To be clear, pet overpopulation is a problem created by humans. We all know about the birds and the bees; it’s not rocket science. Yet, millions of animals are euthanized each year; it is about half the animals that enter shelters. This also means that half of all dogs born are actually unwanted. It is a sad reality we’re all facing (or hiding from.)
The 3 Worlds Of Dog Ownership
To us, working in animal and dog rescue and sheltering, there are 3 distinct worlds of pet ownership:
- The rescue world — people adopting dogs that are spayed or neutered and promote the idea of this kind of advocacy
- The breeding and showing world — where it is legitimately for the “carrying on” of bloodlines and the “tradition” of it (although we disagree with animals being required to be intact for showing)
- The third world — average people who think they need a dog, or who fancy dabbling in breeding (usually to a detrimental extent). This world includes puppy mills; this is where the purebred puppy myth is alive and it’s our mission of rescue to break that barrier
Both the first and second worlds are completely legitimate worlds and do not need to be mutually exclusive of each other. The third world, however, is the problem. And in an ideal planet, nobody should ever fall into this inhumane category.
Breeders Are Not To Be Blamed (Well, Not All Of Them)
Breeders should keep on breeding if they do it responsibly. Breeders breeding are not the problem.
The problem is breeders selling dogs to anyone without concern for the welfare of the animal. When you make a living off of selling animals, your direct motivation cannot be for the animal itself. When animals are sold for money, their health, temperament, and socialization are not the priority since they translate into expenses (ie. thinner margins and lower profitability.)
Another huge issue we are dealing with in rescue centers has to do with breeders literally dumping their undesirables dogs and puppies with the local rescue. Or sometimes even worse, euthanizing them, simply because they are not good enough to be sold. To me, this is the ultimate sin of dog breeding.
A breeder should obey a simple rule: if you breed, you must be committed to being responsible for that animal indefinitely. And this means any care each of your animals requires to be healthy and live a good quality of life should be handled with no brakes. If a dog breeder cannot rehome a dog for any reason it could be (age, health…) then they simply need to be prepared to keep the animal as one of their own, forever.
If you cannot do that, don’t bring more animals into this world when you are not even able to look after them yourself. That is what is irresponsible.
The easy answer is that all actors here play a role: breeders, buyers, shelters, governmental bodies. But for the purposes of this exercise, I lay blame at negligent breeders’ feet. There are many wonderful and ethical breeders who truly care about the individual lives they bring into this earth; but unfortunately, they are the minority.
As long as killing the “overpopulation” is the solution, relentless breeding remains wrong. It’s morally wrong, it’s lazy, and it’s unfair. Puppy mills and backyard breeders are the problems.
Every day on neighborhood groups I see posts of both wanted and unwanted litters being sold for profit or given away. The shelters are full of them – unwanted litters and discarded older pets. People ooo, ahhh and awww over puppies, but there is no matching of the breed to family lifestyle and too many get a cute pet they are not equipped to manage long-term.
Breeders irresponsibly supply this demand for animals while thousands languish in the shelters. However you look at it, they continue to add to the problem. Education and regulation need to also play roles, but until society fixes this problem, breeding needs to be contained.Kristen Kuhns – Founder & Executive Director at PetGuest.org, focusing on community intervention and prevention programs.
Buyers Have To Stick With Their Decisions
Buyers and adopters who don’t stick with their initial decision should take massive blame for the overpopulation issue. However, we should all focus on the reasons why people change their minds and educate our future generations about these in order to avoid an even worse situation in the near future.
If the animal becomes aggressive or even dangerous, it is definitely not their fault but rather yours and how you raised your pet. Dogs are by nature gentle and socially friendly animals. However, many owners simply do not take the responsibility to manage and train their dogs, and eventually, these become a menace to society. Too often, people will treat animals (especially dogs) as if they are robots you can simply program to see them do whatever you want them to. Obviously, this is absolutely not the case and ignorance is the main cause of shelters filling up overcapacity.
On many occasions, the dog does not represent a danger to society but is simply showing an undesired behavior such as peeing at home or chewing furniture. At first, owners tolerate it, then lose patience and end up abandoning their “beloved” dog. Pet owners can’t switch the love they apparently had for their puppy whenever it pees on the floor. What else were you expecting? A perfect little companion that happens to be naturally housetrained? This is the time when you, the responsible owner, must make the decision to either:
- fix it — training lessons, online education, vet advice
- tolerate it — compromise at first while you slowly train your pet
Yes, it won’t happen overnight and it may take weeks or more accidents, or more barking or more furniture gnawed on, but do not put that responsibility on a rescue or shelter. That is pure cowardness on top of the utter betrayal of your animal.
Yes, Your Dog Could Be Happier Elsewhere
Sometimes, or rarely, your dog could genuinely feel unhappy or not living the quality of life it deserves. And at some point, it would end up affecting them seriously. This is in itself an acceptable reason to find a new home or rescue center for your beloved dog.
However, you can’t just use this excuse when you are the one giving up on your pet but use this to make yourself feel better. When it’s out of personal guilt, you are simply getting rid of a dog you wanted, who is now extremely bonded with you and sees you as its best friend. You are most likely ruining its life with your selfish decision.
For example, many people think that their 10-year-old Labrador or 14-year-old cat would be happier somewhere else with someone who has more time or a yard. That is not a legitimate and receivable excuse. If they were truly your buddy and pal all these years, you should commit to ensuring that this is the case in their golden years too — not abandoning them whenever it becomes too much of a headache.
Shelters Have No Choice But To Euthanize
Shelters, unfortunately, have to accept dogs they may kill later. This is merely a product of our society’s lack of ability to manage their own human choices. Shelters would not exist in the first place if people were responsible for their own animals. Shelters are not to blame.
If shelters must euthanize dogs it is because society is dumping too many of them in their hands (ie. more than what a shelter can manage.) And this is NOT the shelters’ fault at all! The blame is fully on people who are not spaying and neutering their pets, on backyard breeders, puppy mills, and people treating animals like shoes that don’t fit. This is not a shelter at its core wanting to euthanize animals. Shelters can only do so much, but they should not be vilified.
Governmental & State Institutions Aren’t Helping Much Either
States are also guilty because they do not fund shelters enough and this is a serious problem that’s hurting us badly. No one wants animals running on the streets, yet very few government entities even consider reserving funds for the various animal welfare systems falling in their jurisdictions. They think voters’ problems trump animal ones; but when pet overpopulation is a people’s problem, it hardly makes sense to us in the rescue world.
Animal welfare lumps into many categories in a society where nonprofits are asked to do the work that the government can’t or won’t do. It is understandable our governmental bodies don’t feel like controlling every bit of society, down to animal welfare, and after having my own personal dealings with our government, both local and federal, I am glad I have the ability to manage Motley Zoo the way we deem necessary, and not the way we are forced to.
My proposed solution to this issue is a lottery game specifically for the benefit of animal welfare (or fill in the blank with a different social issue). Why should all lottery funding go toward education? Why shouldn’t constituents choose how they want to contribute to society’s issues? I believe this would solve a serious lack of funding for so many nonprofits… But in reality, it is all about fighting the education board or what controls this monopoly.
We’re a volunteer-run, foster-based, 501(c)(3) based outside Seattle, WA. We have rescued and rehomed more than 1,800 animals since 2009 and have a volunteer crew of more than 150 fantastic people.. We deal with many special cases, especially dumped animals and those that are otherwise challenged medically, physically, or behaviorally.