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« A lot of empty cages this morning | Main | Are shelters euthanizing the wrong dogs for aggression? »

April 05, 2012



AMEN! Thank You! I thought I was going to blow a gasket when I read it. I am ashamed to be associated with animal rescue people sometimes. What a bunch of wrong, opinionated, nutcases we can be. You can not believe all the people here in PA who are sure that every dog with a scar has been used as a bait dog. Or every time a dog harms a cat, it is because the cat was being used as a bait to train the dog to be a killer. WTH is wrong with us? How did we turn into such myth repeaters? What about the one that is going around now about how 99 percent of easter chickens and rabbits are dead before their 1st birthday? Really? I would not give any of these to my kids or grandkids to begin with, but who is it that is taking the numbers and creating these statistics?

tom b

Thank you for your response. I was also disturbed by the arguments made and myths perpetuated in that column but would not have been able to address them as succinctly as you did. Shelter dogs on the whole are not a bunch of incorrigible misfits.

Barb Bristol

Well said! The whole mindset that thinks that dogs in shelters are damaged goods - i.e. worthless - is what leads to the widespread killing in the first place. Shelters that come to think of the pets in their care as valuable ASSETS are the ones who become No-Kill... and they become financially healthy as well.

Christie Keith

Yes. This.

Pat F

Those notes from the author sound like they come from someone with a bad case of overwhelming burnout, who has lost hope in her fellow man. I find it sad and unfortunately detrimental to the animals whose welfare she may be responsible for.


Great post Brent!

I have a hard time with the damaged dog argument since I know that the vast majority of rescued animals are not damaged, and are just animals who have ended up in bad situations - needing our human assistance back to a good place.

In addition, I have a really hard time believing that somebody working in rescue still uses the term "damaged" to describe all or most of the animals. Anybody involved in rescue knows that the majority of animals that come through are lacking manners, as most dogs are (rescued or bought), but are not truly damaged.

So, maybe the author's point was not made appropriately? So, take the author's quote and rewrite it as, "If you knowingly adopt out an aggressive dog, without letting the future dog owner know what that means for them as a dog owner, then you as a rescue are not helping your cause."

This is where I believe there could be some validity. For example, the rescue that knowingly adopts out an aggressive dog, without disclosing it to the adopter. I personally believe this is where the damaged dog rumor started and is still perpetuated, since there is no way it could have started with the vast majority of dogs in rescues that are just dogs lacking manners...


I have some family members who will only purchase a champion bloodline AKC registered Dachshund, no rescued dachshunds will do. I have another family member who will only purchase show cats from show breeders who breed ragdoll cats, with champion bloodlines. They will not take in any rescued dachshunds for me or rescued ragdoll cats.

This is not because of rescues adopting out aggressive animals. This is because they have bought into the myth that animals without traceable pedigrees are not quality animals.

These same people will pay 3 times more at a Macy's for a 3 pack of Onesies than they would pay at a Walmart for the same pack of onesies because they believe you get what you pay for.

I don't think they are right, but I also do not think they are in any way responsible for the deaths in "shelters".

Jessica D.

Thank you for writing this. There were some good points in the original article, but in the end, the piece was just as extreme as the photo she was railing against. As a former shelter worker, I was very uncomfortable with the direction this article took: that the majority of shelter dogs are damaged or dangerous.

In my personal experience caring for shelter dogs, the vast majority were not damaged or dangerous. Many were "ready to go" adult pets (even if they weren't originally owned by perfect puppy raisers). Many of them were housetrained, knew a few basic commands, and adjusted well to being a part of a family again.

Stephanie Collingsworth

As someone who works in the same shelter as the author of the DogStarDaily blog, I can say that I feel shelter/ rescue workers as a whole are being overly sensitive to her statements about the behavior of dogs in shelters.

Her comments quite accurately portray the types of behaviors seen in the dogs in this particular shelter. The majority of dogs are adolescents with poor bite inhibition, a host of bad habits, and some (who don't make it up for adoption) display aggressive behavior, or have a known history of aggression, towards people and/or other animals.

