A constant call on many social media feeds is for pet adoptions. While some people might be quick to share these appeals, these animals rarely find a home in which to spend their lives. A new report reveals that 69.3% of cats and dogs are homeless in India, which accounts for 19% of the global homeless pet population.
The report, State of Pet Homelessness Project, released by pet food company Mars Petcare India, is aimed at better understanding the scale of pet homelessness globally, as well as the factors that lead to pets finding themselves on the road. For the data collection and analysis, they collaborated with more than 2,500 animal welfare experts and organisations across 20 countries, including India, from late 2022 and the first half of 2023.
For the study, experts reviewed data from over 900 global and local sources, along with 30,000 public surveys and 200 expert interviews. The findings revealed that 1 in 3 pets are homeless in the world, estimating almost 362 million pets still haven’t found a home. Over 60 million homeless pets in India are living on the streets, while 8.8 million are in shelters.
Specifically, 60.5% and 9% of dogs and cats live in the streets or shelters, respectively. "The State of Pet Homelessness Report is a clarion call to address the urgent issue of pet homelessness, armed with compelling data and insights that guide us towards actionable solutions,” Sahil Murthy, managing director of Mars Petcare India said in a press statement.
One of the worries that shelters often struggle with is the lack of space. As more dogs and cats find themselves without a home, the more issues shelters face in catering to all the pets’ needs. The report states although more than half of the respondents from urban and rural areas recommend adopting from shelters, adoption from shelters is still currently low.
The report also suggested ways to reduce the growing problem of homeless pets. First, the implementation of safe sterilisation of stray animals to reduce their number. However, it’s important to ensure sterilisation is done by veterinarians who can provide appropriate care to the animals and not put their health at risk.
Second, is the most simple yet difficult one to implement. According to the experts, providing a responsible and loving home to homeless dogs and cats should be a priority. The report showed that 47% and 28% of respondents are thinking of becoming dog and cat pet owners respectively. Interestingly, 13% of respondents reported that they found their pets on the street. There should be accessible resource-based education about adopting dogs such as indies and cats.
Finally, a lot of pets found on the street are also lost or abandoned. After growing up in a home, they suddenly find themselves in the street, often with lesser chances of survival. A worrying finding of the report was that 38% and 57% of respondents said they were considering giving up pet dogs and cats, respectively. It’s important to educate people about the responsibility of being a pet parent. Moreover, if giving up the pet is their only option, they should be made aware of alternatives such as finding a new home for the pet.
Over the years, several studies have shown how pets have a positive influence on humans. Talking to NPR in an August 2023 article, Petting other people's dogs, even briefly, can boost your health, Nancy Gee, a professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Human-Animal Interaction at Virginia Commonwealth University said research has shown that levels of the stress hormone cortisol decrease in people after just 5 to 20 minutes spent interacting with dogs.
Notably, the dogs’ oxytocin, the hormone known for its role in bonding and attachment, also increases when they interact with humans, indicating that this is a two-way street.