Abandoned Dogs: 70% of the World's Dogs

Unfortunately, animal abandonment continues to be an unfathomable reality. It's time to act as a species and individuals.
Abandoned Dogs: 70% of the World's Dogs
Samuel Sanchez

Written and verified by the biologist Samuel Sanchez.

Last update: 22 December, 2022

The abandonment of canines continues to be a global problem that requires attention every day of the year, not only on specific dates or the latest figures are announced. On this occasion, we want to emphasize a reality that is completely unacceptable: Abandoned dogs make up 70% of the world’s dogs, which is equivalent to 500 million homeless stray dogs.

This figure may seem astronomical, and the saddest thing is that behind each number is a sad story and an animal that requires urgent attention. Next up, we’ll explore the main reasons for canine abandonment and the global situation regarding this issue. Don’t miss it.

Abandoned dogs

As indicated by professional sources, 70% of the world’s dogs are abandoned. According to the World Health Organization and the Royal Canine Society of Spain, of the 800 million dogs on the planet, 500 million of them are homeless. Up to 26% of houses in European countries have at least one dog at home, but the number of stray specimens is higher.

Other sources of information are somewhat more conservative, but the number of abandoned dogs continues to exceed 200 million worldwide. Here is some data that helps us put this reality in perspective:

  • In the United States alone there are 70 million homeless animals. Out of these, only about 8 million reach the shelters, which means that the rest always live on the street or die.
  • In European countries, 80% of abandoned and unrescued dogs end up dying for lack of skills to survive.
  • Only 10% of abandoned animals had been neutered or spayed before entering a shelter.
  • Up to half of abandoned pets end up being euthanized in the United States for lack of guardians willing to adopt them.

As you can see, the numbers are alarming and heartbreaking in equal measure. Even so, not everything is bad. According to the One Green Planet association, up to 30% of dogs that arrive at a shelter end up being claimed by their original guardians.

It’s estimated that, in the United States, about 5000 abandoned dogs are put down every day due to lack of resources and guardians.

Malnutrition in dogs.

Why do dog abandonments occur?

Now you know that 70% of dogs are abandoned, but we need to ask why. In 2020, the Affinity Foundation published a report with a series of very interesting statistics. In the following list, we’ll share the main reasons for negligence on the part of guardians:

  1. Unwanted litters (21% of abandonments): Theoretically, an unspayed female dog can have up to 70 puppies in her lifetime. What does a guardian do when they suddenly see 12 dogs at home and a few months ago they only had one? The least responsible and ethical answer is sadly obvious: leave them on the street.
  2. Behavioral problems (13.2%): Separation anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD), aggressiveness and many other psychological conditions can make living with a dog very difficult. For less empathetic people, the best solution is to disengage altogether.
  3. End of hunting season (11.6%): Unfortunately, hunting continues to take place in many regions of the world. If the dog gets old or the hunting season end, people sometimes choose to abandon them. Greyhounds are the ones who get the worst of it in this area.
  4. Loss of interest in the animal (10.8%): This is perhaps one of the most serious reasons for abandonment. Every tutor must understand that a living being isn’t a toy, but a sentient entity and a lifelong responsibility in equal measure.
  5. Economic factors (6.4%): Unfortunately, many people live on the edge of poverty and can’t support themselves. A dog is an expense of around 1,200 euros a year, and so a guardian recently fired from their job may not be able to afford to have one. Abandonment should never be an option in these cases, as there will always be someone willing to shelter the animal.
  6. Other causes: Allergies (6.3%), change of address or transfer (6.2%), lack of time or space (6.1%), death of the guardian (5%), birth of a child, divorce, and holidays (less than 6% combined).

In addition, it should be noted that the same number of dogs are abandoned every month of the year. There doesn’t appear to be a pattern of seasonality, so summer vacations are no longer listed as potential main triggers. For example, poverty in the home or the death of the main guardian are more common factors of abandonment than the summer.

Unwanted litters are the first reason for abandoned dogs.

A final thought, but a necessary one

After reading all these statistics, it’s shocking to learn that so many dogs are still being bought. In countries like Spain, 52% of the dogs are saved from abandonment. 27% of these are bought and 10% are obtained by acquisition from individuals. Although the number of adoptions is so high, it still doesn’t add up that almost 1 in 3 dogs are obtained from breeders with so many dogs looking for a home.

At this point, it’s time to ask the following question: are we, as human beings, looking for designer dogs? Do we really empathize with the problems that surround us? Of course, it isn’t our intention to blame someone who decides to buy a dog, but adoption should always be the first option in mind.

There’ll always be a dog in a shelter that will be ideal for you. If you can avoid it, please don’t buy.

Homeless dogs multiply over the years.

70% of the world’s dogs are abandoned dogs, so there’s still a lot of work to do. We must come together both as a species and as individuals so that this number decreases over time, not just on a personal level, but also on a political level. By enforcing penalties for negligence and regulating breeding in dogs, the global scene may one day be somewhat more encouraging.

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The contents of My Animals are written for informational purposes. They can't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment from a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.