My colleagues loathe discussing the pet market. These conversations can be as dangerous to friendships as those about politics and religion.
Legally, a dog is property. Granted, he’s a special kind of property that obligates humans to provide medical care, shelter and proper supervision and the court acknowledges, that like a family heirloom, he cannot be replaced simply by awarding his purchase price to his owner if he is harmed. Many people are uncomfortable owning a living being. But guardianship (a system in which the state owns your dog) is not any better at affording protection for dogs and their families. Another option, giving non humans the freedom to choose how they will live, gets complicated because we can’t hold them accountable for their thieving, murderous behavior, pretending we didn’t see that coming. So until there is a better way to protect a dog from himself and vandalism, so to speak, property law is the model we have.
There are two ways to acquire a dog; steal him or buy him. Either you know his former owner and are granted title (known as adoption because dogs become family members) or you don’t. Finding a dog and never knowing where he came from is one of the most common ways to acquire a dog. After a certain effort to find his owner, abandoned property is not stolen anymore.
But what really matters, is where the source of your dog acquired him because it’s directly related to your character. Now we are getting down to it. If your source owned his mother and is a rescue or shelter or kind old lady who took in a pregnant stray, then you are a generous soul. If your source had a pregnant dog due to ignorance about where puppies (and I presume babies of all kinds) come from, then you are still a good egg but you may be contributing to the deaths of upwards of a million dogs per year, who for want of a home are dying in shelters. If your source planned a canine pregnancy, asked for references from you and inspected your home, and made you wait a couple of years to get a puppy, well then you may be the devil himself. Even though American Kennel Club Registrations show that 90% of puppies registered belong to the only litter that owner ever raises, most people believe that planned litters somehow kill other dogs because no one cares. And if you get a puppy from a planned litter, you are to blame for the existence of animal shelters
So save your soul. Adopt a dog from a shelter today. I work full time in a shelter and we don’t kill the house trained, healthy friendly ones. We can’t get enough of those. However, if you would take one that is afraid of children or has killed a chicken, then I’d be able to make room for a few who are terminally ill or can escape from 8 foot tall chain link with razor wire. If you’ll do that, you’ll make a difference in whether dogs in shelters are euthanized. You’ll also be obligated to shelter, train and provide medical care for a pretty demanding dependent. That probably does say something positive about your character. Or it might say that you enjoy inconvenient lifestyles.
A very popular type of dog to adopt is one who has been abused or tortured. I’m not exactly sure why they are so popular because, quite fortunately, very few dogs ever have to meet a truly evil person. If they do, contrary to popular belief, they don’t become “hand shy” or afraid of men in cowboy boots. They are like every other dog. They sometimes spook when a broom is against the wall or won’t ride in the car without getting sick. The same as many carefully raised, pampered dogs. Most people believe it’s because of some broom or car related trauma but the facts don’t support that. Most dogs learn to trust a car ride when they find out about the hamburger drive through lanes. Plenty of dogs even learn to love a cowboy.
If you have taken a shelter dog home, thank you! About 20% of dog owners get their dogs from shelters according to PetSmart Charities. That’s why of the 4-8 million pets that go through shelters in a year, less than half are dogs and most dogs are saved. Those that bite, kill cats or have diseases that can’t be managed in kennels might be euthanized. Those are the ones I mentioned needing homes for. Believe it or not, sometimes we find those homes. It’s what we do, every day, as often as possible.
What I hope you’ll think about after reading this is the valuation on sources of dogs is all wrong. If you are sheltering, feeding and training your dog, you are part of the solution. If you keep your dog throughout his lifetime, despite divorce, economic hardship and personal health crisis, then you are a model dog owner. If you need animal shelter services, rarely is your dog house trained, healthy and friendly. You probably could have found someone to take him if he were, and so could I. But if your dog has issues I suspect he did not come from a planned litter. In the rare case that he did, I’ll bet the breeder took him back.
The reason there are dogs in shelters is because people give them to us. Plain and simple. In the last ten years, people are doing this less and less. The breeder didn’t do it. The kind lady who took in a pregnant dog didn’t do it and the divorce, house fire and hard times didn’t do it. Someone brought the dog to the shelter. Humane groups estimate that only half as many people are bringing dogs to shelters as did ten years ago. If you don’t do it, then maybe you actually are saving lives. Thanks for that.