one goal of AAC is to place all adoptable animals in their forever homes.
On any given day, there are at least 700 animals in the care of AAC. That number can change daily as animals are adopted out and more come in. Regardless of the length of their stay however, each animal is given medical attention, a warm bed, food to eat, play time with volunteers, and anything else the animals may require until a loving home is found.
Offering a multitude of animal services to the public - pet adoption, animal care, animal protection, foster programs, lost/found pets, outreach and education, rescue partners, spay/neuter, pet surrenders, and many more - AAC has quickly established itself as a staple within the community.
Since October of 2010, Animal Services within this city have worked to implement and maintain a 34-point plan with the support of many community partners including Austin Pets Alive, The Austin Humane Society, EmanciPet and Animal Trustees of Austin, as well as more than 250 volunteers. In February of 2011, AAC reached and surpassed the 90% live animal outcome rate and reached an unprecedented rate of 92%. AAC continues to maintain this status and continues to increase live outcome rates while steadily decreasing animal intakes.
As always, AAC and its partners couldn't continue the work they do without the support of the Austin community. Please consider giving an animal its forever home, making a donation or simply volunteering your time. Through Labor Day, AAC is offering a $25 Summer Special Adoption Package. The package includes spay/neuter surgery, vaccinations, microchip, collar and ID tags. Now is the perfect time to help make a difference.
And whether you live in Austin or some other city across the United States, the same opportunities apply. If we all do our part to help an animal in need, we are one step closer as a society to ending animal abuse, neglect and euthanization.
To learn more about the Austin Animal Center please visit http://www.austintexas.gov/department/animal-services
*There is no central data reporting system for the U.S. animal shelters and rescues. Estimates and statistics provided in this article are based on information provided by the (former) National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy.