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« Fun, creative stuff that supports people who support dogs | Main | Yeah, your breed ban is really great, thanks »

September 22, 2008



This is a great post, Brent, and much needed, as we struggle to explain to others why we cannot support MSN. This is a BIG help, thanks!

I must respond to your comments about illegal drugs. I am personally opposed to using these types of drugs. However, just as with spay/neuter, I am concerned about the government's role in this legislature.

First, although the government certainly has the right to regulate what is imported and exported into our country, I cannot accept that the government has the right to illegalize (is that a word?) what native weeds one may grow and/or use, or give away, or what drugs a person chooses to ingest. Agreed, these are not good for us, however, just like Big Macs, Coca Cola, and cigarettes -- it is not the government's responsibility or right to control us to this extent. Not in America.

If the War on Drugs was over, I don't know exactly what would happen. But, all the drug dealing, gun shooting gangs and other extremely dangerous organizations would immediately be put out of business. I am much less afraid of spending money to educate people on dangers, uses and treatments than I am allowing criminals to continue to take over our neighborhoods and schools. The 'War', as it is, is a waste of money, resources and lives, and there is no end in sight. It only gets worse.

This is my gut feeling about OUR government's rights and responsibilities, and I am very open to others' input on this if I am wrong.


What exactly do people mean by "overpopulation"?
That's what I would want to challenge your correspondent about.
The number of dogs alive in the US is completely a non-problem.

The real problem I see is that too many dogs are killed in shelters.
And Brent, as you've repeatedly shown, MSN does NOT reduce the number of dogs killed in shelters.. quite the contrary.

The way to solve the true problem is to 1)reduce the numbers of dogs being given up (through help with training, for example) and 2) increase the numbers of dogs being successfully adopted.

Winograd's so called "no kill community" presents one path to achieve 1 and 2.

If no (or very few) dogs were killed in shelters, then people could stop lamenting about "overpopulation"

There is certainly no "overpopulation" of small mild mannered dogs.


A friend wrote this to me in reply to your MSN posting:

He almost had me on this. But, this is not a sound argument.

1. His answer is to increase demand for animals rather than cut supply by mandatory spay neuter. Several problems with this:

a. The dogs most in need - Pits, Rotties, Older and disabled dogs - it's almost impossible to create demand for. People simply don't want them.

b. He is ignoring a qualitative factor. His supply and demand model works perfectly well for sofas or cars - where you can adjust price to impact supply or demand - but most of the people who want a Pit Bull are people who shouldn't have one. I could empty Liberty Humane in a day if I want to adopt Pit Bulls for fighting or bait. There IS demand - just not acceptable demand.

2. The other way to bring a market into equilibrium - the same thing as increasing demand, is decreasing supply, which we do by euthanasia. So this person is effectively proponing euthanasia with this argument.

3. He says mandatory spay/neuter has never worked. I'll bet you everything you own vs. everything I own that the reason for this is that it is not enforced... like all animal legislation.
He almost had me on this. But, this is not a sound argument.



Thanks for the feedback. Let me respond item by item, but I'm going to work backward:

3) I actually think MSN works best when it ISN'T enforced. Here's the part about MSN that is tough to understand in practice vs in theory, but we've watched it a lot here in Kansas City. First off, anyone who seriously breeds is usually pretty easily able to get an exception for their breeding. Commercial/hobby/show breeders all get exceptions for their breeding. Meanwhile, the number of people voluntarily spay/neutering their dogs is at an all time high in this country. HSUS is now estimating that 75% of homes spay/neuter their dogs. That's really incredible. We then have to look at the other 25% and why they don't comply. Most of these people don't comply because they can't afford the cost of the proceedure. Most of this can be remedied by having voluntary low cost spay/neuter programs with outreach to the neighborhoods where these people live. I STRONGLY support low cost voluntary spay/neuter programs. The rest of the people simple don't want to alter their animals. So what happens when they don't comply with the spay/neuter ordinance? Their dog gets confiscated and enters into the shelter system. Meanwhile, the owner goes out and gets another dog. So what have we done with the mandatory ordinance? We've added a dog to the shelter system AND created more demand for bred dogs. I've seen it happen repeatedly here in KC, where we've mandated the spay/neuter of pit bulls, and the impounding of pit bulls has gone up by 80% since the ordinance took effect -- and nearly all of them die in the shelter.

2) I've never advocated for increased euthanasia. Ever.

