Who Killed These Dogs?

A picture and the subsequent conversation on Facebook has compelled me to write this blog post.  The conversation is about a picture making the internet rounds.  It is a picture of four dead dogs lying on the floor of a shelter truck.  At the top right of the picture are the words, "If you breed or buy, you are responsible for this."

I cannot express how offended I feel about this message.  I also feel embarrassed because not long ago I was on the "Don't breed or buy while shelter animals die," bandwagon.  Why?  Because it's easy to blame breeders and non-shelter-adopting dog owners for the problem of pet homelessness and euthanasia.  It's easy to imagine that pet homelessness would be solved if there were simply more homes for pets.  It isn't true, but it's easy.  Just as easy as it to pretend that human homelessness is about not having a home.

The victim in this kind of campaign is the innocent, perhaps ignorant, average person who loves dogs.  The person who has done nothing wrong but is suddenly saddled with the challenge of solving a problem that they didn't cause, don't understand and really cannot fix.

The relinquishment of pets has several causes, but none of them are a mystery.  First and foremost is the failure of dog owners to educate themselves BEFORE they get a puppy (ring any bells?).  If potential dog owners would do this one thing it would literally wipe out all of the other causes of pet homelessness as we know it and save thousands of lives.  It is seriously, truly, honestly that simple.

If this happened the puppy mills would go out of business quickly because the now savvy, educated market would no longer be interested in their product.  If this happened veterinarians who suggested keeping puppies at home until they are 16 weeks of age would go out of business for giving out-dated advice.  If this happened even those dogs who might become homeless would be quickly snatched up because they would be house trained, well-mannered, friendly and have good bite inhibition.  If this happened dog trainers would be busier than they’ve ever been conducting puppy classes and teaching students how to participate in all the sports and activities they wanted to do with their friendly, well-behaved dogs.

But this isn’t happening.  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.  We know they didn’t start out this way and we know they didn’t have to end this way.  On a daily basis we are faced with punishing the innocent dog with death while the guilty parties who created this mess walk away.  We can’t help but think that someone, besides this dog, must pay.

We think, and rightly so, that it is unfair that this dog was created only to be destroyed by no fault of his own.  We blame the breeder.  It’s not a wrongful placing of blame.  That is until we stretch it out to include all breeders.  We lump them all together.  The professional breeder, the backyard breeder, the accidental breeder, the puppy mills and the pet stores that sell their wares.  Once that group is rounded up we can put all the people who buy from them in one category, too.  All the same, all to blame.

With each newly relinquished, returned or euthanized dog our anger and resentment grows.  We start to resent dog owners in general and tell ourselves that this whole problem exists because people are just stupid.  They don’t know what they’re doing.  They don’t care.  They cannot be trusted.  They are not like us. It is us against them, except that they are the only ones who can save us.  Now there's a recipe for resentment.

And this is when our rescue minds really bend the wrong way.  Faced with yet another dog who will probably die due to circumstances beyond his control we decide to twist, mangle and distort reality.  We decide that since we can’t see a way to educate the public, we will find a way to throw their mistakes back at them.  The dog is the victim here, so we advocate for him.  The more damaged he is, the harder we fight for him.  We sugar-coat his behavioral problems and minimize the danger.  We prey on the emotions of the public, sell them a bill of goods and convince ourselves that if anything bad happens it is because people are so stupid.  After all, there are no bad dogs, just bad owners, right?

So here we are.  We’re angry, hurt, helpless and have resorted to less than honest tactics in order to save every dog we can.  We hate the public for causing this mess and we’re posting pictures of dead dogs on Facebook to let them know just how angry we are.

Meanwhile, a dog-loving person who knows nothing about any of this walks into the shelter…what now?

How about some honesty?  Here’s what I want the dog owning public to know.

If you are at the shelter to drop off your untrained, ill-mannered, people biting, dog aggressive dog because you can’t or don’t want to deal with him anymore, I want you to know that you are responsible for what your dog is now and everything that happens to him from here on out.  I am saying that as a matter of fact, not as an accusation.

Ignorance does not relieve you of responsibility.  We do not hold people unaccountable if they shake a baby simply because they claim they didn’t know it would cause damage or death.  It is your responsibility to know these things.   

At some point we have to stop allowing people off the hook for not knowing that keeping their puppy inside for four months could cause serious behavioral problems.  Dog owners who are surprised that their dog grew bigger and failed to train himself must be held accountable for not preparing themselves.  

If you're going to get a dog it is your responsibility to know how to care for it and to call on professionals when you need help. If you find that you didn't prepare properly and therefore things are turning out badly, you shouldn't be allowed to dump your mistakes on the community, shrug your shoulders and say, "Well, I didn't know."  

