With the rise in prominence of rescue organizations and the high profile promotion of such slogans as “Adopt, Don’t Shop”, it becomes important to decipher exactly what it is rescues and shelters are talking about, and what, if any, their agenda is.
Anyone who has spent any time with anyone in the rescue world knows that there are many dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, etc. in shelters or foster homes who are in need of a new home. To listen to someone passionately involved in rescue, you might come to the conclusion that anyone who pays a breeder for a dog or buys one from a source such as kijiji is killing off a comparable animal in a shelter somewhere or consigning one to a longer time in limbo in a no kill organization. Posters such as this one:
and this one –
use language that indicates that a decision to buy a pet (not specified where) is akin to murder. Is this fact or just emotional manipulation? If it is fact, we all should be horrified if anyone so much as thinks of buying a purebred or purpose-bred dog. If not, why are rescue organizations telling us this?
The NCPPSP (there’s a mouthful) or National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy in the US comes up with all the numbers that are used by the ASPCA and Humane Society to identify how many animals are taken in to participating shelters and rescues, and how many are euthanized. However, as the ASPCA notes here: ” Currently, no government institution or animal organization is responsible for tabulating national statistics for the animal protection movement.”. They also say that there are about 5000 independent animal shelters in the US alone that are not monitored in any way. No one would or could dispute that animal shelters all over the US and Canada are often full to capacity, but what is unclear are the reasons behind this. Can it be directly attributed to breeders? Are there different kinds of breeders? Obviously, there are no dogs unless breeding of some type takes place, but is it purpose-bred animals who are taking up the shelter space? There is a great difference between a litter that was bred to take center stage in a show ring and one that is bred to occupy space in a pet store. Further, what about a litter bred to “experience the miracle of life” as is often used as reasoning for a family pet to be bred? Clearly not all breeders are created equal. In a future post, I will discuss the differences in more detail. In the meantime, let’s look at what we know about animals in shelters. In the previous link from the ASPCA, there are a few interesting facts about shelter animals from the NNCPPSP. One I find very interesting is this: “More than 20 percent of people who leave dogs in shelters adopted them from a shelter. ” This means that a full 20% of the dogs in shelters currently were ALREADY adopted once from a shelter. How is it that they are back again? Another interesting statistic is: “Twenty-five percent of dogs who enter local shelters are purebred.” If this is true, and breeders typically breed mostly purebreds to sell – where have the other 75% come from? Certainly this could refer to family pets that are bred, or puppy mill hybrid dogs (ex. Labradoodles) that are not recognized breeds, however, as many people decide to breed their purebred pet dogs and mills tend to stick to breeds that are recognizable and popular (to ensure profit), the number is too high to be explained this way. The last and most disturbing statistic I want to mention is this: “Shelter intakes are about evenly divided between those animals relinquished by owners and those picked up by animal control”. This means that for every dog in a shelter that was truly homeless and in need, there is one that had a family. Following the above poster logic, it is up to us to fix what these families could not; in essence, to commit to providing a permanent home to the animal that they chose to give up. Why did they have to give up their animals? If we could solve this problem, could we not then save at least 50% of the animals currently in care?
Clearly the adoption issue is not as clearcut as the rescues would have us believe. “Adopt, Don’t Shop” sounds great, but I have yet to meet anyone who adopted an animal and gave the rescue or shelter carte blanche over which animal they took home. Whether shopping on kijiji, with breeders, or through rescues and shelters, EVERYONE has a set of requirements and desires they aim to fill with the animal they eventually decide on. Ergo, they shop, just in a different venue.
In the interests of time, I’ll leave more of this discussion for another post, but I want to leave you with this thought:
Mention breeders in the company of dedicated rescuers and you might as well be talking about the death penalty in a room full of Liberals, or abortion at a meeting of Pro-Lifers. But it was exactly this type of person who started and maintained much of rescue to begin with. Good breeders would offer to take in a stray or otherwise homeless animal that could be identified as mainly or wholly the breed that they specialized in. They would provide rehab or vet care at their own expense and house the animal until they could find it a good home. Somewhere over time, dedicated rescues came about – some breed specific (dealing with one or two breeds only) and others all-breed. I’m sure in the beginning, the breeders were thankful not to have the responsibility on their shoulders anymore, although I’m betting that they didn’t realize that in time they would become pariahs within the rescue movement. It begs the question though, if breeders, who have dedicated their lives to a breed, are not involved in running rescues, who is?