Genuine Goodness
Genuine Goodness

Pet Abandonment: A Community Problem

By Patricia Gordon (2014)

In a 2012 report published by the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, the CFHS noted of the 102 humane societies and SPCAs that participated in their annual shelter survey, a staggering 53,085 dogs and 119, 198 cats were taken in just by those shelters that year; 63% of the dogs were strays, while 60% of the cats were deemed strays (homeless).[1] Many strays in Canada are previously owned pets.  Pet abandonment is a community problem, which can no longer be ignored; the financial and emotional cost to society is enormous. The discarded pet by an individual or a family becomes another person or shelters’ responsibility when the animal is either cared for as a stray, or recovered from the streets or dumping grounds.  Pet abandonment contributes to pet over-population.[2] Many of these abandoned pets, and their offspring, end up in the thousands of animal shelters operating across Canada.

The Canada Revenue Agency online charities listing database reveals there are currently 840 registered animal charities in Canada; this does not include the non-registered animal shelters / organizations. If each registered charity received $40,000 in public donations within a fiscal year, at least $33 million dollars are going towards shelter, medical and care costs for the animals. [3] These expenditures, however, do not include the human health care costs, i.e. stress, fatigue, depression, counselling, and medication. The costs also do not include the out-of-pocket expenditures of compassionate citizens who purchase food for neighbourhood strays, albeit primarily abandoned cats. While actual dollar costs are unavailable since Statistics Canada does not collect data pertaining to pet populations or strays, in the late 90s it was estimated that in the United States the collection of stray animals, sheltering them, euthanizing and disposing of them was costing taxpayers $2 billion dollars annually reported USA Today journalist Debbie Becker.[4] Thus, it is highly conceivable that in this country pet over-population costs society at least $100 million dollars each year; yet, governments at all levels continually choose to ignore the larger cost to society.

For some employees and volunteers in shelters, or even concerned citizens feeding a stray, there is often an emotional toll experienced resulting in anxiety, insomnia, and stress. For those seeing first-hand the neglect and physical injuries inflicted on some abandoned pets, or witnessing the euthanasia in kill-shelters of unadoptable pets, then the long-term effects, if not dealt with through support or counselling, can take on the form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. Scholars Rogelberg et al. suggests that shelter staff whose role it is to euthanize shelter animals “are an at-risk population for a variety of psychological and emotional ailments,” which range from high blood pressure to suicide.[5] Of the 102 shelters that participated in the CFHS’s 2012 survey, the data shows that 41% of cats and 15% of dogs entering those shelters were euthanized that year. [6]  These numbers, in addition to the medical costs associated with the human stresses brought about by pet over-population, could be reduced significantly by funding community spay and neuter programs, and by enacting legislation against backyard breeding, in addition to prohibiting the unethical operation of puppy mills in this country.


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© Patricia Gordon