If you are at the shelter looking to adopt a dog, I want you to know that you are not responsible for the fearful, reactive, hard to deal with but heartbreaking dog who is up for adoption. If that dog ends up being euthanized it is not on your hands.  Nor is it on the hands of the shelter that euthanized it.  It is the original owner, whoever they acquired the dog from that is responsible for where that dog is now.  

If you adopt an aggressive, fearful or otherwise damaged dog without understanding what that means for your future as a dog owner, you have been duped by the rescue/shelter because you walked in there uneducated and not knowing what you wanted.  No different than what happens every day on used car lots. Buyer beware and be educated!  Many people have a mechanic look over a car before they buy it.  More people should have a trainer look over dog before they adopt it.

Speaking of which, let’s not leave the training profession out of all of this.  We are also guilty of placing blame on the average pet dog owners.  We complain about their lack of education without remembering that it is our job to educate them.  We concern ourselves more with dog friendliness than with people friendliness while lamenting the fact that owners don’t seek us out.

If you are a trainer who is so focused on animals that you haven't bothered to develop fantastic communication skills with people, because after all you don't really like people that much anyway and you believe that dogs are suffering because people are just stupid and don't want to learn, then you have a hand in all this.  

EVERY person who comes to a trainer is an opportunity to save dogs' lives.  The macho jerk who thinks it's stupid to give the dog a treat for peeing outside is your opportunity to make a difference.   He is going to tell all of his macho jerk friends about it.  The woman who is taking advice from both you and the neighborhood pseudo-trainer is an opportunity to make a difference.  Show them both why your information is better.  

And every person you see or talk to who either has a puppy or knows someone who has a puppy is literally a dying body in front of you waiting for CPR.  If you don't know how to use your charm, wit and expertise to chat up those people and make them want to listen to you then you have more dog trainer training to do!  The dog training profession is absolutely, positively a people business.

And when we see propaganda like the picture that started this thread, we have an obligation to every one of those dogs who have died to speak up and tell the truth.  It was hard for me.  Not here, but elsewhere.  I felt like a bitch stirring up trouble.  But you know what?  Tomorrow I go back to work at the shelter and dogs will be dropped off by uneducated owners, dogs will die, dogs will be adopted, dogs will be assessed, and dogs will be trained.  The people who landed those dogs in a shelter will not feel responsible, while the people who didn't will cry.  

Am I angry?  You bet.  Do I think the anger is justified?  Absolutely.  But if we want solutions we have to channel that anger and attack the problem where it will make a difference.  I love it when a great dog finds a great home, but I’m not naïve enough to believe that an adoption, or even a thousand adoptions, is going to stop dogs from dying.  Puppy classes will.  Educating kids will.  Educating the puppy buying market will.  Pictures of dead dogs won’t.



This piece really speaks to my experience with rescue. It is a journey, and I'm now in a far different place than I was back in the day. 

Thanks for writing this...


And a big "Amen!"

I've been sending people to http://pupquest.org/ as part of their consumer education.  A great site (and also reviewed previously here on DSD http://www.dogstardaily.com/radio/13-pupquest). 

Thank you for an excellent, well thought out answer to those who try to blame reputable/responsible breeders for the problems in animal shelters. As you point out, education is the key to the problem. Unfortunately those who truly need to be educated on this issue will never see your blog. And those AR activists who are behind the mistruiths you've refuted will never understand even if they read it. Yes, education is the key!

Cindy you are a legend for bringing light to some of the social issues surrounding the shelter / rescue environment and I thank you for it. I was just having this argument with someone the other day how it's not just the breeders, not just the owners, and not just the variability in quality of shelters or rescues. Each situation is different and each circumstance needs to be individually evaluated. Do I get annoyed when I hear that yet another puppy buyer has chosen to impulse buy from a pet shop, yes! Do I get frustrated when breeders are mating temperamentally unsound dogs, definitely. Am I insanely agitated when puppies go to new owners before 8 weeks, receive minimal to no socialisation because the breeder has kids and thinks that's socialisation? You bet. All these things, owner education etc all definitely play a part. I've been training both Stateside and the UK for about 7 years now, and I have to admit, behaviour cases are wearing me thin at times ... that I myself forget about our role as PREVENTATIVE educators. I will be minimizing the amount of behavior cases I an taking and increasing my puppy education classes for when I move back to VA in a couple of months. The trouble is ... how do you pitch such an important concept as puppy parties and early socialisation to a rural community that sees no necessity in early socialisation classes? I phoned 14 vets near where I am moving to, and none of them immediately took to the idea of having puppy parties, some would consider if I dropped by to speak to them and only a few even have a referring trainer? You hit the hammer on the nail by saying its a social issue and we need to make society aware of early training and puppy prep :) As trainers I think we sometimes forget the whole world hasn't read the puppy books ... I know I sometimes forget it's not the norm just because I preach it every day! 


