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« Dangerous Dog Laws that Work | Main | The Insurance Industry Continues its Fear Mongering of Dog Dangers »

August 20, 2010

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Tomdock

Thanks Brent...once again, an outstanding and perceptive article. Reminds me of something that came across my email today...

"If you want better from others...be better yourself"

Lisa

Thank you, Brent. You're consistently one of the most reasoned and thoughtful voices out there, even beyond animal welfare.

One commonly repeated myth I'd like to see stopped is this bizarre 'statistic' floating around that only one in every 600 pit bulls finds a home. I've seen it repeated any number of times, usually along with weasel words like 'it is estimated that...' but I can't find a single cited source for it, or really, any indication of what exactly that's referring to. And yet, I've seen it repeated many times, always by pit bull advocates. I've even seen it as a product design on CafePress, so people can buy t-shirts and shopping bags trumpeting this 'fact.' (Some people illogically extend their argument to claim that this means that, for every pit bull you breed and place in a home, you cause 599 others to be killed. Which doesn't remotely follow, even if the statistic were true.)

If true, a statistic like that would mean that the problem is truly out of control and insurmountable. It's a sad, hopeless, miserable claim, and one that would effectively mean that, no, you can't make a difference. We just don't have room for 600x as many pit bulls as there already are out there, so we may as well just get used to killing hundreds and hundreds of them.

It's demoralizing and disheartening, and happily, I can pretty confidently say it's not true. I have done some simple calculations based on existing statistics that pretty solidly proves that.

But people keep repeating it anyway. Well meaning and probably sincere animal advocates, whom I honestly believe have the very best of intentions. But it's not just damaging to the goal of finding homes for pets, it's wrong to boot.

Brent

Thanks Lisa -- and yes, I've seen that # before, and it is completely ridiculous.

If it were true, there would be 1 pit bull placed in a home from a shelter for every 599 killed at the shelter.

Every year, an (very roughly) estimated 800,000 pit bulls are killed in homes every year. So if the 1 in 600 were true, that'd mean only 1,333 'pit bulls' were rescued every year - heck, we probably get close to 1/3 of that number saved in Kansas City alone each year.

Lisa in OH

Brent we have close to 3,000 pit bull type dogs killed in just one local shelter here in Ohio every year. Many counties have multiple shelters/humane societies and most kill all of the pit bull type dogs. We have 88 counties in Ohio. I am pretty confidant in saying that Ohio kills 100,000 - 200,000 pit bull type dogs a year. I think the 800,000 pit bulls number is extremely low

Brent

It may be low, but not extremely. Most estimates (HSUS, No Kill Advocacy Center, Merritt Cliffton, Maddies Fund) put the total number of pets killed in shelters each year at about 4 - 4.5 million.

Of these, the majority are cats.

So the total number of dogs, of all breeds, killed in shelters is around 2 million (on the high end). If half of those were pit bulls there would be 1 million killed (again, on the high end). 800,000 may not be the "right" number, but I don't think it's terribly far off. And it wouldn't surprise me at all if Ohio is killing more than their fair share.

Robert Garnett

While I agree with your"Accentuate the Positive Eliminate the Negative" ideas I don't see the altered animal statics reflected in my personal experience. In my area at least 95 % of cats that enter our shelter are unaltered(granted 50% + are probably feral) and about 80% of dogs are unaltered. Why are there so many "Free to good Homes" ads if most animals are altered. You have to reduce the flow and it seems to me many more pets must be altered before we will get supply and demand in balance. While many shelters can do much better there is still a pet over population problem and only in theory it can be solved by shelters just doing a better job. As the "No Kill Equation has about 12 different policies(some more effective than others) reducing the number of unaltered animals at least as I see will produce the most immediate results.

Brent

Robert, I think this is one area where shelter people projecting their experience as the norm causes problems. Obviously there are tons of responsible pet owners out there who are altering their animals and properly managing them and they never end up in the shelters. However, shelter folks see the ones that DO make it in, many due to owner carelessness. So while shelters feel inundated with the problem owners, they never see the vast majority of animals that are cared for by responsible ones (which is the majority of people).

And obviously feral cats are a completely different scenerio than owned ones - and make up the majority of cats in most shelters.

No doubt that low-cost spay/neuter programs are important, as is outreach into neighborhoods that are filled with people that are largely filled with people who have not altered their pets. But I think that putting the focus on the positives when people in these neighborhoods DO alter their pets will get us further in the long run than bemoaing all of the ones who don't. No doubt there is still a lot of work to be done...

Dogteacher

Thanks again, Brent, for your common sense. As a trainer with a wide variety of dogs to work with over many years, I have seen a trend that causes me concern, and in order to truly protect dogs as the unique creatures that they are, with an unparalleled relationship with humans on the planet, I would like to see another "positive" celebration.

Brent's quote: "Instead of focusing so much attention on the people who buy their pets from pet stores, we should spend more time celebrating the people who adopt."

I'd like to see society celebrate those who choose a well-bred dog from a well-researched responsible breeder equally to those who adopt. The advances in health and temperament that many thousands of dedicated show and performance breeders have brought to the canine world could be our only hope for a future with safe, affordable and healthy pets. The canine gene pool in general is very much threatened by a misinterpretation of the phrase "do the right thing" as related to dogs as family pets. The top-heavy movement to "adopt don't buy" could eventually ruin the positive health and behavior trends that have made a big difference in the past 15-20 years that I have seen as a trainer and dog sports competitor. Quality breeders are suffering from a terrible negative image fueled by peer pressure, being labeled "puppy mills" willy nilly. Peer pressure works, as you so clearly explained, both ways.

We need to have some balance. If well-bred dogs are more common, healthy gene pools will deepen. I think we have created a Monster with the guilt-producing movement to adopt that vilifies top quality, responsible breeders (who don't sell to pet stores anyway). Too often these dedicated people are speaking to an empty room, no longer finding newcomers to share their passion for celebrating dogs and "doing the right thing".

People who either prefer - or NEED - to have a dog with predictable qualities and health and temperament should not be made to feel guilty as they currently are. Last fall my dog obedience club had a unit in our city's Holiday Parade, and behind or group of dogs and proud owners, with a huge collection of titles, Therapy dogs, mixed breeds and pure breeds combined (some of which came from shelters), was a unit carrying giant posters saying "Adopt don't buy", and "Buy from a breeder, kill a dog in a shelter" and disgusting images not really suited to a family holiday celebration. Balance? Nope.

Thanks for the reminder that ONLY 8% of dogs come from pet stores, a fact that is routinely denied.

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