1) This is probably the hardest one for the shelter/rescue community (and me) to get my arms around. Here's the deal. There is demand for 'pit bulls' -- and it's not just among the dog fighting crowd. If you drive through the neighborhoods in our urban core you will see TONS of 'pit bull' puppies in people's yards. There is a high demand for them. However, most rescues/shelters don't/won't adopt to the people that live in these neighborhoods. Sometimes because they're young black men that people perceive to be dog fighters (most are not), sometimes because the people don't meet fencing requirements, income requirements, rent, etc. There are probably a lot of valid reasons that shelters/rescues don't adopt dogs to the people in these neighborhoods.

However, this doesn't keep these people from getting the dogs -- from somewhere. So we must admit to ourselves, rightly or wrongly, that the people we are turning down for adoption are GOING TO GET A DOG. Wouldn't it be better if they got one that was a) temp tested b) altered and c) that needed a home and didn't increase the demand for bred pit bulls?

What I'm suggesting is that we MUST find a way to adopt pit bulls and rottweilers to the people in these areas that we are currently denying from adopting. We must find a way to use the opportunity to get dogs to them and help educate them on how to properly train and treat the animals. Do follow-ups with the family to see how they are doing so we can help them with problems they're having with the dogs.

I know this takes time and resources that rescue groups don't have...but if we're going to solve the problem, we HAVE to do it this way. The alternative - letting them buy a puppy, that they get no training on how to handle, that then grows up to be an out-of-control dog that ends up in the shelter is NOT WORKING. I'm not buying that dog fighters are showing up to the shelter to adopt temp-tested dogs that have been altered. I think most of these people honestly just want a dog. We have to be sure that if there is demand (and your friend admits that there is) that we upgrade these people to "acceptable" standards through education and working with them.

My wife and I met this couple a few years back that had just gotten a pit bull puppy (they "found" her) and were leaving the dog chained up to her dog house 24/7 in really rotten weather. These were people that NEVER could have adopted a dog - -they were renters, no fence, transient (they moved four times in 2 years) and receiving government assistance because of low income. We helped them get the dog altered, and eventually the dog became a house dog. The dog ended up being an awesome, sweet dog in a great, loving home.

Most of these homes we're denying CAN become good homes...they just need some help. If we don't provide the help, they will get the dog and it will eventually end up in your shelter anyway. So we HAVE to make the time to get these dogs into the homes where there is demand and adjust our requirements for "acceptable" to include more than just suburban white families. The current solution is not working.


Our local shelters routinely adopt to the people you describe and free training classes support any and all urban pit bulls owners so they have the best chance of succeeding, but that hasn't made much of a dent in shelter numbers (outside of Berkeley where we've created a bit of an oasis). The fact is that poverty is our biggest roadblock to curbing the shelter intake of these animals and - try as we might - we're powerless to change the housing crisis, the whims of immature, unstable owners OR the fact that some people just need to breed (and sell to whoever) in order to pay the rent.

Brent, I see you struggling so much with this issue and it pains me. But realities are realities. We can and should work our butts off to make improvements, but in the end, there are just more fad breed dogs out there than our community can absorb.

Look at one month's worth of SF craigslist ads, back before craig banned the sale of pets. It's no wonder we have too many.

Educating the public is essential to bringing numbers down, and part of the message they need to hear is that buying from a byb supports the current overproduction of these dogs. To tell people that overpopulation is a myth is a damaging lie, and it gives dog shoppers permission to support their local backyard breeders. After all, why NOT start out with a perfect little puppy? That would probably be my choice if I didn't know better.

Yes Virginia, overpopulation is alive and well in Oakland and beyond.


I have a real problem with Carol's 2 & 3. But I also think Brent's post leaves a little too much mental leaping for those unfamiliar with his blog...

2)That is the CURRENT solution - an archaic murderous solution. Not one proposed here.

3)An example of the problem with today's AW world. "I don't want to believe > doesn't work so I'm just not going to..." MSN that is enforced = solution #2 btw. Unaltered dogs are picked up by AC and killed if the people don't have the funds/ability to get the dog fixed. If they had the funds in the first place the dog would be probably be fixed. MSN just gives AC a license to kill dogs where VOLUNTARY programs that HELPED people would SAVE dogs.

1) If breeders are able to convince the general public that they should pay thousands of dollars for those mixed breed mutt "designer dogs" then yes, we can increase the demand for shelter dogs of all sorts. (IE Combating big, black dog syndrome by marketing them as "Farm dogs" - but just TRY to find an outside dog to adopt! Most rescues would rather kill them...) And what is the excuse for all the "highly adoptable" pets getting killed?