Charlotte Wagner, BSc
Duskland Dogs

Since I read both the incredible amount of Facebook posts and this blog, I can tell you its been on my mind for a couple days now.  I am infuriated that breeders are blamed for ALL shelter dogs.  That is just not true!  I think that successful pet dogs come when an INFORMED FAMILY finds a REPUTABLE BREEDER and together they come up with a SCHEDULE for the puppy....meaning the breeder can recommend good trainers based off of experience that will fit what the family hopes to accomplish with their dog.  Training is not a one-size-fits-all experience- just like not all dogs fit all families.

I CANNOT THANK YOU ENOUGH!!!!! for the amount of educating and training and patience you have shown me.  I tell everyone that I know that you are the BEST when it comes to puppy education.  Hands down!  I have retaken your puppy classes more times than I can count on my hands and feet and I learned something new everytime.  Critics say breeders don't care...  I have spent more time and money to learn from all different trainers, see different approaches and come to my own conclusions about what I think is best and worthwhile to the dogs I produce and the people that will later on come into contact with my dogs.  I often think back to 10 years ago and think about how much BETTER my dogs are now than they were then, and, how much better they will be in another 10 years from now!  I have the opportunity to learn this and pass it along because of trainers willing to educate!  And, when I started my quest for really good training mentors about 6 years ago I can tell you the MOST TRAINERS DON'T PUT OUT THE EFFORT TO KNOW WHO THEY ARE WORKING WITH.  I was looking for education and they were either unwilling to provide it, or couldn't answer my questions.

To the people who imply that breeding animals at all is awful is just unrealistic :)  When I do have a litter of pups usually half, if not more immediately go into service dog programs and sometimes more.  Can half of all shelter animals do that?  Should I go get a wolf to be our "family" dog?  Not to mention, the other arguement with breeders is, "how much PROFIT" we make off animals.  There is not much to speak of (and I'm not the humane society so I don't have mass donations coming in).  I have vet bills, food bills, training expenses (plus gas because I will drive 3-4 hours for excellent instruction), health testing bills, dog show expenses, my time both for training and working with the pups AND when I do multiple visits with each family so the can become familiar with the litter before they pick their pup (as well as after so they can spend time with it and I can begin teaching the parents and their kids the basics of loose leash walking, sit, down, and no jumping from the 6-8 week mark before the pup even goes home), wear and tear on my house (because they are raised inside learning how to be good dogs), and sleepless nights for me and my family because pups were feeling playful in the middle of the night.

That is the biggest run on sentence but their is so much that goes into raising a litter that people blaming the breeders either aren't seeking out the right ones, or just want someone to  point a finger at.  Either way its inaccurate.

Long story short, I think ALL 3 peices of the puzzle need to be educated.  I think it would be awesome if DOG TRAINERS WOULD EDUCATE THE BREEDERS.  I have a very big influence on where my dogs and their families go for training.  I've even had people that come to me and don't even understand what a OFA or PENN-hip  hip test are, but by the time I send them home they understand that and so much more.  Not to mention that often times they are excited about telling me they have read books and videos I've suggested, and been to puppy class orientation before the dog even goes home!!!  This happens all the time, so educate the breeders so they can pass on good information.  (Cindy, do a class :)

I'm not sure if this is on subject anymore, but Cindy Thank You for what you do.  You not only have EDUCATED and INFLUENCED me, but you have and will continue to make a difference to everyone that I come into contact as I pass along what I have learned.  Everyone benefits from that.  Especially the dog.

Trisha Ferris Sunset Goldens of Oregon

I'm really excited by the conversations being had here and in other forums on these topics!  I love the Pup Quest site and will continue passing it along.  

Trisha, you are far too kind.  I am feeling the need to get back to puppy classes!  You are a shining example of what a responsible breeder looks like.  

Charlotte, it only takes a couple to get started.  A couple of vets, a couple of people, a couple of puppies. Make appointments with any vet that will listen to you.  Hold a one-time puppy event, get creative, get everyone together and start talking.  (Always start with how incredibly cute their puppy is to get them to listen to the rest.)

You can't change an entire community overnight any more than you can train a puppy in a day.  I live in a rural area next to a suburb next to a city...so I have quite the demographic!  The rural folks who first worked with me, I swear, were only there to prove that I didn't know what I was talking about.  Convince ONE of those and you're set!

