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Home > Statistics > 15 Heartbreaking UK Animal Homelessness Statistics in 2024

15 Heartbreaking UK Animal Homelessness Statistics in 2024

UK Animal Homeslessness Facts and Statistics

Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.

The UK is said to be a nation of animal lovers and the figures do bear this out. Figures vary but UK households own between 17 and 25 million cats and dogs, and a total of more than 50 million pets of different species and breeds. However, dig a little deeper, and you will find that not all animals enjoy the same level of love and care. About a quarter of a million pets end up in shelters every year, and these shelters simply don’t have the room or resources to cope, resulting in 21 dogs being euthanised every day. Read on for more alarming facts about UK animal homelessness and pet abandonment statistics.

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The 15 UK Animal Homelessness Statistics

  1. There are 9 million pet dogs and 8 million pet cats in the UK.
  2. More than 50 million pets live in 12 million households.
  3. Approximately 250,000 animals go to rescues every year.
  4. There are 1.1 million homeless pets living in the UK.
  5. 21 dogs are euthanised every day because they couldn’t be rehomed.
  6. In 6 years, an unneutered female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies.
  7. Only 17% of owners adopt their dogs from shelters and rescues.
  8. A quarter of new dog owners impulse bought puppies during COVID lockdown.
  9. 15% of new dog owners are worried they won’t be able to afford their puppy.
  10. 15% of new dog owners admit they weren’t ready for a new puppy.
  11. There are believed to be 67,000 stray dogs living on UK streets.
  12. In 7 years, an unneutered female cat and her offspring can have 370,000 kittens.
  13. 2.6 million cats are not microchipped.
  14. There are approximately 1 million stray cats.
  15. In some cities, there are more than 50 stray cats per square kilometre.
UK homlessness stats
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Pet Ownership And General Animal Homelessness

1. There are 9 million pet dogs and 8 million pet cats in the UK.

(UK Parliament)

Although the numbers are close, dogs remain the most popular pet in the UK with 9 million loyal companions in UK homes. There are also 8 million pet cats. These numbers are estimates because many owners still do not have their pets microchipped so it is impossible to keep track of exact numbers. Some sources claim the figures could be as high as 12 million dogs and the same number of cats owned.

three spinone italiano dogs
Image Credit: AnetaZabranska, Shutterstock

2. More than 50 million pets live in 12 million households.

(PFMA)

Although dogs and cats are the most popular and prevalent pets, people keep a host of other animals. Small caged animals like hamsters and guinea pigs remain popular because they require less care and cost less money to keep than dogs and cats. It is rabbits, however, that are the third most popular pet. More exotic animals like lizards and snakes have become increasingly popular as they are easier to get hold of, and there is a lot more information on these animals. Smaller and exotic animals are not microchipped so figures are estimated, but the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) claims that there are 51 million pets, including fish and birds, living in 12 million households across the country.


3. Approximately 250,000 animals go to rescues every year.

(UK Parliament)

For a wide variety of reasons, people abandon their pets every year. These pets are either left to live on the streets, where they will become malnourished and often die, or they are taken in by shelters and rescue centres. In fact, a quarter of a million animals a year, or nearly 700 animals a day, are sent to shelters.


4. There are 1.1 million homeless pets living in the UK.

(Mars Petcare)

As well as the approximate 42,000 cats and dogs currently in shelters yet to be rehomed, there are 1.1 million cats and dogs that live on the streets or are stray. These animals are often abandoned by previous owners but they also stray. Stray animals are those that are not microchipped and that get out of the house and are unable to find their way home again. Legally, all dogs should be microchipped in the UK, and a similar law is due to be passed for cats.

Dogs in shelter
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

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Dog Homelessness

5. 21 dogs are euthanised every day because they couldn’t be rehomed.

(PETA)

Unfortunately, shelters and rescues are overloaded with more animals and there are far more cats and dogs than potential owners. This means that many animals are euthanised, with some shelters operating a strict time-based policy. If a perfectly healthy and well-adjusted dog doesn’t find a new home in a set amount of time, they are put to sleep.


6. In 6 years, an unneutered female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies.

(PETA)

Dogs usually reach sexual maturity between 6 and 12 months of age and it is important to get dogs neutered or spayed, because this will help reduce the number of unwanted dogs that find their way into shelters. A single female dog can have as many as 3 litters in a year, and the average size of a litter is 6 puppies. This means that a single unneutered female, her offspring, and their offspring, can lead to as many as 67,000 puppies in 6 years.


