Dog Rescue – Root Cause Analysis
Here is a rough root cause analysis of the problem….
Problem Statement: There is a never ending influx of shelter and rescue dogs.
Answer: Because people who should NOT be breeding ARE, and new dog/puppy owners are not knowledgeable enough to avoid these breeders or committed enough to care for their new dog.
Answer: Because new puppy/dog owners do not know what they should look for in a reputable breeder and obtain their puppy/dog as an impulse decision.
Answer: Because people lack complete knowledge about breeders and dogs or feel a reputable breeder is “not for them” due to cost, or other factors.
Answer: Because, as an impulse decision, and one made without full knowledge and awareness, getting a new dog/puppy is a temporary decision and only permanent “if it works out.”
Answer: Because, at a fundamental level, many of these people view dogs as a commodity with owners lacking the knowledge and skills to properly care for them.
Let me make this as clear as I can. The reason there is a never ending influx of dogs needing rescue is because, at its core, people view dogs as a commodity. And, as such, they lack the knowledge or the desire for knowledge of how to properly care for them.
And so there is no confusion with WHO I am referring to… by people I am referring to the backyard breeders, puppy mills, “rescue” importers, and those who relinquish their dogs (and their responsibility) when times get tough.
Commodity + Lack of Education = Dog Rescue
If we SOLVE for the addends, we put an END the the sum.
Dogs are a Commodity?
Before I share some simple solutions to the issue of dog rescue, I want to expand on this point because it is an important one.
Many people obtain dogs with no more thought or research than if they were buying clothes at Costco.
All you moms out there know what I mean.
You head into Costco. You don’t go there to buy clothes. But as you are overspending on groceries, you see them there. The cute pajamas. The t-shirt and short sets. And, oh, the dresses are so cute.
You casually toss these items to your cart, initially feeling like you scored value big time.
Yet 50% of the time you end up returning these items.
They don’t fit. They don’t look as “cute” on. Or your husband says “do the kids really need more pajamas?”
Impulse drove your decision to buy. And, because you didn’t spend more than $9.97 on those cute pajamas, you have no commitment to them.
For many people, the acquisition of a puppy is no different.
Dogs are viewed as a commodity and, as such, are both produced and discarded with about as much reverence as a pair of Costco pajamas.
**This is my third post in this series on dog rescue and reputable breeders. If you have not done so already, you may want to read them in the following order to follow my logic.
- What You Should Know About #AdoptDontShop Before You Use It
- The Fallacy of Dog Rescue – Why Reputable Dog Breeders Are NOT the Problem
- this one
- Buying a Puppy: The Gap Between Desire and Reason
Top 10 Reasons for Pet Relinquishment
In their groundbreaking research, the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy surveyed thousands of shelters and dog rescue organizations from across the United States and asked owners from whom they acquired their pet and why they were relinquishing him.
The top three sources for dogs were friends, shelters, and breeders. But as I covered in The Fallacy of Dog Rescue – Why Reputable Dog Breeders Are NOT the Problem, the term breeder did not differentiate between a backyard breeder, a puppy mill, or a reputable dog breeder.
Top 10 reasons for relinquishment into shelters and dog rescues were the following (not in any particular order):
- Landlord not allowing pet
- Too many animals in the household
- Cost of pet maintenance
- The owner having personal problems
- Inadequate facilities
- No homes available for littermates
- Having no time for pet
- Pet illness
Every one of these reasons could be mitigated by employing one or more of the following solutions.
For simplicity, I am breaking the solutions into two groups; one for dog rescue groups and shelters, and one for breeders and buyers. It is the combination of these two sides working together that will ultimately affect the change that is so desperately needed.
Commodity + Lack of Education = Dog Rescue
Dog Rescue Solutions
1. Interview Prospective Adopters
Dog rescues and animal shelters should put in place a series of measures to ensure prospective new homes are the right fit and ready for the long-term commitment of a new dog.
This pre-adoption due diligence should include two or more of the following steps:
- Extensive questionnaire
- In-person interview with some behavioral interview questions
- A home visit by rescue staff
- Live reference check over the phone with at least two references
2. Increase Price of Adoption
As I stated in The Fallacy of Dog Rescue – Why Reputable Dog Breeders Are NOT the Problem, with more skin in the game, there is more commitment.