People respond to results, so sometimes it takes a while.  Once the vet sees that the couple of pups who came to your classes are easier and more enjoyable to work with they will want all of the puppies they work with to be just as easy.  That's why I've always told my students to tell their vet that their working with me.  :)

Thanks everyone for your kindness and whatever piece of the work you do in getting and/or keeping dogs in their homes.


Thank you for your insightful blog. I often feel conflicting emotions about my choice to get a purebred - rather than a rescue - dog. Your article cleared up my thoughts precisely. Many rescue-advocates insinuate that people who buy from breeders are partially responsible for the amount of shelter animals. I admit, there is a certain part of me that is sorry I did not rescue a dog instead of purchasing one.

But I am not a bad dog owner. I did not purchase a dog for its looks, its media reputation, as an ornament or as a staus symbol. I wanted a companion that is going to be a big part of my life for the next 12-15 years. I wanted a dog with very specific abilities, size and trainability. As such, I looked for an Aussie- or Corgi-type for months at breed rescues. When that proved unfruitful, I searched breeders for six months before choosing one that focused on conformation, ability (agility/herding) and temperament and one that conducted complete genetic testing for hips and eyes. I put my deposit down before the pup was even conceived and drove across California to check its developmental progress before taking her home.

Upon taking her home I devoted every spare minute to her training and upbringing. During her formative months I gave up all my weekends to make she was socialized with people, dogs, cats, horses, chickens, vacuum cleaners, boats, surf, you name it. I had her spayed at 5 months and made sure she is provided for in case something happens to me. She went through off-leash obedience trials and is now starting her first agility and flyball courses.

I love dogs. I would have preferred it if I could find my companion dog and rescue one from death at the same time, but that didn't happen. And all that said, I can't help but feel that other owners smugly look down on me for "copping out" and BUYING a dog. 

Thank you for sticking up for the owners who do things right. The number of dogs that show up at shelters is a HUGE problem that I don't want to understate it. But responsible dog owners are not to blame. 


While I agree that the blame lays in many different hands, I disagree with the way this article portrays shelter animals.  I've volunteered and worked in many different shelters and my experience is not that the majority are untrained, ill-mannered or aggressive.  My experience is exactly the opposite.  They are just dogs with no home who are adapting to their situation the best they can.  To suggest the majority have problems is to go back 30 years when everyone avoided shelters because they thought only "problem" animals were in shelters.  It's a fine line between trying to break down the complex issues of why we have a pet overpopulation problem and going too far and possibly doing more harm than good with our words by painting an ugly picture of shelter pets.  The truth is there are many irresponsible people who give up their dogs and expect the shelters to deal with them because they can't, but their problem is usually that they can't deal with a dog being a dog, not that they sucked at training so their dog is a monster and they can't deal with it, which is really what this article implies.  Which in turn implies that the majority of shelter dogs have big issues and that's just not true.  I applaud the effort in the article, but I think it might have unintended consequences with people reading it.

I have worked with many rescues too - with a great variability in their reliance in terms of the training, dogs they rehome and quality of owers they place dogs with. I have worked with private organisations that will rehome any dog, or will only take in dogs that have not bitten. Many no kill shelters remain no kill because they do not house animals that show signs off agression. On the other hand there are many county shelters with a high kill status because they will take any dog in ... and there's a big scale of grey in between of course. I think how shelters work they take in has a big part in it, and also owner history ... as in my rescue experience there can be no history or often owners who lie about behavioral issues. Then also you have to think how shelter density and stress can effect behavior and whether than change is permanent or not. 

There's definitely a lot to be debated about shelters, however it all goes down to management dependng on how successful the whole thing runs. Many shelters have also high re-take percentages ... how many dogs end up BACK in the shelter after adoption? I think lumping all shelters and rescues in together is a bit unfair, however that does not mean a lot of them have dogs that have been reliquished due to behavioral issues, and the prevention thereof is an important aspect of reducing numbers. 

Charlotte Wagner, BSc
Duskland Dogs


I think you've misunderstood and added extra meaning to my words.

I work at an open admission county shelter and I will tell you without a doubt that the majority of the dogs being relinquished have lost their homes because they have some combination of jumping up on people, peeing in the house, pulling on leash, chewing things up, barking, not being quiet in a crate or chasing the cat.  

To most of us dog savvy folks these are easy fixes, but they are still representative of an untrained, ill-mannered dog.  I think you've taken offense to something that I haven't said.  I did not say that these dogs are monsters, nor did I say that the majority of them have big issues.  They are normal dogs who didn't get the training they needed and are now homeless and in need of that training.