Also, this is a part of the EQUATION to achieving No Kill - not one single action will do the trick. This post was just addressing one aspect of MSN.

Saving animals should be carried out using standard biz models. Increase the demand thru marketing and adopter friendly practices; reduce supply thru VOLUNTARY s/n programs; repeal pet slaughter laws like BSL, MSN, pet limits, feral cat laws; increase retention with low cost training classes and post-adoption support.


We know in general MSN is not a workable nor needed option, and it is based on AR beliefs and misconceptions. If one wants less shelter dogs/less shelter kill then they work on less coming in and more going out.
In general the public with small kids are not going to pick an adult dog w/little or no background, esp if it's a breed maligned in media. and most SPCA groups won't allow them to adopt such a dog anyway. When u look at what dogs are not adopted, they usually are mixed breed, juvenile males,med-large sized dogs that were NOT bred by dog breeders for income, or to advance the breed;rather, they are unplanned births.
Studies show that litters of kittens born to households actually outnumber dog litters by 2-3x. and mostly cats are killed by shelters, not dogs.

Contrary to popular belief, BYB dogs are usually small breed mixed designer dogs.Those are not the dogs shelters kill.
The med-large mixed dogs (unplanned births) are the targets for low income/free altering. If no one does the targeted altering, then the numbers of such dogs will never go down, no matter what is done (including MSN/other punitive laws)
The market demand for small, white, young pups,small breeds, female dogs will always exist and will never cease. In worse economic times the demand will be higher.
Increasing the share of those wanting and adopting shelter dogs is fine, but if you have only a limited supply of shelter dogs (where most are those dogs people dont want)---blaming people for buying a dog and blaming dog breeders is completely misplaced, as far as why dogs are in shelters.And that is the ploy that ARs use.I am not saying this is your belief--I am just saying that's an AR tactic used to get rid of dog breeding in general.
Whether a person adopted or bought a dog makes little difference if they don't care to keep the dog later on, so working on retention is good. And studies have already shown they usually don't keep the dog because of things like moving and behavior issues. All these things are known.
What the opposition doesn't talk about is that up to 70% of killing in shelters is for cats. Little/nothing is done about un-owned cats. Dog killing has actually gone down substantially in most parts of the US. Dogs don't all need surgery for sterilization as they can use sterilants, but those are seldom offered.
Nathan works on the premise of increasing the adoption rate. If all shelters did that, there would be increased adoptions but it would not necessarily place all pitbull type dogs, nor maligned breeds. Just look at SF. They send pitbull types to Carl Friedman to kill. If rescues wanted to adopt dogs to borderline families, that would be interesting, but most rescuers are ARs that aren't going to do it.
I think the market share can be increased somewhat, but not to extent that it would take to place dogs people don't desire. If they had BSL as the law in every single city in the US, that might put a crimp on the dog breed. They would be out there, but not in public.(Imagine Denver law everywhere)And that is what a lot of people want, after hearing the AR faction, the AR rescues,pitbull haters, and the general crap these groups keep promoting. And that's why BSL isn't going away anytime soon, no matter what cases are won in Colorado, no matter how many shelter dogs are placed, no matter how few or how many dogs are owned.



My biggest struggle with this is that it feels like almost no one else is going through the efforts you are making to adopt to some of these "high risk" homes. Here in Kansas City, I KNOW there is a ton of demand for these dogs...but most of the folks would be deemed as "unacceptable" homes. So we send these people off with no other alternative but to buy a bullie from someone -- which then furthers the demand for bred dogs.

If we could find a way to adopt to more of these homes, we a) could find a lot dogs homes and b) decrease some of the demand for the bred dogs. Does that mean we'd find homes for all of them? Maybe not. But it certainly wouldn't hurt our cause. My bigger problem comes with sitting back and thinking that some sort of government regulation is going to fix the problem for us...when it's never proven to have that type of affect.

The other thing that we need to figure out how to do is see if there is a way to increase demand for these types of dogs in places other than our urban cores through better PR. Let's face it, there aren't a lot of suburban moms lining up for these dogs right now. If we could a) improve the image (which I know your group has done more to do this than anyone else out there) and b) be sure that there aren't entire cities where we CAN'T adopt them to because they're illegal (something we struggle greatly with here locally) we'd be in much better shape. We could probably increase adoptions here by 50% if we didn't have to turn down people who live in places where the dogs aren't allowed. It's incredibly frustrating.

I just think we need to do everything we can to increase the number of dogs that are adopted out...even if it doesn't solve 100% of the problem...