If you make that $9.97 pajama a $1000 iPhone, you are guaranteed more commitment. You will be “selling” to a person willing to read the “owners manual” and who is willing to get “tech support” when problems arise.
Dog rescues that charge more for their dogs up front effectively weed out the less committed and commodity-minded.
That does not mean that the ultimate price of the dog has to be higher, but in the beginning, it ought to be. What do I mean by that? Keep reading…
3. Require Training as a Condition of Adoption
According to research by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, 96% of the dogs relinquished into shelters and dog rescues had not received any obedience training.
With this in mind, dog rescue organizations should partner with local dog trainers and canine behaviorists to set up a formal process for ensuring every adopted puppy or dog gets training and socialization. Here are a few ideas on how to make this work:
- Charge for the training upfront as a part of the adoption fee. So if you are charging, say, $800, for the adoption, make $200 of that refundable upon successful completion of training. Or better yet, secure the training for the new owner with that same $200.
- Have a dog trainer or canine behaviorist on call for support as needed for the life of the adopted dog.
- There are several great online dog training options as well, so dog rescues could explore those as well for people form whom in-person dog training is not an option.
4. Mandatory Veterinary Care
According to the same Pet Population Study, 33% of the dogs had not been to a veterinarian.
Because the majority of dogs relinquished were young and the length of ownership short, the window of opportunity is a small one. A licensed veterinarian represents an enormous opportunity in not only providing medical care to these dogs, but also behavioral intervention, dog training referrals, emotional support, and pet care recommendations to owners.
An ongoing partnership with a veterinarian can make all the difference for a struggling pet owner who is considering relinquishing their dog.
Here are a few ways dog rescue organizations can make this work:
- Similar to how to manage required dog training, rescuers can set aside part of the adoption fee for securing veterinary care or pet insurance for the dog for a year. Essentially the new family is paying this bill, but they are paying upfront and the services are rendered overtime as needed.
The benefits of this approach are plenty; extended veterinary care for the dog, enhanced relationship with a veterinarian, strengthened relationship with the dog leading to more commitment, and more opportunities for intervention should problems arise.
- Have a veterinarian on staff or on call who can support new rescue owners with questions or problems.
5. Rules for Relinquished Litters
This solution is pretty straight forward.
- For EVERY litter with or without a dam being relinquished, require that the dam be spayed as a part of the acceptance of the puppies.
- Require in-person training for the owner of the dam about dog breeding and the issue of unwanted puppies and health consequences.
I consider this School for the Backyard Breeder!
Dog Breeder and Puppy Buyer Solutions
1. Caveat emptor – Let the Buyer Beware
Spoken like a true broken record, do NOT buy a puppy from a backyard breeder, a pet store, or a puppy mill.
But before you can heed that warning, you must first understand who these people are.
Unfortunately, most of these nefarious actors are pretty well disguised as the dog-loving neighbor with a few too many dogs, the prolific hobby breeder with excessive breedings and/or breeds, or a pet store that only sells “rescues.”
It is for the purpose of delineation that I created for you How to Select a Reputable Breeder, a step by step guide using the 6 C’s or rules you must follow in order to find and select a reputable breeder.
A dog breeder that falls short after going through this guide is one you should steer clear of.
At its core, this is a supply and demand issue. When people buy these puppies, it creates a demand for the supply. Because these breeders are in it for money, the only way to put them out of business is by placing a tourniquet on their funding stream.
This video by the Humane Society does a fantastic job illustrating this point.
2. Know What You are Rescuing
Those in the #AdoptDontShop crowd would like us all to believe adoption or dog rescue are the superior choice. The only choice when it comes to acquiring a dog.
I have heard some go so far as to say, “Who cares where homeless pets were originally acquired, the fact is they are in a shelter or rescue and they need homes!”
It breaks my heart that all dogs are not in loving, forever homes. However, this short-sighted sensationalism about dog rescue is contributing to the problem.
The contention that ALL dog rescues are good and moral and just is nothing more than blind emotion.It breaks my heart that all dogs are not in loving, forever homes. However, this short-sighted sensationalism about dog rescue is contributing to the problem.
