“…in life it is often the tiny details that end up being the most important.” ~Lemony Snicket
Let’s start here.
What is a fallacy?
A fallacy is a false notion, or a deceptive or misleading belief. It is an argument that is unsound or erroneous.
Here are a few sentences I came up with off the top of my head to further illustrate the meaning of the word fallacy.
Mastiffs don’t slobber that much is a popular fallacy among non-Mastiff dog owners.
It is an egregious fallacy to say Big Dog Mom is synonymous with Big Mom. Ha!
The belief that one can lose weight on a diet of Diet Coke and candy is a fallacy. Trust me. I know.
And, to get more to the point of this post, and a continuation of What You Should Know About #AdoptDontShop Before You Use It,
The premise of #AdoptDontShop is built on a fallacy that dog breeders, even reputable ones, are at the root of why there are so many dogs needing rescue.
Is Dog Rescue Superior or a Choice?
“I have a rescue dog.”
“Here’s a picture of my dog. He’s a rescue.”
“I wouldn’t dream of buying a dog when so many need to be saved.”
“Where did you get your dog? I adopted mine.”
We live in a culture where the glorification of dog rescue is on par with gluten-free diets and smartphones for kids.
Rescuing a dog from a shelter is exalted in the pet world as superior. The right choice. The only choice. The purchase of a puppy from a reputable breeder is maligned to whispers at the water cooler, under the breath mumbles, or private messages on Facebook.
Purchasing a puppy from a reputable breeder is NOT a decision that is celebrated in our culture. It is a decision that is scorned by many. Why?
Whether it is that people see this as an either/or choice (either you rescue a dog from a shelter or the dog dies), or that people believe all breeders are inherently bad, in both cases the premise that dog rescue is superior is built on a fallacy.
There’s that word again.
It is my contention that not only are reputable dog breeders NOT the cause of the proliferation of dogs being relinquished into shelters but that they are the key to solving the very issue they are being blamed for causing.
I am here to argue that, while adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue may feel good to you and be wonderful for the dog, adoption alone will NEVER solve the underlying cause of why dogs end up in shelters.
If you are like me, and your goal is to reduce the number of dogs that are relinquished and re-homed each year, keep reading.While adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue may feel good to you and be wonderful for the dog, adoption alone will NEVER solve the underlying cause of why dogs end up in shelters.
Animal Shelter Statistics – Sticking to the Facts
Welcome to the Big Dog Mom nerdery where we left-brained people have some fun with numbers and where you right-brained folks can delight in this fusion of facts and feelings.
According to the ASPCA approximately 3.3 million dogs enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year and each year approximately 670,000 are euthanized.
But before we can solve this, we need to first understand the root cause.
The following statistics have been taken from the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP) whose mission is to gather and analyze reliable data that further characterize the number, origin, and disposition of companion animals (dogs and cats) in the United States. In addition to gathering the data, they work to promote responsible stewardship of dogs and cats and recommend programs to reduce the number of surplus/unwanted pets in the United States.
NCPPSP members include:
- American Veterinary Medical Association
- Association for Veterinary Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine
- Humane Society of the United States
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
- American Humane Association
- National Animal Control Association
- Society of Animal Welfare Administrators
- American Pet Products Manufacturer’s Association
NCPPSP launched a series of three studies:
- The Shelter Statistics Study – to identify all animal shelters in the U.S. and obtain national euthanasia, impoundment and adoption estimates
- The Regional Shelter Relinquishment Study – interviewed people relinquishing dogs and cats at 12 shelters in four regions of the United States over a 1-year period (2,631 dogs) to elucidate reasons for relinquishment.
- The National Household Survey – a mail survey focusing on the general pet-owning population in the United States as a comparison group (7,399 households, half of which had at least one dog leave the house) to quantify risk factors for relinquishment of animals into shelters.
It is based on these data that I address the fallacy of dog rescue and my continuing opposition to the use of #AdoptDontShop.
1. The Majority of Dogs Relinquished are NOT Acquired by Reputable Dog Breeders
Despite popular belief in #AdoptDontShop circles, the majority of dogs relinquished did not source their dog through a breeder.
According to the NCPPSP studies, 30.8% of people giving up their dog acquired him through a friend and 22.5% through a shelter. Significantly further down the list was a breeder (10.6%), a stranger (10.4%), and a stray (9.3%). Pet shops made up 4% of the total number of dogs surrendered.
Furthermore, this research used the umbrella term “breeder” which did not differentiate between a puppy mill, a backyard breeder, and a reputable one. As such, one would have to conclude that the percentage of dogs relinquished that were acquired from a reputable breeder to be significantly lower than the stated 10.6%.