Donna, I see the never-ending chant of "overpopulation, overpopulation, overpopulation" as the damaging lie. It give everyone on the AW side the excuse to throw up their hands and kill because "there are just not enough homes so we HAVE to kill - it is our badge of honor". Overpopulation has given countless cities the "duty" of passing MSN, BSL, pet limits and other punitive legislation that has increased the killing. Besides, can't you use "homeless pets" and still get the point across that animals need homes?

Overpopulation is treated as a "cause" of the killing, instead of a symptom of failing policies.

The "overpopulation" of pit bulls isn't soley because of their numbers but also because of laws and housing policies that render them homeless. Because of H$U$ and PETA smear campaign that has destroyed their reputation costing them even more homes...and increasing the demand for them in bad ones.

Again, there is no silver bullet. It will take a host of innovative programs and policies to fix this problem. MSN is not one of them.


This is a very interesting discussion but I also feel bully lovers may be our own worst enemy. Some of the quotes are below.

"a. The dogs most in need - Pits, Rotties, Older and disabled dogs - it's almost impossible to create demand for. People simply don't want them."
"In general the public with small kids are not going to pick an adult dog w/little or no background, esp if it's a breed maligned in media. "

Although I can agree with statements like this, I believe we need to rethink our thinking as the people representing these dogs. If we want people to believe us, we need to believe us.

Our shelter recently implemented a temperament testing policy along with allowing pit bull adoptions. We get a lot of these dogs in and our initial thought was that wow are they hard to adopt. Now, I feel like we have learned some things. I am going to share them below.

-- I believe breed ambassadors are a big key to changing people's perceptions of these breeds, probably more than many other ways we are trying.
-- When the average person walks in a a shelter, they have pre-conceived notions about bully breeds. This can be changed by having good bullies viewable, either walking by on a leash, or in viewable areas. One bad bully ruins it for all. We assume they come in thinking bad on bullies but want them to leave either with a bully or with a confused mind on what they have read about bullies.
-- Average folks may not walk into adopt a bully, but can be swayed if they see positive behaviors from these dogs. These crossovers are some of the best folks for these dogs, because they want to share how they have been changed.
-- Take great bully breeds out to events as much as possible. This has been huge success for us. People ask a lot of questions, which is what we want so we can refute any notions they have.
-- Encourage volunteers. Many volunteers start afraid of these dogs but end either being an advocate for the breed or adopting one.
-- Us believing in these dogs as a dog that has passed a temperament test, has made us all advocates to potential adopters and naysayers...


We could go round and round on this one, guys. Some points that I need to make.

Pit bulls are the number one most popular, most licensed dog in Oakland - an urban city that mimics most cities in this country as far as economic and cultural diversity.
The breed is celebrated here, landlords are much more likely to rent to all income brackets of pit bull owners here, There are training resources and education events for pit bull owners, There are numerous free and low-cost sources for s/n, No one really looks cross-eyed at you here for having a pit bull. Oakland loves its pit bulls.

And still, there are more adoptable pit bulls than we (rescue and the community) can reasonably absorb. There are too many chihuahuas now too ... but that's another story!

We're working our butts off so the dogs we love succeed in their homes -- whether the homes are brown, white, rich or poor.

And still, there are just too many pit bulls being born.

I think we all want the same thing, but our language is so very different. I would never call overpopulation a myth when we have sooo far to go before that ever happens -- if it ever happens. Every time a wannabe breeder comes to a shots fair looking for a hook up for their dog, we remind them - there are too many already, and as hard as we try, we just can't embrace all of the dogs being created. And thank dog most of our clients have never read the blogs that proclaim overpop to be a myth and s/n to be detrimental to a dog's health. We're finally* seeing altered dogs gain acceptance and we're actually hearing homes counsel other homes against breeding indiscriminately (it's nice when this info is going from neighbor to neighbor rather than from us). That's taken years of building trust and educating in the spirit of support and hardcore reality.

I love the hardline stance you guys take against BSL, but I think some of the declarations being made are so wildly off-base that they bring the unintended consequence of shutting people down from the broader message.

Why not strive for (language twist) High-Adoption goals instead? Everyone can get behind that, and it doesn't muddy the conversation before it even starts. In our view, it's far better to show someone how to make changes than hit them over the head for not buying into some angry guy's book, you know? I'll hold pit bulls that I love while shelter staff puts them to sleep if it means we can dig in and help create better policies together. Roll up your sleeves, get yourself inside a shelter, get to work and show us what you're trying so hard to convey! Many of the country's shelters really ARE ready listen to actual experience with open minds, I guarantee. Because - to be honest, it's all about the pit bulls right now and we'll all tired of killing them.