We KNOW that most of the dogs just need a bit of training to curb jumping,mouthing, socialization issues, and reactivity. We do NOT portray the dogs as monsters, incorrigible beasts, or otherwise condemn them for those behaviors. We DO require adopters take classes post adoption, counsel on how to help support their newly adopted dog, and do whatever we can to lay a foundation for manners and training while the dog in our shelter. And thanks to Open Paw and the Play groups that the author supervises, we are able to accomplish that.

I would LOVE to know which shelter you are all working at/with who does not have a host of young dogs with behaviors that are an absolute example of a dog owner who did not give that dog the training or socialization he/she needed.

How many of the pets given up to shelter because their owners were "moving" could have stayed in that home had the dog been made more manageable with training?

All of our efforts to market the dogs available for adoption and in speaking with the public are aimed at educating them on how great dogs in shelter are. In giving them the tools they need to pickup where the former owner left off. I am a HUGE proponent of not using the phrase "shelter dog" because that implies that they are somehow separate or different than other "regular dogs". BUT, that does not mean that in 12 years of working at an open-admission county shelter, that I cannot help but agree with the fact that the majority of dogs in my care will need a little bit of extra work post adoption. In most cases, nothing extreme or out of the norm for what any dog needs, but extra work nonetheless. Work that should have and could have been done prior to relinquishment. That if done by the former owner would have greatly increased that dog's case for re-homing. If done by the former owner may have eliminated the need for the dog to be given up in the first place because through training and spending time with their pet that owner would have formed a bond with their now well mannered companion. Without that bond, these "out of control, don't have time for, needs room to run" dogs are not worth keeping in the eyes of their owner.

And in regards to puppies....seriously? People WANT puppies. There are puppies in shelter everywhere that need homes. The author is simply stating the absolute imperative nature of what MUST be done in the first 16-18 weeks of life to prevent that pup from becoming the adolescent I spoke about in the above paragraphs. If that training and socialization had been started early on, life with the adolescent would be so much better and the dog would be better prepared for a new home should re-homing become a necessity.

The shelter/rescue industry is EXTREMELY biased against any and all breeders. If you are a shelter worker and dare to say you *gasp* bought a puppy from a breeder, you are told that you killed a dog in a shelter because you did not adopt. Most shelter/rescue workers feel that ALL breeding should cease and that if people would just stop breeding and all animals were only acquired via adoption, that all of our collective problems would be over.

There are actually WONDERFUL breeders who are doing the best work to preserve their preferred breed. These same breeders are often involved in breed rescue and assisting shelters in placement and adoption.
What would happen to dobermans and rotties and golden retrievers if there were not reputable and knowledgeable breeders ensuring temperament, conformation, and health were priorities?
I will tell you...profit seeking, ignorant, and irreputable puppy mills and backyard breeders will fill the gap left by the good ones and the breeds that we know and love will be lost.

Not all who breed are BYBs. Not all who breed are guilty of causing a shelter animal to die because they bred a litter. THAT is the unfair statement addressed by the author.

If I choose to look for a conformation/obedience prospect rottweiler from a breeder, I would be accused of contributing to the death of a shelter animal. That is the statement made by the sticker that sparked the blog.

We are all frustrated and angry at having to clean up other people's messes and by the never ending tide of unwanted homeless pets who rely on our daily efforts, heartache, and passion to find homes.

But blaming breeders for the problem is not the answer.
And neither is lashing out on someone who actually painted a very accurate picture
of the sort of behavior seen by many of the dogs in shelters or in our care. Not all, but many.

Walk down your county shelter's adoption kennels and you can pick out any number of dogs who fit the description of needing training or a little extra help.
Talk to behavior assessors who have to make the tough decision on what to do with a dog that displays aggressive behavior over food or toys, towards cats or other dogs, has a known bite history, or other more extreme or severe behaviors.
There are "rescue groups" and animal activists who would see those dogs placed into the community despite the risk to public safety.
I am NOT discounting the work done by folks who work tirelessly to rehab dogs. But, I also know of many rescue groups in my area who advertise dogs for adoption who have serious and extreme behavior issues.
These are the aggressive dogs that the author talks about. These are the dogs that are often placed in homes where well meaning people really had no idea what they were getting into.
These are the dogs who are brought to the author and her training colleagues by heartbroken adopters who love this dog and will spend any amount of time and money to "fix them".

