What Can Be Done to Reduce the Amount of Unwanted and Abused Pets and How to Encourage Pet Adoption? (by Gary Darling)

The Research Question and Introduction

As a volunteer at Oregon Dog Rescue and a lifelong dog owner, I have recently been troubled by the amount of unwanted dogs and pets without homes.  Along with that goes abused animals and of course the amount of pets that have to be euthanized every year by various shelters.

Through my research I learned that in the last few years we have reduced the amount of unwanted pets and the animal preservation rate at shelters is above 90%.  However, each year, there are still 4,000,000 pets that have to be euthanized.  Even though, I have a preference for the no-kill shelters.  I realize that in recent years, the overwhelming majority of the shelters generally have the same goals of education and the least amount of eunathizing as possible.

I believe that the biggest hurdle to minimizing euthanization and unwanted pets and finding more homes for pets is increase public education.  I would like to see the main animal shelters in our area such as the Multnomah County Animal Shelter and the Humane Society, as well as the smaller private ones like Oregon Dog Rescue be able to increase their education campaigns for neutering, spaying, and pet licensing.  I realize that to do this they need support from both the public and private sectors, committed volunteers, donors, and the public at large.

Therefore, based on the above information, my research question is “What Can be done to Reduce the Amount of Unwanted and Abused Pets and How to Encourage Pet Adoption?”

The Research – Sources

Common Questions about Animal Shelters, the Humane Society, May 3, 2013.  http://www.humanesociety.org/animal_community/resources/qa/common_questions_on_shelters.html.  The Humane Society’s website homepage discusses issues regarding shelters and animal adoption in the form of frequently asked questions.   One interesting fact that I did not know about the humane society is that it also works with facilities that work not only with pets but with large and small animals of all kinds.

I think the main point that I got from the website as far as my research question goes is the fact that the Humane Society really emphasizes education.  In the Humane Society’s website, it says that the Humane Society works to promote responsible pet ownership and to reduce pet overpopulation through public education, legislation, and support for sterilization programs.  They also help animal shelters with training, marketing, fundraising, and volunteering.

McDaniel, Dave, SPCA hopes DNA Testing for Dogs will Increase Adoptions.  http://www.wesh.com/news/central-florida/spca-hopes-dna-testing-for-dogs-will-increase-adoptions/24866832#mid=18552333.  This article was interesting and involves one shelter’s use of DNA testing to reduce the incidents of dogs that are adopted and returned.  Dave McDaniel writes about this story in “SPCA Hopes DNA Testing for Dogs Will Increase Adoptions”

Due to a number of factors that have to do with type of breed, many dogs are often returned to shelters after they are adopted.  These factors include neighborhoods that don’t allow certain breeds, insurance policies that don’t cover certain breeds, behavior of different breeds, and allergies and sensitivities to certain breeds.  If people had this information at the time of the adoption they might be more likely to adopt the right animal for their family.  This seems like a great use of technology to help solve the problem of animal homelessness.

Multnomah County Animal Shelter

http://multcopets.org/faqs.  I have to admit something that I regret and neglected to research earlier.  I was somehow thinking that the Humane Society was the local County Animal Shelter.  I just found out that in Portland, the government animal shelter would be the Multnomah County Animal Shelter, so I would be remiss to not include information about that organization.  What I learned from the organization’s website http://multcopets.org/faqs confirmed the conclusion that I had already reached:  All of the shelters would like to be “no-kill”, but it is not practical for them all to be. So the answer must lie in reducing unwanted animal populations, finding owners of lost pets (licensing), and increasing the percentage of shelter pet adoptions.

The shelters are at the center of these issues, but it is really a problem that has to be tackled on the community level and better education is definitely in order.

The website reminds us that not only do we need to get pets spayed and neutered but also need to reduce the incidents of missing pets.  One way to help ensure a pet’s safe return is by licensing them.  Multnomah County estimates that less than one third of dogs and less than one sixth of cats are licensed in Multnomah County.  Not only does licensing greatly increase chance of having pets returned but it also provides a needed revenue source for the shelter.  The Multnomah County website was probably the most informative source that I have seen on shelters and animal adoption.  It helped me formulate what I think I are the three most important points of reducing unwanted (and destroyed) pets.  They are:

  • More Education (Spaying and Neutering and Licensing)
  • Encourage Adoption of Shelter Pets
  • Training Programs (to help people keep pets with behavior problems)

Pacelle, Wayne, Setting Aside Semantics:  Not Killing Pets Must Be Our Goal, a Humane Nation, November 8, 2007.  http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2007/11/not-killing-pet.html.  In a statement on his blog, the President of the Humane Society, Wayne Pacelle states in the title “Not Killing Pets Must Be Our Goal”.

One encouraging sign that Mr. Pacelle mentions is that in the 1970’s, 12-20 million pets per year were euthanized, in 2007 (when the article was written) it was down to 2.7 million per year as told in his blog,

Marin, Whitney, Action Tips: Encourage Pet Adoption


This article was pretty much just a series of bulletin points on how to reduce pet homelessness.  I really liked the suggestions which included creating a public service announcement, and creating presentations and displays of local pets to have at the library.

These ideas are definitely more for the local level and don’t really deal much with policy, but if followed in many communities, I can see where the suggestions would have an impact.

The Public Writing

March 11, 2014

Re:  End Pet Homelessness Through Education and PR

Dear Ms. Madrigal,

I am writing to you about the issue of pet homelessness, euthanization, and the subject of pet adoption from shelters.  I realize that there are many issues in Multnomah County competing for your attention and most of them quite a bit more important than unwanted pets.

Let me begin by first saying that I really appreciate the work that the Multnomah County Animal Shelter does.  I, myself volunteer at a shelter called Oregon Dog Rescue.  I prefer volunteering at what is called a “no-kill” shelter, otherwise I would volunteer at the Multnomah County Shelter.  Having said that, I am appreciative of the efforts that the County goes to in order to minimize euthanasia, get pets adopted, and find owners of lost dogs.  I also appreciate the work it does of collecting dogs who may be in danger or a danger to others.  All this and to still have a preservation rate of over 90% is very admirable.  But that still means that 10% of animals have to be euthanized.

According to the Multnomah County Animal Shelter website, only 1/3 of dog owners, and less than 1/6 of cat owners get their pets licensed.   I am sure that this statistic makes it very difficult for lots pets to find their owners.  Furthermore, that number also represents thousands of dollars in lot revenue for the Multnomah County Animal Shelter for such important activities as spay and neuter education and adoption programs.


The truth is that I knew very little about the Multnomah County Animal Shelter until recently.   As good a job as your agency does, there are still a lot of unwanted, abused, and lost pets out there.  I strongly believe that the next main focus of effort needs to be in the field of education and training.

I have never seen any ads or educational information regarding spaying, neutering, licensing, or pet adoption, though occasionally I have seen ads from the Humane Society. I am sure that they exist, but there may not be much available since I have never seen them.  I would like to see Multnomah County allocate resources to bill boards, literature, TV and radio ads, to educate the public about these important issues and how the public, with the proper tools (knowledge) can help to end pet homelessness.

I noticed that you have a degree in zoology, so I thought that you might take my interest in this important, but not widely discussed topic, to heart.  I would really appreciate any and all consideration to increasing public education to end pet homelessness and in reducing animal abuse and suffering in Multnomah County and thank you for reading this message.



Gary Darling



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