There was a news report earlier this week that I think a LOT of urban shelters can identify with.
The report was from Rochester, NY, and reporting that the shelter killed over 1000 'pit bulls' last year in its shelter. The report interviews several people, all pointing to "back yard breeders" as the reason for the killing. If not for all the back yard breeders breeding the dogs, and dumping them at the shelter, the killing wouldn't be happening.
I'm going to pick on Rochester, NY a bit here -- but they're not the only place I've heard this from. And while I'm not intimately familiar with the situation in Rochester, I'm familiar with similar situations that all seem to look pretty close to the same.
But while Rochester no doubt has issues with irresponsible breeding, and people getting rid of dogs, they're also victims of their own poor marketing and poor understanding of economics.
For starters, let's take a look at the website for Rochester Animal Services. This morning, there are exactly 9 dogs up on their website that are available for adoption -- including two that are listed as mixed breed pit bulls. This is a shelter that put down an average of 3 pit bulls per day last year, but only has 2 on its website right now and only 9 dogs total listed as available. Now, I don't know what the capacity of the shelter is, but I'm going to guess that this city of over 1 million people has a shelter with a capacity of more than 9 dogs.
Meanwhile, let's say I fell in love with one of these pit bull mixes, and wanted to adopt. What would that cost me? Well, if it's a puppy less than 6 months old, it will cost me $164. A dog over 6 months old will cost me $134.
The problem with this happens to be, that according to the people who were interviewed for the original news article, 'pit bulls' are a 'dime a dozen' -- and one guy admitted to buying his pit bull for $30. So, if you are in a competitive market place why would someone come to your shelter and adopt a pit bull puppy for $164 when they can "rescue" one from the guy down the street who just had a litter for 20% of the price.
Price does matter. Ask Walmart -- who built a $400 billion business on offering lowest pricing.
I'm not saying that Rochester Animal Services should adopt dogs out for $30 (although, it's a viable option). I do think they can market the value of getting a vetted/altered dog and get a higher value for them. But I do think they need to be at least competitive with their pricing -- especially in a community like Rochester where more than 30% of the population lives below the poverty line. One of the biggest helps in controlling animal populations is ADOPTING more dogs -- this way people get new dogs that are altered vs buying unaltered ones.
Again, I'm not saying that Rochester's problems aren't real. They no doubt are - -and are a problem in a lot of urban areas. However, there is a LOT they could be doing to minimize the strain on their shelter -- including better marketing for their adoptable dogs and lowering adoption fees so they are competitive in the market (which would not only get more out, it would prevent more from coming in because more people would begin owning altered animals).
A lot of solutions can come from better marketing and a better understanding of economics. There are few good solutions that come from just pointing fingers at someone else as the cause of the problem.
Update: Upon writing this, I was notified by a couple of people from the area that it appears as if the city shelter in Rochester does not adopt pit bulls out of the shelter. While they do make them available to rescue groups, they are not mde available to the public. Obviously this would create a further gap for people who want to get a pit bull, and their availability from a means other than neighborhood bred dogs, further escalating the problem.