You should be more angry at the person who coined the caption of 'Don't breed or buy while shelter pets die' under a photo of a pile of dead dogs. That person did more harm to the image of shelters as a whole than the authors blog about who is to blame.

That photo does more to perpetuate the myth that dogs who come to your county shelter are destined to be heaped into a pile of other dead dogs. Our open-admission county shelter boasts a steadily increasing live release rate of 86% for dogs. And yet I still have to have the almost daily conversation with visitors, other rescues, and owners of "how long do they get before they are killed?".

I know that there are shelters out there who deserve this reputation, but so many more don't.

So again, take an honest look at the dogs in your care and ask yourself if the author was in fact not entirely true in stating that it is the fault of the owner who failed that dog in the first place, whether because of mis-information from their vet or trainer, or out of sheer ignorance and cruelty.

Jen Brighton

As a daily reader of DogStarDaily and prior blogs of Cindy Bruckhart, I believe she is being done a disservice here. Too many of you seem to be focusing only on her statement that shelter dogs have certain issues. I didn't take it to mean all or most shelter dogs. I took it to mean that people turn dogs into shelters for a variety of reasons and there's no one party to blame.

I think followers of DSD know the point she's trying to make--trainers, shelter workers, responsible breeders and in-the-know owners need to educate potential or new dog owners about a variety of things so fewer dogs end up in shelters.

I definitely have a problem with someone buying a breeder dog as a status symbol. A dog should never be a status symbol, but that's exactly how many owners view their dogs; the more it cost, the better their dog is. While I personally would never, ever buy a dog from a breeder, I have no problem with reputable breeders who take their role seriously in breeding a healthy, balanced line of dogs, especially if the buyers are using those dogs for a purpose other than a family pet (such as hunting/retrieving/herding).

Cindy's point is that we need to educate potential dog owners to help them make the decision about where to acquire a dog and to understand the importance of training our dogs and not throwing them away for behavior issues that are often a dog being a dog.

As to designer dogs (essentially mutts), I think the article where Wally Conron (creator of the Labradoodle) is quoted as saying: "I released a Frankenstein. … People say ‘aren’t you proud of yourself?’ and I say, ‘not in the slightest. I’ve done so much harm to pure breeding.”’

He mentions all sorts of genetic issues that have cropped up thru breeders who have jumped on the bandwagon to make a quick buck. I know a few of these dogs with horrid issues, both health and behavioral.

I'd like to hand the article out to every "doodle" owner I meet, but how do you do that when they have a dog they already love?



Thanks for the long and thoughtful response.

I actually support the author's sentiments that all breeders aren't bad. Unfortunately, in an effort to try to identify that not ALL breeders are bad and not ALL should be painted with the same broad brush stroke, she in turn, typecast shelter dogs in the same broad brushstroke - -as damaged goods. Both generalizations are wrong and damaging.

Are there dogs that fit her description? Absolutely. Probably in any open admission shelter in the country. But I'd contest that most exhibit the same behaviors as the majority of dogs living comfortably in homes -- well behaved for the most part but guilty of overly-enthusiastic greetings and that type of thing (like most household pets). But casting them all, or the majority, as damaged goods does them no favors at all, and is inaccurate.

I'd also like to note, as someone involved in sheltering, that it is also, IMO, irresponsible to relieve the shelters themselves for the euthanizing animals. Sure, it's not necessarily the shelter's fault the animals are there, but it is their responsibility to find them suitable homes once they are. We cannot relieve them of this responsibility. It's great to hear that your shelter has a solid save does make note that the shelter is doing an awful lot of things right.

