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Lost Pets in America: Tips to Reduce the Problem

In the last decade, lost pets in America have risen by 40%. This is a significant increase that has led to the rise in animal shelters and pet adoption rates. Some people believe that this is due to more people adopting animals than ever before, while others think it’s because of higher populations moving from rural areas to urban ones. Whatever the reason for this rise, there are still plenty of ways we can reduce it!

lost pets

How Many Lost Pets are There

The number of lost pets is, in fact, staggering. In the United States alone, 3.3 million pets are lost every year, and 1 out of every five dogs will be lost during their lifetime. That’s a lot of animals in need! The holidays can be a challenging time for those who have to say goodbye to their best friends, so we’ve got some tips on how you can help prevent pet abandonment this season.

There are many things that people can do to help keep our furry friends safe this holiday season! For these tips to work well, everyone must work together as a team – from shelters and rescues to veterinarians and animal control officers. Read more below now.

Why There are So Many Lost Pets

We may be moving, unable to care for them because of illness or death in the family, or can’t afford their food and vet bills anymore. Whatever the reason is, these animals mustn’t just end up at a shelter.

In fact, according to an ASPCA study from 2016, “the number of lost/stray cats entering shelters has increased by more than 100% since 2013.” The same survey found that 4 out of 5 people who adopt from a shelter also adopted their last pet from one too-meaning there’s no doubt that animal abandonment is on the rise nationwide.

It’s hard to believe that people abandon their pets, but the numbers show it happens more often. The Humane Society of America reports that every year an estimated 2.7 million cats and dogs enter shelters in the U.S., with 1.2 million being euthanized because they don’t have a home. This number does not include those who abandoned their pet on public property or left them behind during natural disasters, meaning this figure only reflects about 25% of all animals lost each year in the United States alone!

“With so many stray animals roaming our streets and communities, it’s important for us to take action to prevent animal abandonment before it happens.”

Haley Krupica

‘A worrying fact shows that lost pets remain a structural problem that requires greater intervention and cooperation from all agents involved to reduce this figure and to ensure the welfare of dogs and cats in our society.’

Millions of lost pets end up abandoned annually in the U.S., as reported by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA—surveyed every five years since 1986) and the American Pet Products Association. Some of them are acquired as gifts for Christmas and Valentine’s Day, but the owners lose interest in them months later.

Although since 2008, there has been a decrease in the number of dogs and cats collected by the protective societies in America, it is still a moderate decrease. The figure, which last year was more than 137,000 abandoned pets, is still very high.

The Rate of Lost Pets

The outlook is improving, but many dogs and cats are left on the streets.

However, a significant number of pets that arrive at a shelter does not correspond to the rate of pet abandonment, which shows a loss. 20.4% of animals collected in shelters could return home only when they are identified. So it is essential that a microchip correctly identifies dogs and cats to locate their owners.

As mentioned before, 20% are returned, 14% are still in the shelter, 10% are slaughtered, while 44% end up in a new home. This positive figure shows that promoting adoption is one of the critical strategies for reducing the abandoned animals’ population and preventing them from being slaughtered or spending the rest of their days in the shelter.

Lost Pets: By the Numbers

Pet abandonment is a phenomenon that affects dogs and cats of all kinds and is not restricted to certain ages or races. About 20% of dogs and 11% of abandoned cats are purebred, while the rest are mestizos. On the other hand, most dogs and cats arrive at the refuge in adulthood (59%), although puppies (27%) and elderly animals (senior, 14%) are also collected.

The good thing is that 70% of the animals are collected healthy, but, on the contrary, only 24% have a microchip, which prevents their identification from being returned. And in the case of cats, only 3% that arrive are identified.

It should be noted that the time of stay in the puppies’ shelter is much less than that of older dogs and cats. This is because young animals tend to be more attractive to many adopters. About 66% of the animals entering protection are found or picked up in the street. The remaining 34% is taken to the refuge by individuals other than the animal (70%) or directly by their owners (30%).

The behavior of the animal (15%), unexpected litters (15%), economic factors (12%), location changes (9%), and the end of the season hunting (10%). Studies on pet abandonment have shown that the onus lies on individuals and pet owners to ensure that dogs and cats do not end up on the street.

How to Solve The Problem of Lost Pets

According to a report, for pet abandonment to stop being a problem, the following measures need to be taken:

  • Educate pets with the help of an educator or ethologist.
  • Proper identification technique for easy pet recovery when it is lost.
  • Proper orientation before owning a pet.
  • Sterilization. Proper inquiry from a veterinarian for information about the process.
  • Adoption is an option to remedy the abandonment.


Citizen participation is undoubtedly vital to fighting against the problem of pet abandonment. Therefore, it is necessary to educate the public about the advantages and the obligations involved and how the arrival of a dog or a cat can influence an individual lifestyle.

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