In fact, what I'm saying is that if the public were better educated they too would know that a dog doesn't naturally learn to sit for greetings, pee outside, walk nicely on leash or rest quietly in a crate.  These are normal training issues that every dog has to learn regardless of where they are acquired.  I've actually written this blog because I'm upset, as you are, that people fail to teach the dog these simply things then drop them off at a shelter because the dog isn't doing them.

If you are working in a shelter where all the dogs come in housetrained, crate trained, leash trained and sitting on cue...I want to come visit!!  In our shelter there is some ongoing training needed for the majority of the dogs available for adoption.  Yes, occassionally we have the senior dog who is house trained and perfect whose owner passed away, but that's rare.  Most are works in progress.  Most are adolescents.  Most are need some work.

And a last note, this could be said of ANY dog a person might acquire.  Getting a new puppy from a breeder is a MAJOR PROJECT!  It comes with years of work before that puppy is going to be a perfect family dog.  So, I don't see how we could say that shelter dogs aren't going to require work, too.


I am not offended nor am I disagreeing with the basic sentiment in the article.  I just think we need to be careful how we phrase things when talking to the public about shelter dogs.  Yes, most shelter dogs will require basic training in manners, housebreaking, control and responsiveness to commands, but in general, we can’t say they will require any more training than a dog that was received from somewhere else.  To say that people couldn’t train their dog so they dumped it at the shelter with the typical issues found in an untrained dog is true in a lot of cases, but for someone who is uneducated about dogs in general to read that, they will more than likely see ‘dogs in shelters are there because they have behavioral issues’ and not think beyond that. 


I feel anytime we make statements about training needs in shelter dogs, we need to qualify them with an explanation that dogs from anywhere have the same requirements for training and whether you adopt a shelter dog who is no longer a puppy, take in a stray who walked into your yard, or purchase a puppy from a breeder, there is a lot of work that must go into the dog/human relationship and consistent and proper training is needed in every case.  I don’t think raising a shelter dog is harder than raising a breeder dog, etc, because they both require proper training, socialization, etc.  I think the greatest need for shelter animals is education of the public and while I understand it is hard to not place blame when seeing the sheer volume of euthanized pets every day in shelters, the problem lies in many ways with the way people see things and think about things.  To get them to open their mind to be educated about how to solve the problem, we have to get them to listen to us first and they won’t listen if they feel the finger is being pointed at them or if they feel that they’ve received confirmation that shelter dogs are not worth their time because the majority are there because they have behavioral issues.

The reason I came to the article and read it was because of a discussion on KC Dog Blog about this very thing.  People were perceiving the article as placing blame on owners for creating bad dogs and then dumping the dogs at the shelters because they can’t control them.  While that might be true, it does nothing to encourage people to check out a shelter for adoption, nor does it prepare people who want to purchase from a breeder for what is needed in the care and raising of said dog, which I think should be one of the goals for everyone involved with shelter/rescue pets.

So people who pay exhorbitant amounts of money for "pure bred dogs" aren't solely responsible for every dog that gets euthanized in a shelter. That is true. But they ARE a part of the problem. Contrary to what you claim above, through the rescue I work with we encounter many wonderful, highly adoptable dogs in our local shelter. The reasons that people have to give up dogs in this economic climate can incredibly varied. Having to move to a shelter, having to move to an apartment that doesn't take dogs, having a dog with medical issues that they can't afford. These are wonderful dogs that have been raised as companion animals...maybe not perfectly, but pretty close. I actually found a dog tied to a fence in a local park, two weeks ago. She is now happily a companion pet in someones home.

While there are many animals that do come in with issues, and many MANY irresponsible owners out there, it's amazing to me that the desire for a "designer dog" or "perfect puppy" should trump the desire to give a deserving dog that happens to be from a shelter, a home. Then again we live in a country where there are millions of children available for adoption and yet couples spend thousands on IVF, and gestational surrogates, and importing infants from other countries. So maybe I shouldn't be so surprised after all.

Elizabeth, to your point: There are not millions of children in the USA up for adoption, more like 150,000.  Most of the children are in foster care because someone could/would not take care of them.  Many of those children have behavioral/emotional/physical issues.  Who is to blame?  People who have their own children or adopt a non American child?  

I'd be interested in seeing the  factual basis for your number. But ok, let's say it's true. So, those 150,000 children don't deserve homes because they may have behavioral/physical/emotional issues -- the same as children born physically to parents, or to children who are adopted? Is there a point to your statement? Because, apparently I am missing it.

If we must apply blame, we should apply it to each and every one of us... the issues and challenges homeless dogs face are a function of our society as a whole. There are different sets of issues and challenges for dogs across the world. We are all responsible.

