04 March 2017

WELFARE - Not Enough Dogs? Too Many? What's Happening with North America's Canines

Shelters, rescue organizations, veterinarians, ethical breeders, and other animal advocates have been working to reduce pet overpopulation and exploitative breeding practices for decades.

Aggressive spay/neuter initiatives have successfully halted pet overpopulation in some jurisdictions.

From 1994 to 2002, New Hampshire’s spay/neuter program facilitated a 77% drop in euthanasia rates at their shelters, and allowed them to have the lowest euthanasia rate in the nation in 2007.

In the ten years since then, spay/neuter programs and other efforts to reduce pet overpopulation have succeeded.

A recent study published by the Mississippi University State College of Veterinary Medicine indicates that shelter intake rates are higher, and euthanasia rates are lower, than previously believed. 

The study is quick to point out that there is no governing body for shelter medicine and no national register of shelters or national census of shelter animals, and that both intake and euthanasia rates are difficult to determine.

But even if the numbers aren’t 100%, the implications are significant.

There are a lot fewer dogs being euthanized, more dogs being adopted, and a growing demand for pet dogs.

One interpretation of the study suggests that there are not enough adoptable dogs to meet the American public’s demand.

This interpretation is based on euthanasia rates, which have dropped from an estimated 20 million pets per year in the 1970s to an estimated 776,000 per year now.

The Pet Leadership Council, who funded the research, state that, paired with a 2015 survey on where people get their pets, this study “demonstrate[s] a continued and significant need for responsibly bred dogs.”

Another interpretation of the study, on the popular Dogster forum, questions the idea that low euthanasia rates indicate a shortage of adoptable dogs.

Responding to the PLC interpretation, they say that the rates are, “a testament to all of the hard work being done in the animal welfare industry. But it’s still nearly 1 million dogs euthanized every year.”

Their interpretation is that adoption is still a viable solution, and that there are enough dogs to meet the demand.

The key question has to do with where people get their pets.

The Pet Leadership Council, a pet industry organization, sees a need for increased responsible breeding programs.

They want investment in careful breeding programs, and increased focus on initiatives like the Canine Care Certified program to help educate breeders and the public, and to ensure the “behavior and physical health” of bred puppies.

The AVMA recently added a responsible breeding policy that encourages research, continuing education, and outreach on inherited disorders in companion animals.

Others come to different conclusions.

Nathan Winograd, director of the No Kill Advocacy Center in California, told The Washington Post that, “I think you can take the results of this study, celebrate the decline in the killing of dogs and still come to the conclusion that you don’t need breeding.”

One solution is to bring dogs in from other jurisdictions.

In Canada, dogs are regularly brought in from other jurisdictions to match dogs in need with people who can adopt them.

The Report of the Canadian National Canine Importation Working Group found that “a large but unquantified number of companion animals (particularly dogs) are imported into Canada every year” and that “[t]here is currently no monitoring and minimal control of companion animal movement into and within Canada.”

It is a potential solution, but it’s not one that everyone agrees with.

One thing that each of these stakeholders can agree on is that puppy mills are not the answer.

Whether it’s the Pet Leadership Council advocating for increased responsible breeding, adoption advocates calling for continued focus on shelter and rescue work, or groups that bring dogs in from other jurisdictions meeting the demand through long-distance rescue work, each group agrees that puppy mills harm dogs and owners.

Current policy changes by the USDA may open the door for puppy mills to flourish, since it will be harder to check up on the qualifications of a breeder.

This may provide an opportunity for industry and rescues to come together across what sometimes seems like an unbridgeable divide.

About Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a published academic, an editor with the Editors Association of Canada, an independent scholar and researcher, and a self-care and narrative coach. She is particularly interested in the intersection of technology and identity - how our tools shape our selves and change our stories, and in how the nature of work is changing as we incorporate more technology into our daily lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment