by Anna Cooke, Editor of The New Barker dog magazine.
Yesterday, during NAVC, the North American Veterinary Community conference in Orlando, the Pet Leadership Council (PLC) announced the results of a study conducted by researchers at Mississippi State University (MSU). The study indicates the availability of dogs in animal shelters is at an all-time low. “The findings come when demand for dogs is increasing to new levels,” a quote included in the press release.
The study was developed to determine how many dogs are entering shelters and what happens to them after they do. It found that shelters take in 5.5 million dogs annually. Of those, 2.6 million are adopted, 969 thousand are returned to owner, 778 thousand are transferred and 776 thousand are euthanized.
“When you consider that it’s estimated as many as 20 million dogs were euthanized a year in the 1970s, it’s truly astounding to see how effective the efforts of shelters and the responsible pet industry have proven,” said Bob Vetere, PCL Chairman. “We believe this new research demonstrating the progress we have made will inspire increasingly strong demand for and focus on efforts to ensure responsible breeding and opportunity to meet the growing desire for dogs in our country,” he added.
“Mississippi State’s study will also have a significant impact on the national conversation about responsible pet ownership,” said Mike Bober, President of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council and consultant to the PLC. “Without this concrete data as a starting point, it has been all but impossible to discuss solutions because we couldn’t agree on the scope of the problem. This data also provides valuable information for those contemplating legislation that impacts the availability of dogs in their communities.”
We Don’t Have A Pet Overpopulation Problem? Pardon Me?
The MSU report is troubling. First of all, to put it out there that we have a shortfall of adoptable dogs in this country is irresponsible. The number one cause of death for dogs and cats in the developed world is still euthanasia. Almost a million adoptable dogs are euthanized each year in this country alone. While the numbers are an improvement from the numbers in “the 1970s” we still have a long way to go.
And what about the “778 thousand” that are transferred? Transferred where? This, from the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS): “Colleges and universities obtain dogs and cats that they use in education and training from shelters/pounds; Class B random source dealers, biological supply companies. Pound seizure should not be considered a solution to the cat and dog overpopulation problem. The release of companion animals from shelters and pounds to research and teaching labs erodes the very core of a shelter’s purpose.” By the way, MSU is one of those universities that uses live animals for education and training.
Jeff Young, DVM (and star of Animal Planet’s Rocky Mountain Vet) recently wrote in a blog on Animals 24-7, “We cannot adopt, shelter, warehouse or kill our way out of dog and cat overpopulation. We can demand and change what we do, whom we support and how we support them.” Dr. Young believes that spay/neuter should be our society’s primary focus for controlling the pet overpopulation problem.
“Humane organizations have done a lot of great marketing to make so much out of so little,” wrote Dr. Young. “Many get rich while pretending they generally care about the plight of companion animals, while demonstrating genuine care of fewer and fewer. Humane organizations play with words and statistics to make us feel better about overpopulation, euthanasia and shelters.”
Playing with words and statistics is what the MSU study has done to reach its self-serving conclusions.
I am a proponent of the No-Kill movement, and a fan of Nathan Winograd. Many people in animal advocacy are not, including the editors of Animals 24-7 and Dr. Young. Winograd’s writings are often taken out of context to misconstrue the premise of no kill. It is my belief that as a society, no-kill is something we should at least aspire to. Euthanasia, as a means to control pet overpopulation, is just not the answer.
Rather than paraphrase anything Dr. Young wrote, here is the link to his most recent blog. It is radical, but thought-provoking.