Stephanie Collingsworth

I re-read the article and no where did she say that ALL shelter pets are damaged goods. She simply stated the relinquishment of ill-mannered, untrained, or downright aggressive dogs could have been prevented with training, better management, and better education of dog owners. I suppose her only mistake in the writing of this article was not including one critical sentence..."not all shelter pets are untrained, ill mannered, or downright dangerous."
However, I have a feeling that your readers would have still chosen to focus on how these poor dogs are being further mis-aligned instead of seeing what the real point was to the, training, and early socialization are the key to preventing 'regular dogs' from becoming 'shelter dogs'.

And that any shelter or rescue worker who is sporting the "Don't breed or buy...." bumper sticker is pointing fingers at the wrong demographic.


Stephanie (and this goes for Jen too), it certainly wasn't my intent to misconstrue anyone's article. Heck, I've had enough of mine misconstrued over the years.

I admitted that I agreed with the general sentiment - but the article:

a) DOES paint a very bleak picture of shelter animals (whether intentionally or not this is certainly implied and I'm far from the only person who had that takeaway)

b) does remove shelters from any responsibility when animals die in shelters that are there to save them.

I think these issues were both concerning enough to warrant a response, even if I agreed with the premise of the post.

Cindy Bruckart

It saddens me to think that this is all you got from my post. Especially since it's not what I wrote.

As long as we continue to be afraid of the truth, for fear that it will keep dogs from being adopted, we will remain a big part of the problem.

I don't see the bleak picture that you believe was painted by my blog post. I don't believe that the answer to the public's misconceptions about dogs in shelters is to offer up an equally inaccurate but sugar-coated version. Why can't we just be honest?

We don't have to choose between demons and angels. We can present them as dogs. Real dogs who need training like all real dogs do. How does that paint a bleak picture?

We do a disservice to those dogs, every last one of them, if we fail to educate the public as to why most of them are really there, what they really need and what it's really going to mean to adopt them.

I think I'm most upset, however, with your implication that an untrained, ill-mannered, and even damaged dog is worthless (your word, not mine). Not to mention the fact that you've suggested that I said such a thing.

Personally, I dearly love the untrained, ill-mannered dogs! That's what I get out of bed for in the morning. They are the most fun to work with and the easiest to prepare for adoption. But there's no way you'll convince me that we should pretend to the public that they are perfect.

Don't you see that by holding them up and explaining to the public that these dogs pull on leash because no one taught them how to walk nicely on leash we help to destroy the old idea of a naturally good or bad dog? We have an opportunity to help the public see that untrained is not worthless, it's just untrained. And if you want to adopt this dog, you'll have to train him or maintain the training he's received at the shelter.

Can you see how being honest instead of so defensively protective we could finally get the general public to make that connection between what they see as the perfect puppy and what they see as the out of control dog? If they could make that connection perhaps more than 20% of puppy owners would start going to puppy classes and perhaps they would be less likely to relinquish the dog when they feel it's become too much for them.

And if any person in the dog training profession or the shelter/rescue world can't make that connection, they're really missing the boat.

Shelters, like the one I work at, who euthanize dogs for health and behavior reasons should not be held responsible for the health or behavior issues that the dog comes in with. Not being able to place a dog is a very different thing from choosing not to help a dog. We cannot save them all and that is definitely not the fault of any shelter.

Thanks for reading me and for whatever work you do to help dogs. While I certainly don't have all the answers, nor am I always right, I am also not guilty of saying or even suggesting some of things being talked about here.

Cindy Bruckart, CPDT-KA
Regarding Rover, LLC
Multnomah County Animal Shelter



As I stated in my blog post, there are many parts of your post that I agreed with. I agree that there is a lot of work to do to educate owners. I agree that "don't breed or buy while shelter animals die" is a tired mantra.

I stated as such.

And I'm certainly not opposed to pushing puppy training course, or training courses in general.

While there were many parts of your article I liked, this sentence was one that really stuck out as being painfully misleading and wrong:

"So those of us working in rescue are faced with a constant barrage of untrained, ill-mannered and sometimes downright dangerous dogs who are unwanted and unadoptable"

While maybe I read into it something you didn't intend, I'll note that I'm far from the only one who read it this way. But I don't think a barrage of unadoptable dogs is anything most shelters see. Heck, most of the ones we see are mostly just lost.

