Companion Animal Overpopulation

Companion Animal Overpopulation


Position Statement:

As a result of overpopulation, many companion animals suffer each year in Canada. The vision of Humane Canada™ is that every companion animal is part of a family or community where they are valued and provided with knowledgeable care that meets their physical and behavioural needs. Humane Canada™ supports the use of multi-faceted strategies to identify and address the root causes of companion animal overpopulation, including spaying and neutering cats, dogs and rabbits at an early age, as appropriate, by licensed veterinarians.

Humane Canada™ promotes the use of best shelter management practices, including those for managing the shelter population size, such as feline Shelter-Neuter-Return (SNR). Such practices entail accepting an animal into the shelter only when resources and housing capacity allow for care in a manner that is conducive to a positive outcome for that animal. Humane Canada recognizes that
situations will arise where some shelters must temporarily stretch their resources and capacity for care. Shelters in such situations must endeavor to responsibly manage resources to humanely care for the animals in their facility, following best practices. Shelters that are obligated to accept animals must make all reasonable efforts to return the population to an acceptable size as soon as possible.

Promoting responsible companion animal guardianship and the sourcing of companion animals through adoption or a responsible breeder are effective ways of addressing pet overpopulation and reducing the burden on organizations that rehome companion animals. At the same time it’s crucial to prevent irresponsible breeding (see Responsible Companion Animal Sourcing position statement).


Humane Canada™ believes it is vital for shelters, rescue groups, TNR groups, municipal animal control services, community leaders, and citizens to work together to address companion animal overpopulation. Sheltering organizations play an important role in providing care for animals in their communities. Humane Canada™ supports these groups and joins them in promoting companion animal adoption and responsible pet ownership, which includes early-age spay/neuter, as appropriate; permanent identification; lifetime veterinary care; appropriate nutrition, grooming, and shelter; adequate physical exercise and human/animal socialization; and overall recognition and meeting of the animals’ physical and behavioural needs.

When shelters are at risk of overcrowding from taking in too many unwanted and homeless animals, the welfare of all animals in a facility may be threatened due to stress, which can result in suppressed immune systems and increased risk of disease transmission. However, shelters can apply best management practices to ensure that animals are accepted to the shelter only when permitted by the shelter’s human, financial, and physical resources, including a housing capacity that meets the Canadian Standards of Care in Animal Shelters. Organizations can provide ongoing support to members of their community with resources regarding animal behaviour and training, alternatives to surrendering animals to a shelter, access to veterinary care, Trap-Neuter-Return programs, and other companion
animal welfare topics.

The indiscriminate breeding of companion animals leads to overpopulation: too many animals and not enough homes. Without community education and support, the absence of animal sheltering services can lead to abandonment. Abandoned companion animals without shelter and human care can suffer from dehydration, starvation, exposure to injurious heat or cold, disease, parasites, wildlife predation,
and many other conditions to which they are not habituated, and may be subject to abuse from the human population. Abandoned companion animals also have impacts on other species.

Companion Animal Overpopulation
Companion Animal Overpopulation
Humane Canada (also known as the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies) is Canada's federation of SPCAs and humane societies, representing the largest animal welfare community in Canada.