Module 7: Get to Know a Shelter

Animal Sheltering: Past and Present

In the United States, animal sheltering dates back more than 200 years to the 1800s. At that time, there was a need for addressing animal control (primarily dogs), related public safety issues (such as rabies), and prevention of cruelty to animals. Most facilities were originally designed to admit large numbers of dogs for only brief periods of time. Since then, animal sheltering has evolved considerably.

Today’s sheltering services are diverse and range the spectrum from those provided by large, well-funded “brick and mortar” facilities to those of small, loosely organized grass-roots groups or individuals. For some animals, shelter stays continue to be short, whereas others may receive extended, even lifetime, care. Intake and subsequent euthanasia have both declined substantially in many communities. Today, approximately 5.3 million dogs and cats enter United States animal shelters, of which 1.5 million are euthanized. Lifesaving for dogs continues to outpace that for cats, although the gap is narrowing.


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