Pet Homelessness

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In an ideal world, every companion animal has a safe home with loving humans meeting all of their needs. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Animal homelessness has been a serious issue in Canada for over 100 years. According to Humane Canada, the organization’s 2019 Animal Statistics Report stated that hundreds of thousands of animals are forced to enter shelters each year. In Ontario alone, the Toronto Humane Society estimates that approximately 40,000 animals end up in shelters because they have been found as strays or given up by their owners.

The tragic component of these statistics is that they inevitably lead to the loss of life for animals.

But there is good news. In recent years, tremendous progress has been made in the noble effort to eradicate animal homelessness and overpopulation all across North America. Animal organizations fiercely advocate spaying and neutering to keep the pet population in check, while also putting their support behind adoption programs rather than the purchasing of companion animals. 

“We work to ensure that no animal goes without a loving home, and no animal’s life is ended needlessly,” the Toronto Humane Society says on its site

Solving the Problem

Beautiful animals end up homeless for a variety of reasons:

  • Uncontrolled pet population
  • Not having access to veterinary care
  • A lack of humane community cat management
  • Puppy mills
  • Not enough permanent pet identification

All of these can result in the death of animals. 

There are several ways to combat those reasons for homelessness and in turn, save the lives of numerous animals.

  1. The creation and expansion of programs and services for pet owners have had a major positive impact on tackling animal homelessness. These are programs that encourage the strengthening and preservation of the human-animal bond, as opposed to severing a bond and starting another relationship. Some examples include Pet Parent Support NetworkAccessible Veterinary Services, Ethical Training and Behavioural Counselling, and Urgent Care Fostering.
  2. Advocacy is critical in this battle. Those who advocate have had to be relentless in their pursuit of establishing sound and humane government policies on animal welfare, the elimination of unethical breeding, and addressing the barriers to humane community cat management.
  3. Public awareness is a key component in animal homelessness. Canadians need to know about animal welfare issues, including the existence of unethical breeders, the importance of spaying and neutering, and the need to microchip, among others.

The eradication of animal homelessness is an incredible goal. With that comes fewer unnecessary animal deaths. In Humane Canada’s 2019 Animal Shelter report, the number of dogs and cats euthanized was among the lowest amount documented in recent years. That’s amazing news. And there is more change to come, even in the face of COVID-19.

“The changes brought about in response to the pandemic present an opportunity to accelerate the evolution animal welfare organizations have been envisaging for years toward a new model that can further improve the lives of both animals and the humans with whom they live,” the report concluded. 

Improving the situation further requires a concerted effort on several fronts. As organizations do their important work, community members who love animals need to do the same. Always choose to adopt over buying. Especially locally in Canada or at least within North America, as the arrival of international animals from exotic countries has created a slew of problems. Also consider supporting your local, provincial, and national animal organizations with donations, as well as much-needed volunteer time. 

It means a reduction in animals on the street – and more pets in good, loving homes. 

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Human hand holing a pet's paw.