Dog and cat overpopulation has historically been a complex animal welfare problem in the United States, with many contributing factors. In identifying strategies to combat this problem, the AVMA acknowledges that the health and welfare needs of individual animals may differ from those of a population. Strategies employed by animal shelters and animal control agencies may not apply to all individual pets. Although progress has been made in recent years, and dog and cat overpopulation has been dramatically reduced in some areas of the country, the population of dogs and cats in the United States still exceeds the capacity of our society to care and provide homes for them as companion animals.
Dog and cat population management strategies must involve education, research, and public policy.
- The AVMA supports public education campaigns that help pet owners be more responsible and knowledgeable about dog and cat overpopulation.
- Comprehensive public education campaigns to prevent relinquishment require the commitment and cooperation of state and local governmental agencies, humane organizations, and veterinary associations.
- Education to prevent relinquishment should include tenets of responsible pet ownership, including appropriate selection, the importance of spaying and neutering, keeping pets indoors or in restricted environments, preventing or solving behavioral problems, and consulting with veterinarians for information on these issues.
- The AVMA encourages all independent sources of pets (e.g., breeders, pet shops, shelters, animal control facilities, private individuals) to educate new owners about the importance of surgical or nonsurgical sterilization and regular veterinary care.
- Curricula at schools of veterinary medicine and veterinary technology should emphasize root causes of dog and cat relinquishment, such as pet behavioral problems, and owner-related problems, such as lack of access to affordable veterinary care or pet-friendly housing.
- The AVMA encourages research into the development and use of nonsurgical methods of sterilization.
- The AVMA encourages research to better define and quantify the dog and cat overpopulation problem.
- Public Policy
The AVMA believes that state and local governments must evaluate their needs and resources to develop appropriate and effective dog and cat population control programs. Such programs may include:
- Providing sufficient funding to animal control agencies to facilitate:
- Strict enforcement of existing animal control laws, and
- Licensing of all dogs and cats.
- Prohibiting the sale or adoption of intact dogs and cats by humane organizations and animal control agencies.
- Promoting surgical and nonsurgical sterilization of privately-owned intact dogs and cats, when appropriate. The AVMA does not support regulations or legislation mandating spay/neuter of privately-owned, non-shelter dogs and cats. Although spaying and neutering helps control dog and cat populations, mandatory approaches may contribute to pet owners avoiding licensing, rabies vaccination, and veterinary care for their pets, and may have other unintended consequences. Also, just as for other veterinary medical and surgical procedures, veterinarians should use their best judgment in recommending at what age sterilization should be performed for individual animals.
- Requiring licensing, rabies vaccination, and recommending the use of identification (collars and tags), permanent identification (tattoos and microchips), and the use of identification registries and new technological innovations like facial recognition software.