Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Continuing Need for Rescue

New Tricks, by Charles Sierbert, is an article on dogs "given up for adoption," which appeared in the April 8, 2007 edition of The New York Times Magazine. I have put the article up at >> because I think it might save some canine lives and might get a few more folks to adopt dogs. A few excerpts:

  • "... about four million dogs enter shelters nationwide each year. Some two million of them end up being euthanized, about 5,000 dogs each day, one every 16 seconds. They are not, as is often assumed, merely the misbegotten mutts, castoffs of some imaginary canine lower caste. They hail from every stratum of the human society that shaped them, from all the varied quadrants of our keeping. According to nationwide surveys, as many as 25 percent of the dogs who end up in shelters are purebreds: Boston terriers, border collies, Pomeranians, standard poodles and so on, the sorts of dogs that people pay thousands of dollars to obtain. And yet they are discarded for the same dizzying array of reasons the mongrels are, ranging from the truly fraught to the downright frivolous.

  • "A man was standing in a dimly lighted room before a partly visible mound, the startling dimensions of which would soon become apparent as, one by one, shiny black tied-off garbage bags were being tossed out into the area before me. Big, small and middle-size lumps, well over 50 of them, some rigid with rigor mortis and some — like the large, handsome, two-toned boxer mix that I watched spill out of the tear in his bag and slide down the mound — loose-limbed and floppy-eared, like deeply asleep dogs.
    It was, I learned later, merely a day and a half’s grim output; the majority of the animals, according to Mollaghan, could have, with very little time and effort, made some people perfectly fine companions."

  • ". . . . surveyed nearly 4,000 dog owners at 12 shelters across the United States about their reasons for relinquishing their dogs. They repeatedly cited things like biting, overaggression, chewed-up furniture, repeated soiling: dogs literally and figuratively bouncing off our walls.

    "And who can blame them, our walls now being just about all they have? With our full-scale shift from an agrarian to a service-based economy and society, the very nature of dog work and the tasks we ask of dogs have shifted as well. The hunters and sheepherders and the high-strung, ground-tearing terriers of yore — born ferreters of rats and badgers — are being increasingly disappointed from their intended earthly rounds, pulled skyward into high-rises, where there are only our ever-shifting moods, anthropomorphic projections and stuffed toys and couch pillows to alternately grasp, negotiate or tear through."

  • A related post and a self-test for dog owners and occassional breeders: "Thank You For Not Breeding"


Anonymous said...

Good post. I've been trying to talk my wife into agreeing that our family should adopt a dog. I'll make sure she reads this.

BorderWars said...

It's interesting to me that a lot of the conversation revolves around the breeders, but little of it around the buyers.

It's ignorant buyers who buy dogs in shopping malls. It's careless buyers who get rid of the dog when... {they move and don't want to pay the premium it takes to house a pet, they fail to train the dog and the cute factor wears off, they get pregnant and no longer need a child-substitute, they get a dog as a gift and keep it a few months out of guilt and inability to say no, they failed to do much or any research before buying and find the reality of dog ownership slightly different than the Hallmark card version}.

Really now, where is the talk about them?

And before you walk down the "it's the breeder's responsibility to screen people" I'll note that every failed marriage and every fired employee is an example of how easy it is to oversell yourself as a human to another human in a commitment that is given much more scrutiny than any puppy purchase ever will, and the breaking of that commitment has many more incentives against calling it quits.

The online world is filled with the "matrons" of the dog world, breeders who find other women who breed one fewer litter than they do to be armatures, and those who breed one more to be puppy mills.

They spend most of their breath on bogus standards that they don't follow themselves, and infighting is as devisive and as popular as it is in a high school lunch room.

But they all claim to have "demanding" standards for their puppy buyers... and the same rhetoric exists in many rescue organizations, where future home visits and lengthy applications are common.

As Patrick has said, there's plenty of demand for puppies, it's the adult dogs that don't have the market. No breeder breeds adult dogs, and the working community is just as active in getting rid of failed working / trialing prospects that are adult dogs as they and the other active breeders (show breeding, breeding for cash) are in selling dogs to "pet homes."

I'd be curious to see what percent of the second hand dog market (rescue, shelter, etc) is re-homing overbred puppies and what percent is adult dogs. And after that, what percent of the euthanized dogs are dogs over two, six months to two, and then puppies to six months.

Is the dog market supply driven or demand driven? I'd say that you could write a good article called "Thank you for not buying" to go along with your "Thank you for not breeding" article.

Really, who else is going to complain about stupid buyers? The breeders won't because trash talking buyers isn't a good way to sell puppies. The shelters won't, since it's hard to be all warm and fuzzy about "forever homes" and "rainbow bridges" and "rescuers" and then be real about the stupid decisions dog owners make, and the people who ditch dogs don't take the time to critique why they got the dog, so they certainly aren't going to critique the reasons for getting rid of the dog.

How about it, a "Thank you for not buying" article?

BorderWars said...


Although armatures are fun too.