I certainly understand how sometimes intended meaning and the words that are put on the computer don't always match. It happens. As someone who has written nearly 2000 blog posts over the past 5 years, I've certainly written things that didn't come out quite as intended. But if a good number of people take something the "wrong" way, you may want to look at how you worded it, because they're probably not all wrong.

Cindy Bruckart

Not wrong, but perhaps a bit defensive. Or perhaps not working in an open admission county shelter within a large municipality.

Private shelters and many rescues are often not the front line of owner relinquishment, so I can see how their view might look different.

If one's rescue work starts after the city or county shelter has done intake and assessment, and you are choosing which dogs you take into your care, then of course you're not going to see the same thing. The dogs I'm seeing will either be stopped at your door or you'll never see them at all.

However, in most open admission shelters near large cities there is a daily in-flow of primarily adolescent dogs with high arousal levels and little to no training. There's also a high number of dogs who are unadoptable for no other reason than they didn't get the early socialization they needed and are therefore now aggressive.

This comment...

"So those of us working in rescue are faced with a constant barrage of untrained, ill-mannered and sometimes downright dangerous dogs who are unwanted and unadoptable"

...was part of the entire description of how shelter workers often feel. How the cycle of relinquishment starts to wear us down. Especially knowing that all these dogs needed along their journey to the shelter was some exercise, socialization and training to prevent the now (quite fixable) issues they have.

The fact that this has not been someone's experience does not make it untrue. It simply means that person has not been exposed to that end of sheltering and rescue.

I believe all the people who say their experience is different. If you are working in a private shelter or rescue then it is quite possible that you see far fewer training and behavior problems than I do.

But your experience being different does not mean that those of us in open admission shelters are lying about the point of origin for the majority of relinquished dogs. And we do, in fact, have a much larger sample to draw from.

I would invite anyone who disagrees to visit a local, public, open admission shelter and sit in on a week's worth of assessments. There are many, many dogs that we cannot send to our local rescues because they do not fit the criteria. I can see how volunteers with those rescues would have a different perception of things as they are shielded from the dogs their rescue can't accept.

And please do not misconstrue that statement to mean that I don't appreciate the work of private shelters and rescue! It is because of them that we are able to work with the dogs they can't take and find them homes.

In the end, shelter dogs and puppies from breeders are no different, and that is the point being missed by this side conversation. They all require training and do not come ready-made. Regardless of our internal debates, nothing is going to change until the public gets that.

I truly appreciate that you've carried this conversation on in another forum. It's a great discussion.

Cindy Bruckart, CPDT-KA
Regarding Rover, LLC
Multnomah County Animal Shelter


Cindy, I'd propose that the shelters we are involved with are really quite similar -- ours is a public shelter serving an entire city of 500,000 people -- most of it being the old urban core of a major metro. So while our shelters are probably fairly similar in the types of animals we bring in, our image of them is not the same.

Cindy Bruckart

I doubt that our image of them is different at all. The image that is different is the one you think I painted, but didn't.

Considering your comments about euthanasia, I suspect that is more the issue than anything else.


I think if many, many people are getting an idea from someones writing that wasn't intended, than perhaps the writing needs to be examined, and not the audience.

Cindy Bruckart


It's not many, many people. Just a few. Most people read the entire post in context and weren't looking for something that wasn't there.


It's more than just a "few". If people are getting a message that is not the message you intended, than how many does it take to be a significant number? Clarity of content would seem to be a goal across the board. Especially when writing about a subject that is clearly important to you.


Do shelters actually put dogs down just because they killed some dumb cat, or a bunny, or a random squirrel? If they PTS for prey drive, might as well just kill just about every husky you come across and heck, slaughter all hunting breeds while you're at it (there are quite a lot of them). I've even known some dogs who weren't what you would think of when you think of a prey-driven hunting breed who enjoyed hunting. I know a golden retriever who delights in killing squirrels, and he's the sweetest dog you'll ever meet. Prey drive does NOT equal unadoptable, there is a difference between aggression to humans and aggression directed at other animals.


Just thought I'd add that I love cats, but I don't think dogs are evil if they kill one any more than I think a cat is evil for killing a mouse.

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