Examining the "Pet Overpopulation Problem"

Prince Georges Feral Friends, SPCA
PO Box 1036, Bowie, MD 20718
(301) 262-6452 / www.PGFerals.org / Info@PGFerals.org

Prince Georges Feral Friends, SPCA is the home of:
PG Adopt-A-Classroom     --     Compassion Watch TV
Holistic Health Care for Pets     --     No Kill Prince George's County, MD

Examining the "Pet Overpopulation Problem"
in Prince George's County, MD

This information was first published on August 11, 2013
on the No Kill Prince George's County Blog on Patch.com.
Not much has changed since then.

September 24, 2015

Prince George's County Animal Management Division kills about 6,000 healthy, adoptable animals every year, and has been doing so for decades.

"Nobody WANTS to kill healthy pets" we are told, so why does it happen? Let's explore the first of the reasons that are often given -- the "Pet Overpopulation Problem."

"Too Many Pets, Not Enough Homes"

This idea is generally accepted without question. It should be examined, however, because it is a premise that can be tested by empirical evidence. It can be reduced to a mathematical relationship that can easily be proven true or false. It assumes that the number of pets available for adoption is larger than the number of homes looking for pets. In other words, ...

Number of Pets Available > Number of Homes Available

But, is that true? Let's see.

(Please bear with me, as we are going through some weeds, here.)

First of all, how many homes are available for pets? The U.S. Census says, as of the writing of this article in August 2013, that Prince George's County had 302,091 households during the period of 2007-2011. (See Note 1)

Of course, not all households have pets, and some have more than one, so we look to the American Veterinary Medical Association's Market Research Statistics. (See Note 2) We will assume that Prince George's County approximates the U.S. average (actually it's probably better than average), and we will be referring to dogs and cats only, since they comprise 90% of all pets.

Dogs: 36.5% of the 302,091 households (110,263) have 1.6 dogs per household (176,421). This is the number of dogs who are estimated to live in Prince George's County households.

Cats: 30.4% of the 302,091 households (91,835) have 2.1 cats per household (192,855). This is the number of cats who are estimated to live in Prince George's County households.

Sadly, our beloved pet friends do not live forever. The life expectancy of dogs varies by breed size and the life expectancy of medium size dogs is 10 to 13 years. (See Note 3) Cats live 15 to 17 years on average. (See Note 4) Let's assume an average 11.5 year lifespan for dogs, and 16 year lifespan for cats. This means that, ...

Of the 176,421 dogs in Prince George's County, 1/11.5 (15,341) will die each year.

Of the 192,855 cats in Prince George's County, 1/16 (12,053) will pass on each year.

This also means that 15,341 dogs plus 12,053 cats (27,394 pets) will need to be replaced every year in the county, in order to maintain a constant rate of pet ownership. (Although not everyone replaces a beloved pet immediately, and some people decide NOT to replace a pet that has died, others decide to obtain a companion for the first time, so the rate of pet ownership has historically remained roughly constant, even in hard times.)

First Number Found

This is one of the numbers in our relationship. In Prince George's County households, 27,394 pets die every year. From an economic point of view, there is a DEMAND for approximately 27,394 pets every year to replace them.

Number of Pets Available > Number of Homes Available
Number of Pets Available > 27,394

We are half way there. Since there are approximately 27,394 pet homes becoming vacant every year due to pet mortality, if the premise is true that there are "Too Many Pets, Not Enough Homes", there must be MORE THAN 27,394 pets (dogs + cats) available every year.

(Just a little more time in the weeds. This patch is not so deep, and I think it will be worthwhile.)

To determine the number of pets available at the Animal Management Division Facility in Upper Marlboro, we refer to the data in the AMD database. (See Note 5)

During the calendar year of 2012, AMD "handled" 10,758 pets. After subtracting out 956 carcasses of animals that arrived at the facility DOA, AMD took in about 9,802 live pets. Happily, 977 pets were returned to their owners. Yeah!!! That left 8,825 pets. We know that 29 pets were "Euthanized at a Vet Hospital", so we can be pretty certain that these animals were enduring suffering which could not be relieved. Now we are down to 8,796 pets that are candidates for adoption.

Whoa!!! This is the second number that we were looking for.

Second Number Found

The Prince George's County Animal Management Division had a SUPPLY of 8,796 pets available for adoption in 2012.

Number of Pets Available > Number of Homes Available
8,796 > 27,394

The Prince George's County AMD data says that if all 8,796 pets had been adopted from the ASF, that would have been a 100% adoption rate, but would still have met less than 1/3 of the demand for pets by Prince George's County Residents.

If ONLY, ...

"We're doing the best we can" we are told.

Sadly, of the 8,796 pets who were available, only 1,128 were ADOPTED from the Animal Services Facility. (This means that a potential adopter came into the ASF, filled out an application, selected a pet, was approved, and took the pet home.) From the marketing point of view, this also means that, considering the demand for 27,394 pets by county residents, AMD satisfied only about 4% of the market share.

This is what happens in spite of AMD having a brand new 37,000 sq. ft. building, a budget of over $3 Million (even after cutbacks), a staff of several dozen employees, some of whom are paid about $130,000 per year, and all of the power and influence of a county agency.

Down Goes The "Too Many Pets, Not Enough Homes" Excuse!

This myth falls to the numbers which do not support it. One down, but there are other excuses which are given for the killing of about 6,000 animals every year.

If you have read through this post, I appreciate your attention, and I hope that you found the trip through the weeds worthwhile. We will examine some of the other excuses that are given for the poor performance of Animal Management Division in another message.


Note 1) www.census.gov QuickFacts for Prince George's County, Maryland
Currently the number of households is slightly greater.
Note 2) 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook as quoted by the American Veterinary Medical Association
Note 3) Wikipedia. "Aging in Dogs" "... smaller dogs often live over 15–16 years, medium and large size dogs typically 10 to 13 years, and some giant dog breeds such as mastiffs, often only 7 to 8 years."
Note 4) Wikipedia. "Cat Years" "The life expectancy of a cat is typically 15–17 years."
Note 5) Provided by AMD in response to a Maryland Public Information Act Request.

Timothy W. Saffell is President of Prince George's Feral Friends, SPCA, PO Box 1036, Bowie, MD 20718
He is also the producer of Compassion Watch TV, available on the internet at www.CompassionWatch.org .

Prince Georges Feral Friends, SPCA is a non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization, working to protect the people and animals of Prince George's County. It is supported by donations from individuals. Donations are tax-deductible.

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