Image by Sasha Sashina


Every year, approximately 6.5 million companion animals arrive at one of the community animal shelters nationwide. These companion animals enter shelters for a variety of reasons, but the majority of shelter populations are comprised of strays, rescues and surrenders:

One of the largest challenges facing animal welfare organizations today is the sheer number of animals in need of assistance.

Due to overwhelming intake rates, shelters struggle to adopt out the dogs and cats they take in. To help us better understand what we are up against, here are some staggering and heartbreaking statistics*:

  • Of the approximately 6.5 million companion animals who enter shelters nationwide every year, approximately 3.3 million are dogs, and 3.2 million are cats.

  • Each year, approximately 1.5 million animals are euthanized (670,00 dogs and 860,000 cats).

  • Approximately 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year (1.6 million dogs and 1.6 million cats).

  • About 710,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners (620,000 dogs and 90,000 cats).

  • Of the dogs entering shelters, approximately 48% are adopted, and 20% are euthanized.

  • Of the cats entering shelters, approximately 50% are adopted, and 27% are euthanized.

  • About twice as many animals enter shelters as strays compared to the number that are relinquished by their owners.

*These estimates are based in part on Shelter Animals Count data and other known and estimated sources, 2015-2018. These are national estimates; the figures may vary from state to state.