Busting the Myth of Overpopulation… with Simple Math!


Pet overpopulation is a hot topic, no matter what side you’re on. Most of us have already been shamed because of where we chose to purchase our companions from.  I feel like I’m shamed daily for being a breeder even though I try to do everything right (showing, health testing, contracts etc).  We’ve all been bombarded with “Overpopulation” & “Adopt, Don’t Shop”, overpopulation is on media at least once a day, it tends to be shoved down my throat on Facebook. I am told that I shouldn’t be breeding while shelter pets die, or “you’re just adding to overpopulation and your puppies are killing shelter dogs”. Overpopulation is a myth, let me show you how!

What mandatory Spay-Neuter looks like

The northern states are actually hurting for companion animals because their mandatory spay/neuter laws have rendered dogs and cats scarce in their area, pets from the south are shipped up north to fill the demand.  Our local shelter has drastically reduced numbers of euthanasia because the northern states take them.  Now, this may be seen as a good thing but it’s foreshadowing a true danger we could face within our entire country if mandatory spay/neuter laws were the norm.  Going from purposed “overpopulation” to no population, in 20years. Not to mention legislation legislates the small, hobby breeders like me out of existence.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals offers the following statistics:

  • Approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year.
  • Each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized*.

*I’d like to know the stats on un-adoptable pets that were euthanized, such as those with debilitating health issues, unfixable behavioral issues or euthanized due to breed ban.  We can assume that number is actually a bit smaller than listed due to the above.

Overpopulation Math

There are over 325.7 million people in the United states as of 2017 (126.22 million households), 74 million are children (census here), 46.2 million are considered senior (according to 2014 census).  So let’s say we have a pool of 205.5 MILLION people to adopt animals, give or take.  Let’s go a little further, how many of those 205.5 million are allergic?  I’m reading roughly 15% of the population is allergic to pets, 30% being asthma related.  The math I did took out 30% of the population to leave 137.06 million homes to pull from for adoptive homes.

Some of those homes will choose to buy their pets from breeders, this is ok.  So… let’s say that a grand portion decide to buy from a breeder or no pet at all for whatever reason, to put a number to it, let’s just say 75% of the population, or 102.8 million people get no pet or buy from breeder.  That leaves 34.27 MILLION people to adopt those 7.6 million homeless shelter pets.  Seems like the math is off here?  That would leave 26.67 MILLION people without a pet because all those pets were adopted.

Seems to me there are plenty of homes available so why are people still being shamed for buying a dog from a breeder?

Myth Math Strikes Again

As of March 2017, a total of 89.7 million dogs was estimated to live in U.S. households as pets. In 2017, some 68 percent of all households in the United States owned pets, (or about 85 million families) up from 56 percent in 1988.

So 85 million homes have pets, again seems like a large pool of people that could/would be looking to add another pet from those 7.6 million in shelters and leaving plenty still looking for companions.

There seems to be a big hole in the “over population” propaganda and looking more like a myth to me when you look at factual numbers and not what the media tells you the numbers are.

Overpopulation, yet Rescues breed?

Rescues scream that breeders are the reason for so many pets in shelters when in reality it’s irresponsible owners that are the reason. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I see, daily, rescues take in pregnant animals just to whelp the pups. Being puppies, they’ll fetch a far higher adoption price. My opinion, and practice when I did rescue, was to spay a dog before she whelped. This way you have only 1 more dog in the world and not 10. This was back when I thought overpopulation was a thing of course.

People want to argue that this is cruel, and will rank up there with the abortion debate but think about it. Easier to find a home for 1 than 10. If we’re so overpopulated with pets shouldn’t we do what we can to fix the situation. Not to mention the amount of money that can quickly add up. Whelping a litter, caring for a litter etc is not cheap, just sounds counterproductive to me.

Overpopulation, yet Rescue import?

I wrote an article about the meat market dogs that you may want to read. Rescues are importing supposed dogs rescued from meat markets in Asia. First off, a lot of those seen are purebred, low yield dogs such as French Bulldogs, Yorkies etc. I’m seeing pretty Golden Retrievers being labelled as saved from meat farm. Meat farm dogs are non-descript dogs, they can’t be labeled one breed or another because the farmers don’t care as long as they reproduce to make product.

The media and rescues are pulling the wool over your eyes, don’t fall for it!

Disclosure: Some links on this page are affilate links, meaning, at no extra cost to you, I will earn a percentage of sale made from that link.

I am a breeder & exhibitor of Rat Terriers & Berger Picards. I started out in rescue, this beginning has given me a clear view of what happens to ill bred dogs. I am still active in rescue when resources permit. I am now entering the entrepreneur world working on self-employment as a boarding kennel owner.

3 thoughts on “Busting the Myth of Overpopulation… with Simple Math!

  1. Hi Ashley,

    Your math seems to be incomplete.

    For the first calculation, you’re using the individual population rather than the number of households. Since you’ve already excluded the number of children, you can roughly estimate the number of households by dividing 26.67M people by 2. (I’m assuming that people tend to buy pets in households rather than as individuals) This reduces your number here to 13M people able to buy pets.

    Furthermore, you should divide the number of people by the average life span of a dog because people don’t buy dogs every year and most people can probably take care of 1-2 dogs at a time. To give you more benefit of the doubt, I’m dividing the 13M by 7 (low estimate for the average lifespan of a pet). We get 1.8M per year.

    Assuming that your other inputs are correct, the households (2 people) who would take a new pet (1.8M/year) is much closer to the amount of pets that are euthanized every year (2.7M). Further, assuming many of these animals are un-adoptable, I think a case can be made concluding that overpopulation is not a myth.

    For your second calculation for “Myth Math Strikes Again”, you should again take into consideration the average lifespan of pets (because households will not adopt another pet every year). Using the same number above (7 years), you get 12.1M households/year (=85M/7). I think if we take some reasonable estimates of an average households ability to take on a new pet, especially because some of these households probably have a large number of pets, we can again come to the conclusion that overpopulation may not be a myth.

    Finally, I think you’re massively underestimating the amount of people who don’t want pets/can’t own a pet (i.e. apartments don’t allow it, can’t afford it, etc.).

    I’m not against breeders in any way. I think the people who will pay for a pet they want, will always be there (myself included). Just wanted to point out some miscalculations so that we’re not coming to the wrong conclusions about overpopulation.


    1. Chris, thank you for your interest in our article. I did some quick searching and came up with the following:

      According to statista.com, there was an estimation of 34.75 million single-persons households in the U.S. in 2019, gradually increasing since 1960. So I do feel like your starting number is rather low. Singles, like college-age etc, still purchase pets. I, myself, had 2 dogs and a cat as a single college student.

      The American Veterinary Association estimates that 50 percent of renters have pets. According to huduser.gov 43.9 million occupied rental units. So, 50% being 21.95 million having pets in rentals.

      I didn’t look up new pets per household yearly but I will plan to do that.
      But, I do feel like no matter where I slice it, the numbers I’m finding support a much larger population to pull from. And still importing from other countries, the north still bringing in dogs from the south etc. If overpopulation is a problem, it’s regional and easily fixable by moving dogs out of area to an area lacking in pets.
      Sadly 2020 has actually brought on a shortage of pets due to the demands during lockdown. So obviously not enough pets available for a willing public. Though I do fear that bringing in pets to fill the demand, we’ll see them in the shelters when covid stabilizes. That’s another post all together.

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