With over four million dogs killed in American shelters every year, the bill of sale that comes with a kennel bought dog serves dual purpose as another dog's death warrant. There is an adequate supply of dogs, why then do consumers keep demanding more? Dogs are not a commodity, or at least they shouldn't be treated as one. A surplus of dogs cannot be stored, repurposed, or recycled; and they should not be thrown away, but they all too often are. Until and unless the senseless euthanization of homeless dogs is ended, we have no right to "produce" more than is needed.
Convincing the American public to participate in this reduction of supply has proven no easy task. People still buy dogs from breeders (and though it's beyond the scope of this article, they continue to choose not to neuter and spay their dogs). And so the question must be asked, why do people buy dogs from breeders when there are so many in need of adoption? The reasons appear to boil down to purchasers wanting a:
- Dog of a specific breed
- Kennel club registered dog of a specific breed
- Puppy of a specific breed
- Puppy (of any breed)
- Dog whose interaction history is known (for safety reasons)
- Dog whose genetic lineage is known (for health reasons)
And beyond people with these motivations there are no doubt many who are willfully ignorant of the scope of this horror, and have simply never considered adoption; they purchase their new warrantied TV from Best Buy, why wouldn't they purchase their new warrantied dog from a pet store.
Let's examine these issues in some slight detail, because many of them are in fact non-issues, merely an ignorance about what's available and meaningful. The remaining issues may not be satisfiable with a shelter dog, but neither can they justify the monstrous toll their satisfaction requires.
First let's eliminate the non-issues. About 25% of shelter dogs are pure breds, and if someone is looking for a rare breed not commonly found in a shelter there are dedicated breed specific rescue organizations eager to adopt out their clan. If someone wants a puppy of a specific (especially uncommon) breed (registered or not) then admittedly there can be serious supply problems. Shelters have no end of beautiful puppies available for adoption, many of them pure bred, but a pure bred puppy of a less common breed may be very hard or impossible to find. The fact is most dogs are abandoned as adults and thus there will always be a glut of adult dogs needing adoption. Insisting on a puppy of a pure line (registered or not), especially insisting on an acquisition time line of "now", forces a potential dog owner down the path of buying from a breeder. How many times I've heard this lousy excuse proffered along the lines of, "I wanted to get my boxer from a rescue group, but none of them had the pure bred puppy I was looking for in time for Christmas." Unwilling to wait for one to possibly become available, unwilling to bend on the puppy requirement, they give their many hundreds of dollars to a breeder and ensure that the professional or hobby breeder will go on satisfying the sick demand, quietly demanding the destruction of the mixed race and mixed age excess left in the shelters. Health and safety issues unrelated to breed preference are rendered moot by the facts that blank slate puppies of pure or mixed race are readily available; if health is a primary concern one would likely be better steering clear of the overly narrowed genes of pure lines and stick to mutts.
The only desires on this list which can't be reliably or adequately satisfied with adoptable dogs are the desires for a puppy of a rare breed or a puppy with a particular registered pedigree. And to those who insist upon these things I would simply say, "Tough." Life is about choices, and accepting limitations which are in our collective best interest. One may want a pure bred registered puppy. That's a fine thing to want. We humans want so many things, and there's nothing wrong with the wanting. But I am terribly sorry, the vast majority of you cannot see that particular desire satisfied. We humans continue to learn over the course of our long evolution that we cannot satisfy certain desires. Our freedoms end where others' freedoms begin. And we have been very successful in pulling ourselves up from our baser bootstraps; despite our desires we have learned to largely stop enslaving other people, raping our women folk, and stealing other people's land and property. Surely we can afford to recognize that animals deserve more than senseless euthanization. And the few who refuse to recognize that animals deserve something better can probably at least recognize there must be better ways to see their tax dollars spent than funding a potentially largely superfluous shelter system.
Our humanity requires us to do better than we are doing, requires us to curb our selfish belief that we have an inalienable right to have exactly what we want despite the monstrous cost. We must adopt our dogs rather than buy them from breeders or proxy pet stores. We must spay and neuter our pets to ensure we don't negligently help them contribute to their own problem. In the time it took you to read this article 46 dogs in America were euthanized because we have thus far failed to do enough.