As previously stated and now proven, reputable breeders are NOT the cause of the proliferation of dogs being relinquished into shelters.
The scorn directed at (reputable) breeders is ignorantly misdirected.
#AdoptDontShop’ers ought to consider the facts. A puppy adopted from a shelter is more than two times as likely to end up back in that shelter as a dog who is purchased through a reputable breeder.
But they adopted. They made the right choice.
The first fallacy of dog rescue.#AdoptDontShop’ers ought to consider the facts. A puppy adopted from a shelter is more than two times as likely to end up back in that shelter as a dog who is purchased through a reputable breeder.
2. Majority of Dogs in Rescue are NOT Purebred Dogs Bred by Reputable Breeders
Foundational to what I consider a reputable dog breeder is a person who breeds purebred dogs. I do not include someone who deliberately breeds mixed breed or “designer” dogs. Apologies to all of my Doodle friends.
With that premise clear, here are the facts as it relates to purebred dogs in shelters.
According to this research, 24.2% of dogs relinquished to shelters were purebred. 72% were mixed breed dogs.
While it could be that some of these purebred dogs were acquired through a reputable breeder, I believe the more probable sources are backyard breeders and puppy mills.
Backyard breeders and puppy mills are bottom feeders; profiteers whose priority is pumping out barely recognizable purebred puppies over the health and welfare of the dogs they have and produce.
They provide no contract to their puppy buyers. No support.
There are no returns.
All sales are final. These are clearance puppies.
The uninformed are those who bankroll this contemptible cartel.
And so with no support, and no returns, as soon as an issue arises, these clearance dogs get relinquished. They are as disposable to their family as they are to the breeder who bred them.
Sadly, as wonderful as it is that people adopt these dogs, adopting them alone does nothing to end the influx of their siblings into the kennel they just vacated.
The second fallacy of dog rescue.Backyard breeders and puppy mills are bottom feeders; profiteers whose priority is pumping out barely recognizable purebred puppies over the health and welfare of the dogs they have and produce.
3. Lack of Education/Knowledge is a Significant Cause of Dogs Relinquished into Shelters
Interesting, though not surprising, was the data in these studies related to dog owners’ lack of knowledge about their dogs. Researchers asked a series of questions of dog owners who were relinquishing their dog-related to their general knowledge of pet care and behavior and the results were disturbing.
- Over 37% didn’t know a female dog can come into season twice a year,
- 58% believed it was true or they didn’t know whether a female dog should be allowed to have one litter before being fixed for health reasons, and
- 43.2% believed it was true or they were uncertain whether when house training a puppy, it is helpful to rub its nose in its mess when he soils in the house.
The knowledge deficits of people relinquishing dogs might contribute to unrealistic expectations and inappropriate actions by owners in an attempt to solve a problematic behavior.
Among the most common reasons given for relinquishing a dog were the following:
- Moving (7%)
- Landlord not allowing pet (6%)
- Too many animals in the household (4%)
- Cost of pet maintenance (5%)
- The owner having personal problems (4%)
- Inadequate facilities (4%)
- No homes available for litter mates (3%)
- Having no time for pet (4%)
- Pet illness(es) (4%)
- Biting (3%)
Purchasing a dog through a reputable breeder mitigates most, if not all, of these reasons. A reputable breeder not only asks for but often requires, the dog to be sent back to her should the buyer be unable to keep the dog.
Secondly, if you are a buyer with any of these red flags, a reputable breeder will likely not sell you a puppy in the first place.
Circumspection is their insurance policy against the uninformed or unprepared. Reputable dog breeders reserve the right to select only the best of the best homes for their puppies and to deny anyone whom they question. And, as such, dogs purchased through a reputable breeder are NOT the ones relinquished to shelters.
Whether you choose to buy a puppy from a reputable breeder or rescue one is your choice. Both are fine choices.
But, unfortunately for the #AdoptDontShop folks, neither choice is correlated to why dogs are surrendered and what we need to do to prevent it.
Education is the answer, not a boycott of reputable dog breeders.
The third fallacy of dog rescue.Education is the answer, not a boycott of reputable dog breeders.
4. Relinquished Dogs Lack Training and Veterinary Care
Most of the dogs represented in these data (96%) had not received any obedience training and 33% had not been to a veterinarian. And when you combine these data with owners’ lack of knowledge about normal canine behavior and pet care, it is no surprise that these dogs end up in animal shelters and rescues.
Behavioral problems were the number one reason dogs were given up. And owners who relinquished their dog due to behavioral problems were likely to have owned them for less than three months.
Additionally, dogs who showed fear or aggression, soiled in the house, damaged things, or were overly active were more likely to be relinquished.