According to the AKC:
“Currently, rescues are a favored venue to acquire a family pet – in 2016 some 44 percent of dog owners adopted their pet from a shelter, rescue, humane society or public adoption event. The simultaneous reduction in supply and increased demand for pets has made the import of of random source dogs labelled as “rescue” pets a big business.”
The #AdoptDontShop movement has promoted the desirability and superiority of “rescue” dogs and, as a result, increased the demand for “rescues.”
Retail dog rescue is now it’s own business. A profit center for the commodity trade.
“But what many people don’t realize is a new danger associated with pets that are misleadingly labelled as rescues. Unscrupulous distributors often take advantage of Americans’ well-known love for dogs and their empathy for an underdog. As a result, the United States has become a magnet for foreign “puppy mill”, street dogs, and other randomly-sourced dogs that can be carrying dangerous parasites and serious disease, but avoid regulation due to lax health standards for imports loopholes for pets marketed as “rescue” animals.”
So, here is my point.
If you want to rescue a dog, great. But do not be blinded by emotion and impulse. Focus on facts. For some great tips on knowing what to look for, read How to Find a Reputable Dog Rescue.The #AdoptDontShop movement has promoted the desirability and superiority of “rescue” dogs and, as a result, increased the demand for “rescues.” Retail dog rescue is now it’s own business. A profit center for the commodity trade.
3. Reputable Breeders Role
Reputable, preservation dog breeders should absolutely play a leadership role within their respective breed and in their communities.
This leadership should include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Share knowledge and expertise with new fanciers of the breed or those inquiring about it.
- Partner with local breed rescues
- Connect with local shelters and offer assistance and expertise.
- Participate in local community events like Meet the Breed, dog shows, and other pet-related events.
- National breed clubs can increase education efforts through outreach on social media, in local communities, and through a variety of marketing efforts.
Reputable, preservation breeders need to step up and speak out. Most have dedicated their lives to the betterment of their breed, and yet no one knows outside of their small inner circle of puppy buyers.
Show the world, especially the gullible, uninformed masses buying pet store and Craig’s List puppies, what good looks like.
You are the model. Now be one.
4. American Kennel Club Public Service Campaign
With 125 years of experience in the study and welfare of dogs, the AKC is a leading expert on dog ownership, care, well-being, and public policy issues that pertain to dog ownership.
And with more power and influence in the dog world than any other organization, the AKC can (and should) play a principal role in educating the public about the health and welfare of dogs and what to look for in a reputable dog breeder.
Check out this fantastic video by the AKC Government Relations team which highlights the role that reputable breeders play and rights we all have as dog owners.
I envision the combination of the AKC video and this one by the Humane Society serving as a valuable educational tool.
A public service message, blanketed across all TV, web and social media, which poignantly conveys the attributes of a great breeder and the broader issue of backyard breeding and puppy mills is one that the AKC is perfectly positioned to deliver.
I hope they get this message and consider seriously this opportunity.A public service message, blanketed across all TV, web and social media, which poignantly conveys the attributes of a great breeder and the broader issue of backyard breeding and puppy mills is one that the AKC is perfectly positioned to deliver.
5. Ending Dog Rescue – Your Turn
As I stated in the beginning, we will all play a role in putting an end to dog rescue.
It is not enough for you and me to do a collective nod when we read this post. I realize that in large part I am preaching to the choir.
What you and I need to do, what we MUST do, is stand up and speak out about this.
I’m sure you have friends as I do; college-educated, professional, with children who desperately want a puppy. She tells you she is considering buying one from the pet store at the mall.
Replace your look of scorn and disgust. Kindly share the facts and present the reputable breeder (or reputable rescue) alternative with enthusiasm. Help your friends be a part of the solution, not a contributor to the problem.
Remember our formula:
Commodity + Lack of Education = Dog Rescue.
Commit, today, to educating those within your sphere of influence. Proactively. SHARE this post with your friends. Come up with your own solutions and champion those in your community.
Together we can put an end to dog rescue.
Here’s to solutions. Here’s to a new beginning.
Recommended Reading and Resources
Great Blogs on the topic of dog rescue:
Fidose of Reality: How to Find a Reputable Dog Rescue.
It’s Dog or Nothing: 6 Reasons I Support Great Pyrenees Rescue
Budget Earth: Dog Rescue – How It’s Done Right, Or Wrong