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Q & A: Battling Shelter Overpopulation—by the Numbers

Author Peter Marsh advocates a data-driven approach to reducing euthanasia

Peter Marsh says it’s time for animal shelters to work smarter in the battle against overpopulation and unnecessary euthanasia.

A New Hampshire-based lawyer and longtime animal welfare advocate focused on ending shelter overpopulation, Marsh last year published Replacing Myth with Math: Using Evidence-Based Programs to Eradicate Shelter Overpopulation. The book, designed for shelter medicine classes, is chock full of data that tell a sobering tale: While the number of cats and dogs euthanized in animal shelters has dropped dramatically in the past four decades, that rate of progress has slowed in recent years.

Fewer animals are being euthanized nationwide because fewer animals are entering shelters, Marsh writes. Research shows that certain communities—such as those with high poverty rates—relinquish more animals to shelters. But Marsh says shelters aren’t taking full advantage of such information by targeting their overpopulation programs to the people who need them most. “For the most part, researchers and people who put together shelter overpopulation programs have lived in separate worlds, isolated from each other,” Marsh writes. “As a result, program designers have rarely made use of research findings to effectively target their programs.”

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