Intervention can happen in all stages of puppy development, whether through a trainer, shelter or veterinarian. These experts can help struggling dog owners solve common behavioral problems resulting in fewer dogs being relinquished.
Reputable breeders contractually require obedience training and regular veterinary care for their puppies. It is for this reason I can confidently declare reputable breeders are NOT the cause of the proliferation of dogs being relinquished into shelters.
The fourth fallacy of dog rescue.
5. Dog Owners’ Lack of Commitment with No Skin in the Game
#AdoptDontShop’ers like to bring up the evil that is the exchange of money for a puppy or dog.
To them, the purchase of a puppy from a breeder is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme devised to line the pockets of the breeder. Whereas, the minimal financial cost of adoption from a shelter is a means to an end. A worthy investment in a higher calling.
“…in life it is often the tiny details that end up being the most important.”
84.1% of people who relinquished their dog into a shelter reportedly paid $100 or less for the dog.
$100 or less!
Dogs obtained at no cost and with little effort are at increased risk of relinquishment, reflecting a lack of value to the dog owner and a lower level of attachment or commitment.
Some might call these bargain puppies, but I call them victims. Victims of an immediate gratification culture bloated with entitlements, and a lack of commitment to anything that requires work.
A final analogy to drive my point home.
Imagine you just bought a $2500 television and it stops working. What do you do?
Now imagine your friend gives you their old television and after a week it, too, stops working.
Most people are completely comfortable with setting FREE TO GOOD HOME TV out by the curb, yet are inclined to move Heaven and Earth to fix $2500 TV. Why?
It’s about investment. Skin in the game.
The work required to land a terrific and reputable dog breeder is not for the faint of heart. It takes time and commitment. It takes patience and resolve.
So, to all the #AdoptDontShop’ers who believe ALL breeders are bad, I ask,
Is it better that I obtain a dog for free or spend a little time and money to make sure I have skin in the game? Which, do you think, results in a higher level of commitment?
The fifth fallacy of dog rescue.
**NOTE: I am not suggesting that people who choose the rescue route are not investing in their dog. Most of the dog owners I know who have chosen to rescue a dog spend countless hours and dollars to ensure their dog is well cared for. This is directed toward those who use #AdoptDontShop as a means to denigrate ALL breeders, not just backyard breeders and puppy mills. These data prove that with minimal investment, you get a minimal commitment. That is not always true. But it is true a statistically significant amount of the time.
To read the other posts in this series, click here:
- What You Should Know About #AdoptDontShop Before You Use It
- How to Put an End to Dog Rescue: 10 Simple Solutions that CAN Work!
- Buying a Puppy: The Gap Between Desire and Reason
Reputable Dog Breeders a Solution?
#AdoptDontShop advocates would like you to support bans on the breeding of purebred dogs. Until there are no more dogs in shelters or rescues needing to be saved, proponents of #AdoptDontShop won’t rest.
I get it. I don’t like that there are dogs in rescue any more than they do.
However, the premise of #AdoptDontShop is built on a fallacy that dog breeders, even reputable ones, are at the root of why there are so many dogs needing saved.
As I have covered in this post, there is no evidence to support this claim.
So, while reputable dog breeders are NOT the problem, can they play a role in solving it?
I believe they can… and should.
If the root cause of people surrendering their dogs into shelters is a lack of knowledge in one form or another then education is the key to solving this issue. In my next post in this series, I will take a deep dive into possible solutions so please stay tuned.
For now, I’ve created the How to Select a Reputable Breeder – The 6 C’s to Landing Your Dream Dog. It is a step by step process for finding and selecting a reputable dog breeder. Click HERE to get your copy.
Lastly, let me just say that, while I do NOT believe it is BETTER or a solution to the problem, I do believe pet adoption and dog rescue is wonderful. I commend those who work tirelessly on behalf of breed rescues. It is a thankless, never-ending job, I know.
But to those on both sides, let’s get rid of the superiority complex and come together to find solutions.
Solutions that include education, not denigration.
Consider this the next time you start typing #.
One of the many “tiny details…”
References & Additional Reading
- Arizona Rescue OverPopulation Data
- American Animal Welfare Overpopulation
- Great site – lots of stats from 1995-1996
- Stats on shelter animal acquisition for behavioral reasons
- More great research
- Characteristics of Shelter Relinquished Animals and their Owners Compared With Animals and their Owners in US Pet Owning Households
- Animal Shelter Intake and Surrender Pet Statistics
Terrific Blog Articles on this topic:
Fidose of Reality: Is It Okay To Get A Dog From a Dog Breeder?
Budget Earth: How to Find a Reputable Breeder & Why They Are Important
It’s Dog or Nothing: Breeding Great Pyrenees: Does Job Matter?