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Why Animals Are In Shelters & Available For Adoption
Overpopulation

Animal protection advocates call attention to the pet overpopulation "crisis" in the United States. According to the Humane Society of the United States, 3-4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the country and many more are confined to cages in shelters. This crisis is created by nonneutered animals (spayed/castrated) reproducing and people intentionally breeding animals. A particularly problematic combination of economic hardship combined with a love of animals contributes to this problem in parts of the rural United States.

In an average year,a fertile cat can produce three litters of kittens, with up to 4 to 6 kittens in each litter. Based on these numbers, one female cat and her offspring could produce up to 420,000 cats over a seven year period if not spayed or castrated. There are also major overpopulation problems with other pet species, such as birds and rabbits. Local humane societies, SPCAs, and other animal protection organizations urge people to neuter their pets and to adopt animals from animal shelters instead of purchasing them from breeders or pet stores.

Pet Adoption

Pet adoption usually refers to the process of taking guardianship of and responsibility for a pet that a previous owner has abandoned or otherwise abdicated responsibility for.

Common sources are:

Pet AdoptionAnimal shelters, in the case of dogs also known as dog pounds
Pet AdoptionRescue groups
Pet AdoptionPets out of captivity without identification, and which remain unclaimed by any owner
Pet AdoptionAdvertisements placed by individuals who are trying to find a new home for their pet
Pet AdoptionPets that have been abused or neglected and have been confiscated from the offending owner
Pet AdoptionA fast growing source is online pet adoption through not-for-profit websites such as petfinder.com, Adopt-a-Pet.com, and Pets with Special Needs. Public service sites such as these have searchable databases of pets, maintained by thousands of animals shelters, and are searchable by the public.
Pet AdoptionDogs adopted from shelters are often referred to as shelter dogs or pound puppies; dogs adopted from are often called rescue dogs (not to be confused with search and rescue dogs). Shelters have put together informational websites to help the public choose the right dog for their family.

Pets are taken to animal shelters for many reasons - NONE ARE THE FAULT OF THE ANIMAL:
Pet AdoptionDeath: Owner dies and no one in the family wants to (or can) keep the pet.
Pet AdoptionChanged Circumstances: Financial or living arrangements change drastically and people feel that they can no longer provide an appropriate home for the pet. This might also include someone having to move to a new living situation where pets are not allowed.
Pet AdoptionSecond Thoughts: A pet was purchased after the spur of the moment decision or as a gift (frequently for Christmas). Some time afterward, owners discover that caring for the pet is much more work than expected, or requires more space or exercise than they are prepared to give.
Pet AdoptionLost Pet: Pet leaves home or cannot find its way back, and the owner does not succeed in finding it.
Pet AdoptionHealth: Severe health problems make it impossible to have a dog in the house or impossible for the owner to care for the dog.
Pet AdoptionPractice Babies: Shelters use this term for animals that have been adopted by couples, and who are then abandoned when the couple splits up, or when a real baby comes along and they no longer have the time or inclination to care for their pet.
Pet AdoptionMoving (across borders): People leave the country; quarantine laws in some countries can be traumatic to pets and owners, so to avoid the stress, the pet is surrendered to an animal shelter.
Pet AdoptionAllergies: Many owners claim to have developed allergies to their pets, or that their children have developed allergies to their pets.

source: wikipedia.org