Mark Bekoff wrote posted an article on the Psychology Today blog that got me a little annoyed. Titled “How Many Dog Breeders Do We Really Need?” brought up some good points about purebred dog health, the article ultimately boiled down to the usual message that if you buy a dog, you are a uncompassionate piece of shit dealing a shelter dog a death sentence buy not going the adoption route. Then he brings up that 25% of shelter dogs are purebred shtick that I’ve heard a million times before.
Good Dog Breeders Are Not The Problem
In my article, I Hate Dog Breeders, I took a good look at a study published in The Journal Of Applied Animal Welfare Sciences. The study was published in 2000, but I think that the information is still relevant.
Where did the dogs come from? 3.9% of surrendered animals came from a pet shop. 10.6% of surrendered animals came from a breeder. 2.9% of surrendered animals were received as a gift. 9.3% of surrendered animals were found by the owner as a stray. 6.0% of surrendered animals were offspring of another pet in possession of the owner. 22.5% of surrendered animals were originally acquired from another shelter. 30.8% of surrendered animals were acquired from a friend.
How did the dogs get there? 6% of dogs were surrendered were from offspring of another pet in possession of the relinquisher, 30.8% of dogs surrendered were obtained from a friend, 22.5% of dogs were obtained from another shelter.
Dogs most at risk for relinquishment were of mixed breed heritage, intact, young, owned for less than a year, purchased for less than $100, and surrendered because of behavioral problems. i.e. destroying possessions, soiling the carpet, being overly active, etc…
Nobody wants to talk about this. People obtaining dogs on a whim and then ditching them when the animal proves to be too much work and responsibility. However EVERYONE wants to talk about the magic 25% of surrendered dogs being purebred that also comes from this study.
Are 25% of Shelter Dogs Purebred?
If a dog has a tattoo number that is traceable to some sort of recognized dog breed registry, then yes. However, registered dogs are rarely surrendered to animal shelters. Registered dogs are expensive and a person that drops $1000+ on a dog usually plans out the purchase and makes sure that a dog will permanently fit into their lives.
So what are we left with? Some dogs that were obtained from friends are probably purebred, a lot of the dogs bought from breeders and pet stores are most likely purebred, but with the designer dog craze you can’t be too sure of that, either.
If a dog does not have a registration tattoo or really, really look like an example of its breed, the purebred designation is left up to the shelter staff. Is that black dog a poorly bred Labrador Retriever or just your average everyday black dog? It is a Poodle because it small and has curly fur and kind of looks like a Poodle? Probably not.
Let’s Take A Look
Instead of looking at the dogs Ontario shelters have to offer, let’s look at what the Ontario/Canadian breed rescues have on the shelf. If anyone would be an expert at determining if a dog was purebred or not, it would be them.
The Ontario Vizsla Society has zero dogs available.
Under My Wing Pug Rescue has 2 dogs available and claims to have re-homed 258 dogs since 2006
Pug A Lug Rescue has 2 dogs available and claims to have re-homed 262 dogs in the past 10 years.
Canadian Golden Rescue has 8 dogs available and says that not all available dogs are listed on their website.
Ontario Poodle Rescue has 1 available dog.
Boxer Rescue Ontario has 3 dogs available. One is stated to be a Boxer cross.
Boxer Rescue Canada has 12 available dogs. 3 are stated as Boxer crosses. 2 of the full bred dogs are from California.
Canadian Dachshund Rescue has 14 available dogs
Canadian Newfoundland Dog Rescue has zero available dogs.
Ontario Lab Rescue has 11 dogs available. 2 dogs are stated as Lab crosses.
Big On Beagles has 7 dogs available.
Canadian Beagle Rescue has 10 available dogs. 5 dogs are stated as Beagle crosses.
Setter Sanctuary has 1 dog available.
The Canadian Yorkshire Terrier Association Rescue says they have 7 available dogs. Pictures of only 2.
Adopt-a-Rott Ontario has zero dogs available.
Angels Under Our Wings Cocker Spaniel Rescue has 14 dogs available. 1 dog came from California & 1 dog from Nevada.
Jack Russell Terrier Rescue Ontario has 7 available dogs.
Eastern Canada French Bulldog Rescue has 4 available dogs and re-homed 4 dogs in the past 2 years.
The Numbers Don’t Add Up
Since I can’t find any reliable information on how many dogs are surrendered to Canadian shelters, I’m going to work off the US stats. 6 to 8 million dogs and cats enter the shelter system yearly, so let’s make that number 7 million. Lets say that makes 3 million dogs and 4 million cats, since there are more cats than dogs in shelters. Now let’s say that 30% of those dogs are returned to their owners, that now makes 2.1 million dogs up for adoption. Since Canada has 10% of the population of the US, I’m going to assume that we have 10% of the homeless dog problem. So that means that 210,000 dogs enter the shelter system in Canada.
If 25% of all surrendered dogs are purebred that would mean that 52, 500 purebred dogs only are surrendered yearly in Canada. I’m betting that the Canadian Kennel Club probably registers between 60,000 to 70,000 purebred puppies per year. Does it seem plausible that almost as many dogs registered by the CKC are surrendered to shelters yearly? Considering that the 2 most prominent Pug rescues in Canada re-home about 30 dogs per year, the answer is no. And don’t get me started on rescues that import dogs from other countries. We have enough problems with our own dogs.
Why Use A Statistic That Isn’t True?
I’m not sure. Maybe it’s to encourage people seeking a purebred to try that adoption route first. Maybe it’s to point the finger at people who breed dogs for so-called profit by implying that so much their “product” ends up discarded. Whatever the reason, the statistic is not a reliable fact, it’s not even a reliable estimate. I do not subscribe to the notion that dogs should not be bred while shelter dogs are being euthanized. If a person wants to buy their dog, fine. If people want to adopt a dog from a shelter, fine. Where a person acquires a dog from is a personal decision and it has to be right for them.
Breeders are not the problem, John Q. Public is, and it’s pretty hard to point a finger at him. Maybe Bekoffs article should have been Titled “Hey Asshole, Spay Or Neuter That Dog!” or maybe “Think a Whole 5 Seconds Before You Get That Dog.” That copy isn’t nearly as compelling.