Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.
Stray and surrendered animals are a problem in most Western countries. Large numbers of pets enter animal shelters due to changes in owner’s circumstances, pets escape or wander, or a lack of spaying and neutering leads to over-population. In Australia, the management of surrendered and stray animals is managed by local municipal governments, animal welfare organisations, and charity groups. Shelters are required to comply with legislative requirements, but there is no national system for monitoring the ongoing number of admissions and their outcomes.
Most large shelters are transparent regarding their practices, including euthanasia, but not all of them are. Let’s look at what information is available by giving you 10 statistics about Australian animal shelters including:
Top 10 Australia Animal Shelter Statistics to Know in 2023
- A total of 112,530 animals were received by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in 2019–2020. Dogs and cats were the most frequently rescued species.
- A total of 3,466 dogs and 9,714 cats were euthanased by the RSPCA in 2019–2020.
- 57,910 animal cruelty complaints were investigated between 2019 and 2020 of the 73,997 complaints that were lodged. Only 359 of these investigations resulted in prosecution.
- Approximately 200,000 stray or surrendered dogs are admitted to shelters and municipal rescue facilities each year in Australia.
- Of the 200,000 dogs admitted to shelters, approximately 20% of them are euthanased.
- 10,207 dogs rescued by the RSPCA were reclaimed by their owners.
- 11,442 of the dogs rescued by the RSPCA were re-homed successfully.
- The number-one reason for euthanasing dogs in shelters is aggressive behaviour. Aggression accounts for 53% of all cases of dogs that were euthanased.
- Australia’s Department of the Environment announced a plan to cull over 2 million cats in 2020 due to overpopulation.
- It is illegal in Australia’s Capital Territory to leave your dog or cat unaltered unless you are a registered breeder.
General Animal Shelter Statistics
1. A total of 112,530 animals were received by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in 2019–2020. Dogs and cats were the most frequently rescued species.
Most rescued animals were located in Queensland, followed by New South Wales and Victoria. Dog rescues were down 17.10% from the previous year, and cat rescues went down by 11.35%
Rescues also included 371 horses, 2,271 livestock, 28,183 wildlife species, and 7,609 rescues are listed as other animals.
Livestock included cattle, chickens, ducks, geese, goats, Bantam Hens, pigs, sheep, donkeys, and turkeys. Wild animals included a variety of bird species, magpies, galahs, lizards, possums, kookaburras, water birds, turtles, koalas, kangaroos, and wallabies.
2. A total of 3,466 dogs and 9,714 cats were euthanased by the RSPCA in 2019–2020.
The reasons for euthanasation are not specifically listed by the RSPCA report but include behaviour, health issues, and owner requests.
3. 57,910 animal cruelty complaints were investigated between 2019 and 2020 out of the 73,997 complaints that were lodged. Only 359 of these investigations resulted in prosecution.
Examples of the types of establishments routinely inspected by the RSPCA include:
Dog Rescue Statistics
4. Approximately 200,000 stray or surrendered dogs are admitted to shelters and municipal rescue facilities each year in Australia.
Most dog admissions to shelters are strays (24%) or surrenders from municipal enforcement (34%). About a quarter of these dogs are puppies, 18% are adults over the age of 6 months, and 92% are crossbreed dogs.
86% of owner surrenders are due to human-related factors, such as affordability or lack of pet-friendly housing.
5. Of the 200,000 dogs admitted to shelters, approximately 20% of them are euthanased.
The most commonly cited reason for the euthanasia of adult dogs is aggressive behaviour.
6. 10,207 dogs rescued by the RSPCA were reclaimed by their owners.
This accounts for about 32% of all dogs rescued by the organization.
7. 11,442 of the dogs rescued by the RSPCA were re-homed successfully.
This number is approximately 43% of all dogs rescued by the RSPCA between 2019 and 2020.
8. The number-one reason for euthanasing dogs in shelters is aggressive behaviour. Aggression accounts for 53% of all cases of dogs that were euthanased.
(University of Queensland Vet School)
50% of these aggression issues involved other animals, while only 15% exhibited aggression towards humans. Health issues were cited as the reason for 23% of euthanasia cases, 20% were requested by the owners, and 3% were due to age.
Pet Overpopulation Statistics
9. Australia’s Department of the Environment announced a plan to cull over 2 million cats in 2020 due to overpopulation.
(The Government of Australia)
Feral cats are thought to be the cause of endangerment to over 100 native Australian species and have caused the extinction of several birds and small mammals. There are also concerns regarding the transmission of disease to livestock and humans.
The government declared feral cats as pests in 2015 and subsequently made plans to cull the population.
10. It is illegal in Australia’s Capital Territory to leave your dog or cat unaltered unless you are a registered breeder.
This measure is put in place to prevent overpopulation and unwanted breeding. Many Australian towns and cities have reduced the cost of licencing for desexed companion animals in order to promote the practice.
Australia’s National Desexing Network even offers a referral system for people who are financially unable to desex their pets, enabling them to receive discounted surgeries for their animals.
Frequently Asked Questions About Australian Animal Shelters
How many animal shelters are there in Australia?
Since there is no national monitoring system for animal shelters in Australia, there is no way of knowing how many shelters and rescue organisations there are. PetRescue.com.au lists 917 organizations across the country.
How many kill shelters are in Australia?
Most animal shelters in Australia are no-kill shelters. The RSPCA does euthanase animals if they feel that it is unavoidable due to ‘health, behavioural, or legislative reasons’. The number of dogs euthanased by the RSPCA has declined in recent years, and the primary reason for euthanasing is listed as aggression.
How many dogs were euthanased last year?
3,466 dogs were euthanased by the RSPCA.
What is the solution to Australia’s ‘pet overpopulation problem’?
The number-one thing pet owners can do to help prevent overpopulation is to spay or neuter their pets. In 7 years, with an average litter size of three and two pregnancies per year, one unspayed cat and her offspring can produce over 450,000 cats. One unspayed dog and her offspring can produce over 4,000 dogs in the same timeframe.
Adopting a pet instead of buying one from a breeder is another way to help reduce shelter overpopulation. Many wonderful companion animals are waiting in shelters. When you adopt an animal from a shelter, you are saving two lives at once: the life of the animal that you adopt and the life of another animal that needs the shelter space.
It’s also important that when you adopt a pet, you make a commitment to care for them for life. Many people adopt pets and subsequently surrender them due to the care and attention that they require. While some life changes are unavoidable, do your homework and ensure that you can care for your pet for life, both financially and emotionally.
Awareness is the first step to solving a problem. Once you know and understand the issue of pet overpopulation, you can make others aware too!
While still staggeringly high, the number of pets in Australian shelters has declined in recent years. There are several programs in place to reduce pet overpopulation, including desexing (spaying or neutering) of companion animals. Most rescued animals are re-homed or returned to their owners. Unfortunately, a small percentage of animals are still euthanased for behavioural and health reasons.
Featured Image Credit: Evgeny Bakhchev, Shutterstock