In terms of the discussion here - I see a problematic disconnect between shelters/rescue groups and the public. The current system makes it far too easy to surrender dogs and also obtain dogs. This revolving door does ultimately help a great deal of homeless dogs but it also leaves much to be desired in terms of altering the societal view that dogs are disposable... and does nothing to stop the cycle.

As a starting point, I'd like to see expansion of these US State laws governing Puppy Age Sales. I believe many of the behavioral issues we see in dogs could be resolved in one fell swoop http://www.animallaw.info/articles/ovuspuppysaletable.htm

I also finding it shocking that many dog owners/rescue workers/shelter personnel can know quite a lot about working with adult dogs but incredibly little or nothing about the importance of and methods for puppy socialization. This is a huge gaping hole dog trainers MUST address more assertively.

There are some good points made in the article above, though I don't agree that a disturbing photo/caption is best addressed with an angry rebuttal. Getting angry and irritated with each other solves nothing... but bringing the issues to light and hashing them out with thoughtful discussion could solve everything!



I would have to stand by my opinion that people have the right to choose whether to get a puppy from a breeder or to adopt.  They are not responsible for the irresponsibility of others, or even any misfortune someone else might experience resulting in the relinquishment of a pet.

How is it possible that if I die in a car accident or end up in jail, leaving my children as orphans, someone else must now forfeit their right to have a child naturally and adopt my kids?  Are we also going to hold responsible those people who choose not to have children at all?  We'd have to.

Speaking of which, there is another picture making the internet rounds suggesting that those people who don't like dogs have no souls.  I suppose that's the next natural step, to blame all of the pet-less homes for the homeless pet problems.

Your comments highlight exactly what I see as a huge part of the problem.  Being hyper-focused on the dogs currently in the shelter, desperately finding them homes by any means neccessary and ignoring what I would call at-risk dogs which are puppies and dogs still in their homes.  Until we start focusing on prevention through education and accountability, we will never stop the in-flow.

Until we can say to the public that dogs in shelters do, by and large, require training we will never help them understand that ALL dogs need training and ALL dogs require work.  To pretend that they just need love or require less training than they actually do is a form of dumbing down.  To not admit and explain that in a large majority of cases some early training and education would have kept the dog in their home, we perpetuate the idea of naturally good and bad dogs, thereby perpetuating the in-flow of relinquished dogs.

Silentdog, you're entitled to your emotions and responses.  I can't apologize for being angry about seeing dead dogs being put on the doorstep of innocent people in the form of self-righteous propaganda.



Cindy, this is a very timely post, thank you for writing it.

I completely agree with what you are saying. I have an issue with this statement, though:

"the puppy mills would go out of business quickly because the now savvy, educated market would no longer be interested in their product"

I think it's unrealistic to expect _all_ consumers to boycott a product simply because it is unethical. That's why there are laws against selling certain things. If not, there would always be a market for all kinds of unacceptably horrible items. And if you really think about (I don't recommend it), there is.

I understand that some people who are looking to get a pet just aren't going to go to a shelter. They're either going to get a puppy from a breeder or not have a dog at all. I don't know that there is anything we can do or say to change it. But as someone who is also involved in shelter work and maybe sits on the more radical end of the spectrum along with a few other commenters here, I don't have to accept it, either. I can speak out against acquiring a puppy from a breeder, or breeding dogs, practices I strongly disagree with.

I find it discouraging that there is so much defensive backlash to this view. Like you, I am not interested in blaming anyone, but I find the level of suffering and death I see in animal shelters completely, maddeningly unacceptable. The way I see it, if people can provide a home for one of these animals instead of getting a "new" puppy or kitten, well, I think there is an ethical imperative there to do so, at least if they claim to truly care about animals. And I'm not being overly simplistic, either. Call me an optimist, but I have worked with quite a few sound, intelligent shelter dogs who had that working dog star quality. I'm confident that anyone and everyone can find their heart dog or cat or ferret or bunny at a shelter.

Of course, we all do what we can and what we think is best. But if everyone thinks, it's ok, I'll help shelter dogs some other way, someone else will adopt them, I really want this puppy... well, it doesn't go very far in solving the problem. And let's be honest, it is a very big, very serious problem.

"Ethical" breeders can be super duper responsible, they are still bringing new puppies into the world, puppies that people will choose over shelter dogs. They are still the model that backyard breeders look to in thinking they can make money. The problem is not going to fix itself, and public conciousness takes a really, really long time to sway sustainably. I don't have a problem with breeding dogs in theory, after all, I love dogs. But in the present context, I think honest, frank communication is a lot more important than protecting the image/practice/livelihood of breeding dogs.

