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Counting Your Community's Furry Blessings

Knowing how many animals are in your area can help your organization plan for the future

When it comes to obtaining grants, planning outreach programs, and preparing for possible disasters, shelter professionals know that sometimes it's all in the numbers. Foundations, donors, and elected officials usually want to see statistics and hard data supporting requests for more funding.

One figure that often seems difficult to estimate, however, is the total number of owned animals in your community. Even if you have a handle on the number of licensed animals, there'll still be a high percentage of people who don't register their pets. But The HSUS's recently published Disaster Planning Manual contains advice for those who want to help the animals in their area stand up and be counted.

The formula that follows is by no means exact; it is based on national averages and does not account for potential variables among regions, states, and communities. If, for example, you live in a densely populated suburban area with a large number of apartments and full-time workers, cats may be the pet of choice for many more people with limited time and space. On the other hand, a suburban area with mostly housing developments may be the stomping ground for a higher number of dog lovers.

Keep such variables in mind so you can make necessary adjustments when using this formula. For the purposes of explanation, we'll use the fictional example of Anytown, a community with 100,000 households.

Step 1

Find out the number of households in your community; the local emergency management or property appraiser's office should be able to help with this. Again, in this example, the number of households is 100,000.

  Percentage of U.S. Households Owning A Pet Number of Pets Per Household
Dogs 39 1.7
Cats 34 2.3
Birds 6 2.5

Source: The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association's 2003-2004 National Pet Owners Survey.

Step 2

Using the figures in the table above, determine how many households in the community own dogs, how many own cats, and how many own birds. You can arrive at this number by multiplying the number of households in your community by the percentage of people who own each species nationally. Here's what the math would look like in a community of 100,000 households:

  • 100,000 households in Anytown x 0.39 (percentage of dog owners nationally) = 39,000 dog-owning households in Anytown
  • 100,000 households in Anytown x 0.34 (percentage of cat owners nationally) = 34,000 cat-owning households in Anytown
  • 100,000 households in Anyown x 0.06 (percentage of bird owners nationally) = 6,000 bird-owning households in Anytown

Step 3

Multiply the numbers you arrived at in Step 2 by the average number of each species owned per household.

  • 39,000 dog-owning households in Anytown x 1.7 (percentage of dogs owned per household nationally) = 66,300 dogs in Anytown
  • 34,000 cat-owning households in Anytown x 2.3 (percentage of cats owned per household nationally) = 78,200 cats in Anytown
  • 6,000 bird-owning households in Anytown x 2.5 (percentage of birds owned per household nationally) = 15,000 pet birds in Anytown

Now Anytown has rough estimates of the number of dogs, cats, and birds in its community. You can also apply this formula to other species, using national statistics for reptile or small-animal ownership.

(Revised March 2008)


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