7. Only 17% of owners adopt their dogs from shelters and rescues.

(STATISTA)

There are many reasons people choose to buy a dog rather than adopt one from a shelter. Some potential owners want a specific breed while others are wary of the reasons that a dog was abandoned in the first place. As a result, less than one in five dog owners got their pets from a shelter. Other sources include breeders, pet shops, puppy mills, and family and friends.

shelter-volunteer-feeding-the-dogs
Image Credit: ALPA PROD, Shutterstock

8. A quarter of new dog owners impulse bought puppies during COVID lockdown.

(Kennel Club)

At the beginning of COVID lockdown, many people turned to physical activity as a means of staying fit, getting healthy, and passing the time. The extra walking and time outdoors saw a lot of people consider a new pet. One in four new dog owners got their new puppy during lockdown.


9. 15% of new dog owners are worried they won’t be able to afford their puppy.

(Kennel Club)

Although there is nothing inherently wrong with getting a new puppy as a means of encouraging more physical activity, research shows that 15% of those new dog owners are concerned that they won’t be able to pay for the upkeep and ongoing costs of their new pet. Estimates suggest that a puppy can cost anywhere between £100 and £200 per month.


10. 15% of new dog owners admit they weren’t ready for a new puppy.

(Kennel Club)

A similar percentage of new owners also admit that they weren’t really ready for a new puppy. Owners are encouraged to research the impact of owning a dog because they do require a lot of attention. It is more difficult to find the time to provide an hour of walks a day when back in full-time work.


11. There are believed to be 67,000 stray dogs living on UK streets.

(Mars Petcare)

There are various reasons that dogs become stray. They may have been born to a stray dog themselves. Alternatively, they may have once had a home and the owner no longer wanted them, or the dog wasn’t microchipped and escaped from the house. 67,000 such dogs are thought to live on the streets, in abandoned buildings, and in other locations around the UK.

two women at an animal shelter
Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock

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Cat Homelessness

12. In 7 years, an unneutered female cat and her offspring can have 370,000 kittens.

(PETA)

Cats are even more prolific breeders than dogs, and a single unneutered female cat, and her offspring, can result in 370,000 unwanted kittens in just 7 years.


13. 2.6 million cats are not microchipped.

(Cats Protection)

Microchipping a cat enables owners to be reunited with their cats if they go missing or get out. The process requires a small microchip to be placed under the cat’s skin. Vets and animal welfare officers can scan the cat, locate the chip, and find the owners’ details using the microchip registry. Not only does this benefit the owner and the cat but it helps reduce the total number of stray cats on the streets and the number that end up in shelters. Despite this, and impending microchip laws, more than 2.5 million owned cats remain unregistered.

Shelter cat
Image By: Mimzy, Pixabay

14. There are approximately 1 million stray cats.

(Mars Petcare)

Similar to dogs, cats can end up stray for many different reasons. As well as those that are born to stray cats, there is a large population of feral cats. Feral means a domesticated animal that has reverted to living wild or an animal that was never domesticated in the first place. Feral cats can live in fields, barns, and around farms, but they can also live in urban environments. In total, there are more than 1 million stray and feral felines in the UK.


15. In some cities, there are more than 50 stray cats per square kilometre.

(Scientific Reports)

Stray and feral cats tend to live in areas where food is rife. This is why they congregate around farms: there is a proliferation of seed and feed that attracts mice and other prey. It is also why they live in urban areas, where they can scavenge from bins and other sources. In fact, in some cities, there are estimated to be more than 50 stray cats for every square kilometre of space.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Stray Dogs Are There in the UK?

Although it is impossible to know the exact number, there is estimated to be at least 67,000 stray dogs in the UK. Dogs are abandoned because their owners couldn’t cope, couldn’t afford their upkeep, or simply didn’t gel with the dog. (Mars Petcare)

woman touching a dog in the cage in shelter
Image By: Sandis Lazda, Shutterstock

How Many Stray Cats Are There in the UK?

Again, it is impossible to give an exact figure but best guesses indicate approximately 1 million stray and feral cats. As well as those that live on the streets of towns and cities, where they eat rubbish and leftovers, there is a large rural population that live in barns and on farms. (Mars Petcare)

How Many Stray Animals Are There in the UK?

With 67,000 stray dogs and 1 million stray cats, there are at least 1.1 million stray animals in the UK. (Mars Petcare)

Is It Illegal to Abandon a Dog in the UK?

According to the Abandonment of Animals Act 1960, it is a criminal offense to willfully abandon an animal if it is likely to “cause the animal any unnecessary suffering”. This means that while it is illegal to throw a dog out on the street, it is not generally considered illegal to surrender one to an animal shelter.

kittens in a cage of a shelter
Image By: Okssi, Shuttestock

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Conclusion

Although figures do show that the UK is a nation of animal lovers, and the vast majority of pet owners do take good care of their animals, figures also suggest that this isn’t the case for all pet owners. More than a million pets are left to roam the streets or end up in shelters in the hope of finding their forever home. We hope this article has shed some light on the animal homelessness problem in the UK.


Featured Image Credit: pmwtastro, Pixabay

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