We would not need a total boycott of puppy mills for the market to make them obsolete.  We would only need to educate enough consumers to make it unprofitable for the producer.  

Of course that doesn't mean that we shouldn't also pursue legislation and regulation.  But decreasing demand, thereby decreasing profit potential, is what really slows down the profit-driven producer.  If we can successfully create a market with both very high standards and strict regulation we will be left with only the cream of the crop.

That said, I think we need to stop repeating the myth that responsible breeders are making huge profits from puppy sales. A responsible breeder who does all of the things that Trisha mentioned in the above comment is not going to get ahead with the few hundred dollars they receive for a puppy.  Many are losing money in the end.

The difference is, it's not about the money for them.  It's about love for the breed, and in Trisha's case also about providing high quality service dogs that change the lives of their eventual owners.

I think that's why it hurts so much to have those kinds of people lumped in with criminal breeders who don't give a rats ass about the lives they are bringing into this world.  They are two completely separate kinds of people doing completely different things for completely different reasons.

Another myth is that if puppies aren't available from breeders people will automatically adopt dogs from shelters and rescues. It's simply not true.  Many will opt not to have a dog at all. I suppose that's fine in the minds of some, but those who get a puppy and raise it responsibly are often great advocates for animal welfare because of it.  Without that experience they may not join the dog-loving world and remain detached and unaware of animal welfare issues.  

I'm with you on the honest and frank conversation front!  And despite the discomfort that some feel about having these kinds of debates, I am thrilled by them!  We don't have to agree, but we definitely need to debate, argue and discuss so we can find out what we're really thinking and feeling.  Pulling out our thoughts and emotions for examination is the first step, I believe, in figuring out which direction we need to go in next.


Cindy, why not use the phrase Easy Kill Shelter instead of Open Admission Shelter?

I am genuinely curious, in the same way I am curious why shelters misues the term euthanize.


I'm not sure what you mean by that, dogs_drool.  If you're suggesting that open admission shelters are run by evil people who enjoy killing animals, it's simply a crazy statement.

If you imagine that people who work in open admission shelters find it easy to make the decisions they have to make then you're making up stories with no first-hand experience.  There's nothing easy about it, ever.

I'd like for you to answer a question.  If there were no open admission shelters, where would those dogs go? Selective admission shelters and rescues will not take them, so where do they go?  In most cases, private shelters are not out picking up strays, responding to domestic violence disputes where an animal is involved, taking in the criminal's dog when the criminal goes to jail, having dogs hit by cars or dying of parvo and found on the street delivered to their door.

You would rather we go back to the days when they died from starvation in the streets or were shot by local citizens?  Because that's not what we want.  We don't want any animal to die alone and afraid.  It's called humane euthanization because that's exactly what it is.  When a quality life or a life that is safe for everyone is not possible we have no choice but to make the final decision and carry it out with compassion.

The only way to be no-kill is to either deny access to dogs who are not safely adoptable, adopt out unsafe dogs, or to warehouse dogs for the rest of their lives.  

Denying access and being selective is perfectly acceptable for those who want to help dogs but not have to deal with euthanasia.  Adopting out dangerous dogs is blatantly unethical and immoral.  Warehouseing dogs for the rest of their life and compromising welfare in the name of avoiding death is in no way defending their rights.

I would love to ask for your address so we could deliver to your doorstep the dogs who have delivered Level 3 bites to humans, who have killed other animals and who can only be safely transported if they are sedated. But we wouldn't do that anyway because it is not the best thing for the dog.  

Making the decision to euthanize is never about what's best for us or what would make us feel better.  It's about what's best for the dog and the community.  And it hurts, and it's horrible no matter how many times it happens.  It requires sacrificing your own well-being for the well-being of others.  And it most definitely never, ever gets easy.

In my experience, those who create the illusion that euthanizing is easy for shelter workers or done without any thought, guilt or grief never seem have any option for that dog other than to be forever kenneled or sedated.  Come up with an option that provides a quality life for the dog and ensures the safety of the community and we can talk.  

By the way, our open admission shelter has a 86% live release rate for dogs.  We work very hard at saving lives every day.  The reality is that no one can save them all and that isn't the fault of the shelter.  IF every dog that came through our doors had been well-socialized and received quality health care, we WOULD be able to save almost every one of them.  That is the point.


Cindy, you are so defensive and angry.

This text from Pup Quest is an outrageous lie:

"Open admission animal shelters: help all dogs and families in their region."

Yes, I am.



The city pound north of me has a 90%+ live release rate, so I know that you know you are not being honest to say Open Admission shelters must kill a lot of pets.

So while I do not think it is at all easy to truly help all the pets in the community, I know it is a lie to claim it is impossible.

