According to the Humane Society of the United States, “2.7 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs … are put down in U.S. shelters each year.” That’s about one animal every 11 seconds!

These statistics are staggering and wholly unacceptable nowadays especially when there are so many ways to help reduce the number of pets that may become homeless or end up in shelters.

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Two main reasons for pets being in shelters are that guardians give them up, not wanting to care for these loyal pets anymore, or animal control finds them alone on the street.

ASPCA statistics show that only 10 percent of the animals turned over to shelters have been spayed or neutered, which contributes to overpopulation and the high intake and euthanasia rates in overcrowded shelters.

But guess what? There are a number of strategies available today that can help end pet homelessness and you can help them succeed. Just take a look at these 10 simple ways to help!

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1. Be a Lost Pet Advocate

If you find a lost pet, try helping them get home first before dropping them off at an animal shelter. Here’s something to think about — about 30 percent of lost dogs and 5 percent of cats will be reclaimed at shelters by their guardians. With your help, shelters can be less overcrowded and more pets might be able to find their way home faster.

2. Say NO to Irresponsible Breeding

When you support anti-puppy mill initiatives, you are working against irresponsible breeding and animal cruelty. Say no to this horrendous industry by standing up to the estimated 10,000 puppy mills in the United States and avoid buying animals from pet stores. You can also partake in pet store protests held by local anti-puppy mill groups like metro Detroit’s Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan.

3. Go to Bat for Cats

About 70 percent of shelter cats end up being killed; this statistic includes strays, feral and surrendered cats. Join a local cat initiative to keep cats safe from being put down by promoting trap-neuter-return (TNR) for feral cats and practicing responsible pet guardianship.

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4. Volunteer to Find Forever Families

In order for off-site pet adoption events and programs to be successful at finding homeless pets forever families, volunteers like you and organization partnerships are needed. Such events partner with agencies with similar animal welfare concerns to work together to make a difference.

5. Opt to Adopt, Not Shop

Unfortunately, many pets bought from pet stores have health issues that can result in pain and suffering and even death. Save healthy homeless pets from being euthanized at overcrowded shelters by giving them a permanent, loving home. Don’t buy a pet, adopt!

6. Fund an Awesome Rescue Group

Alongside animal shelters, there are also rescue groups that rescue dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and other small pets that are breed or issue specific. Shelters and rescue groups are essential in the long term care of animals. By funding animal rescue groups, you can help homeless pets by providing them with needed veterinary care and supplies during their adoption journey. Check out these amazing rescue groups for starters:

7. Become a Foster Parent

Help to socialize and care for homeless animals by becoming a foster parent to a shelter pet. Being a foster pet parent will lead to fewer shelter pets being euthanized and gives pets more time to find their forever homes while being in a temporary home filled with love.

8. Be a Self-Appointed Pet Reporter

Lost and stray pets can get scared and run away from help and may end up reproducing with other street animals, thereby contributing to even more pet homelessness. If you are unable to locate guardians on your own or an animal appears threatening, report any domestic animal you see roaming around your neighborhood to animal control.

9. Curb Pet Homelessness with Spaying and Neutering

The homeless pet population can be significantly reduced simply by having your adopted pets spayed or neutered. Not only will this stop overpopulation, but fewer animals will accidentally be born only to be taken to the shelter. Spay and neuter is a proven way to reduce pet overpopulation and can ensure that every pet has a family to love them. If you already spay and neuter your companions, then consider supporting local spay/neuter initiatives through volunteer and awareness-raising efforts, or simply by making a monetary donation.

10. Be a Responsible Pet Guardian

Don’t be a part of the problem by being an irresponsible pet guardian. Be responsible by micro-chipping your companions, updating pet identification tags, spaying or neutering, and choosing to adopt a pet if and only if you plan to care for them for the remainder of their life.

With these ways and more to help end pet homelessness, all of us at One Green Planet encourage you to participate in World Spay Day observed today, Feb. 25, 2014!

Image source: Klearchos Kapoutsis/ Flickr