The New Jersey 2012 municipal shelter statistics are finally available (in general, rescue groups are not included).

But, don’t get too excited – they aren’t really that pretty. Better than some states, sure … but are they acceptable in the age of knowledge, ever-increasing pet care (i.e. money spent on our pets) and increased taxes?

Of those shelters choosing to report, over 26,000 animals were put to death in NJ shelters in 2012. That is 30% of those impounded. THIRTY PERCENT. If you have 3 animals in your house right now, just look at all them and imagine one dead because the shelter system in this state (and country) is broken.

The report shows over 22,000 of those killed in 2012 were cats. That is 82.6% of all animals impounded. WHAT?

60 cats per day. New Jersey is failing when it comes to saving cats.

Keep in mind that reporting is voluntary so the actual numbers are likely higher. And practically ALL municipal shelters are funded with tax-payer dollars. YOUR MONEY.

So, what can be done?

Karma Cat + Zen Dog started in Middlesex County, New Jersey and we do the majority of our adoptions here. Likewise, at this time, the majority of our animals are rescued from Middlesex County. According to the above report, Middlesex County killed 1,667 animals in 2012. Of that number, 1,264 were cats … 89.3% of shelter intake.


Eight years of reported Middlesex County shelter intake & euthanasia of cats & dogs

The highlights:

  • Cat intake is generally increasing with the number of cats euthanized slightly decreasing each year.
  • Dog intake is slightly increasing with the number of dogs euthanized slightly decreasing each year. (Some event must have taken place in 2009 for the intake number to be so high)

But, really: NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED IN EIGHT YEARS. Especially for the cats …

“Nobody WANTS to kill healthy pets” right? Well, sorry, but why are over 1,000 cats killed in Middlesex shelters every year?

Oh, right … “Pet Overpopulation” … We’ve all heard the tag line: “too many pets, not enough homes”

It’s just NOT TRUE!

For pet overpopulation to be true, the number of homes/families looking for a new pet must be lower than the number of available, adoptable pets. So, let’s do some math …

Part 1: How many homes are available for pets? According to the U.S. Census of 2011, Middlesex County had 296,076 households (1) … for the sake of this post, let’s assume that number is the same for 2012 (the year of the latest shelter statistics).

Part 2: Of those Middlesex County homes, how many have pets? If we assume that our county is “average” for the U.S., then according to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Market Research Statistics (2) 36.5% of households will have 1.6 dogs and 30.4% of households will have 2.1 cats.

Crunching the numbers, that gives 172,908 dogs and 189,015 cats as pets in Middlesex County, NJ. (Hey, look at that – more cats than dogs!)

The life expectancy of dogs varies by breed and size … the life expectancy of medium size dogs is 10 to 13 years (3). Cats live 15 to 17 years on average (4). Averaging, we get 11.5 year lifespan for dogs, and 16 year lifespan for cats. This means that, …

Of the 172,908 dogs in Middlesex County, 1/11.5 (15,036) will pass away each year and of the 189,015 cats in Middlesex County, 1/16 (11,813) will pass away each year.

Part 3: Compare Part 1 and Part 2

This also means that 26,849 pets (15,036 dogs + 11,813 cats) could be replaced every year in the county to maintain a constant rate of pet ownership. While it is true that not everyone replaces a beloved pet immediately, and some people decide not to replace a pet that has died, others decide to obtain a companion for the first time, so we can assume that the rate of pet ownership remains roughly constant over time.

This graphic should help illustrate the point that there ARE enough potential homes for ALL the euthanized animals in Middlesex County:


In 2012, 1,264 cats and 152 dogs were euthanized.

The above estimation only works if all the cats & dogs entering the shelter system are adoptable. One of the major issues is that there is no comprehensive program for feral cats. If there were a program to 1. keep feral cats out of the shelter system and 2. provide vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries for those that do end up at the shelter, we would likely see the number of cats euthanized drop drastically.

Enter: TNR! Trap-Neuter-Return!!

Healthy cats do not belong in shelters. TNR is the only way to save cats’ lives, reduce and stabilize community cat populations, and free up very badly needed shelter space for adoptable animals. This is how communities should be spending their money on cats instead of killing them.

You can help:


  1. New Jersey Census Facts:
  2. 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook as quoted by the American Veterinary Medical Association
  3. Wikipedia.  “Aging in Dogs”
  4. Average cat lifespan:
  5. New Jersey Animal Statistics: (view other years by changing the last two numbers in the link – all the way back to 04).

Inspiration for portions of this post:

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