Dog's drool...Cindy is being honest about the shelter she works in and the many others that she works with. Have you taken the time to see the work that she does?  If so, I can't imagine that calling her a liar would be part of the conversation.  Sadly, this is typical internet banter where one feels that they can say something rude and not feel any consequences.  Unfortunately, it does not help this discussion, nor does it help the dogs.  If you have a plan to help every dog in every community, my hat is off to you...go for it! Please enlighten us as to the step by step program.  Either way, show some respect to someone who has made a career out of helping dogs, especially shelter dogs.

Grow up Joan.

People like Cindy, and yourself, should be trying to learn from shelters which do not kill pets, not ridiculing them.

 We were thrilled to see PupQuest referred to in this thread as a positive resource for consumers. Not everyone is going to agree with everything we say, we expect that but in general we hope folks think it is a useful resource. joanaw, thanks for calling out the "typical internet banter.  www.pupquest.org


dogs_drool, since you like quotes, also from Pup Quest:

 This open-door philosophy comes with a down side: not ALL dogs are adoptable. Some are too sick and some have behavioral problems that would make them dangerous to place in the average household. In an effort to be responsible not only to dogs, but also to society in general, open admission shelters may perform humane euthanasia.
Nothing is more heartbreaking than a family in crisis with a dog they can’t get into a shelter because all the surrounding shelters are “No Kill” and it doesn’t fit their criteria. Where are they supposed to go?

Its bad form to try and use one single quote to make your point and ignore the surrounding text just because it doesnt.


I also get plenty of education from the Humane Society uptown on how "no kill/Limited admission shelters work.  They just don't take in pets.   They deflect, put owners on waiting lists that are months long, don't take back the animals they adopt out if they have developed behavior or health issues or have just become too old.  They ship in TRUCKLOADS of "highly desirable" dogs from other shelter and tell me that they are full this week, check back next week.  Or that they cannot take one, not even one. of the 15-20 adoptable pitbulls I have in my kennels because they only allow themselves four at a time.  Andif that pitbull happens to be past the age of 6 months, they just don't do transfers of adult pitbulls.  I work hand in hand everyday with organizations who have the luxury of such practices and I am thankful everytime they open their doors to one of my dogs.  But, those same practices also mean that the dogs that don't pass their assessment, and are refused admission, still have to go somewhere.  It means that despite have a multi-million dollar facility with state of the art medical equipment and training facilities won't take on dogs that need their help the most.  Without access to even a tenth of their resources, open admission shelters can't do the rehab or house that dog long enough for him/her to find placement.  Without the ability to say "sorry, we are full and not accepting any new pets right now", we have to draw a line on how long we can humanely keep the dogs with serious behavior issues.  And, because we are often the last stop in a string of re-homings, bites, and failed assessments from other shelters, we are often talking about dogs with behaviors that are in extreme.  As Cindy said, to ask an adopter, and the community they live in, to take on that kind of a liability is unethical. 

I'm not sure how you would assume that I am "hyper focused" on finding dogs homes, "desperately finding them homes by any means necessary" "Ignoring at risk dogs that are still in homes.". I also didn't suggest that people should forgo having children naturally to care for children that may be orphaned. What I actually wrote was that in our society, people go to OTHER countries to adopt children when there are adoptable children HERE. It's a right they have, of course, but considering what you wrote was an "opinion piece", the desire to pay for  a pure breed dog when there are dogs available locally in a shelter seems to be related to "shopping" for an infant in another country when there are children available here.

The rescue I work with reaches out to families to who are having issues with pets to attempt to keep them IN the home. We frequently offer free training and  some financial assistance. I'm not sure why you would assume otherwise. In addition, no dog that doesn't pass a SAFER is placed in a home through us. Again, not sure WHY you would assume otherwise. WHAT I WROTE was that many dogs in the shelter are not incredibly problematic, and transition to a new home with relative ease. NOT ALL DOGS in a shelters have huge issues. Some do. Some dogs can't be adopted, and no one who REALLY works in rescue thinks every dog  can -- or even should-- be saved. 

People have the right to get a dog from where ever they want. But to state that people's buying from breeders in no way affects the amount of animals in shelters is simply nonsense. It's one of many contributing factors. Yes, all dogs require training. No argument there. Pictures that over-simplify are annoying. Yup.

Finally, if your children WERE orphaned, I'm sure you would hope a family would choose to adopt them, wouldn't you? I mean, that kind of generousity of spirit and desire to give...isn't that the kind of world we WANT to live in? Would you want them to be discouraged by the idea that "some adopted children have problems"? Because despite what your commentary explains, that's the main point your "article" seems to make.