Word of advice

I think I read on this blog about the requirements for adopting Pits being too strict.
I was told by a friend who is a Vet that she was just turned down by a Pit Rescue.
Reason...Did not have an enclosed yard with a 6 ft fence.
It is not a City requirement where she lives but this Rescue requires it.

She was going to adopt a Boxer.

I had convinced her to give a Pit a chance which she tried to do.

Well she now has a Boxer because of this Rescue turning her down.
She said she felt like a criminal at a parole hearing when she was interviewed.
They need to ease up on their requirements.
This would have been an exceptional home.
This Boxer will have the wonderful life instead of a rescued Pit all because of a fence.
It`s a ridiculous requirement.

Me too

I was initially turned down by my shelter because I live in an apartment and do not have a fenced yard. I had to convince them that my plan was better than their plan -- many walks, daily hikes thru the woods, and plenty of swimming. No place to tether, no place outside to leave unattended/ unsupervised. No accidental escapes. No excuse (like a fenced yard) for not walking. No cages, no kennels. Potential adopters need to be judged by what they wish to give, not what they have.



I really don't know if we have a true overpopulation issue here in KC or not. But things are definitely broken. A couple of the largest cities in our metro won't allow us to adopt them there, and our rescues are routinely turning down more potential adopters than they're accepting. When you see things like "word of advice"'s comments above about a vet being turned down, you know the system is broken in a lot of places.

There's a limit to how much control we can have over the who is breeding what dogs. However, we CAN control who we deny and adopt dogs to and can really work to fix what we have control over and try to fix some of our laws that are preventing us from adopting to those cities. Instead, the rescue community here has pressed for more laws in KCMO -- and we've killed about 80% more bullies in the past year than we did in the year's prior. At this point we literally have people saying that if we kill enough of them, eventually the kill rates will go down because there won't be that many left. I can't even make that up.

Meanwhile, much in the rescue community here continues to say there is an overpopulation problem to justify the killing of the dogs....

The point of the overall post was that we can do what we want with the laws -- but if we continue to leave those who want these types of dogs with absolutley no options but to buy them from the guy down the street (because we're denying them for adoption), we're never going to solve this problem...


Donna, your situation and ours in KC are different so there is no use debating local issues. I won't pretend to know yours and the idea that "Many of the country's shelters really ARE ready listen to actual experience with open minds, I guarantee. " is pretty laughable here and a little insulting that you don't think we've already tried that.

"blogs that proclaim overpop to be a myth and s/n to be detrimental to a dog's health." You have the AR groups to thank for this. If people weren't continually having to fight off MSN then this debate woudn't have started. And how about all the bogus claims the s/n nazis have made?? An honest discussion of the issue will lead most people to do the right thing and s/n...

If you have a lot of puppies coming into your shelter then I'm sure you do have an overpopulation issue - we do with kittens.
But I hate the word "overpopulation" because it takes away from the "broader message" and its used as a blanket statment for the whole country. There are MANY aspects of the homeless pet problem that need to be addressed - MSN doesn't solve them.


The problem is that most people have plenty of money they just don't want to spend it on fixing their dog. anyway most people that don't fix their dog (especially male dog) don't do so because they think it takes away the manhood of the dog. who cares the dog doesn't know the difference

s kennedy

BR may be tired of killing them, but didn't hesitate to say that the best method of getting rid of a pitbull that one doesn't want, if one can't find a home for it, is to have owner's vet kill it. which is why I don't take advice from BR.Sorry about that.


I opose mandatory anything, much less how to handle my prescious mutts. Now, heaven forbid, if one of them gets loose I'm putting fliers all over town looking for him or her. Since they are not altered, and get loose, I would just have to hope they would make it home on their own since I can't afford the proposed $500 fine if they are captured by animal control. I will also never get them chipped, because they could be traced to me. I love my pets like my own children, but when Big-Brother government gets involved I want to do the opposit of what they want me to do. SAM


If the proposed legislation goes through, vets would be required to turn in owners with unaltered pets. Before we know it,pet food supliers would be mandatory reporters and demand ID before selling puppy or kitten chow. Those with unaltered pets would have to cross state lines to get vaccinations and treatment for their pets. If you want a cute little mutt or kitten it would have to be purchased out of state or up in the hills where animal control would be more concerned with bears and cougars than cats and dogs. When government tries to legislate very personal and private details of her citizens' lives, it is contrary to the very fabric of Americans and America itself. SAM

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