Where are the puppies going to come from? I have been waking up night after night lately in a panic thinking about this question...
Really – where will the puppies come from?! In many communities around the country we are reaching a crisis point – that is if you believe that people should have the opportunity to have a dog in their life, and that they should have the opportunity to choose what type of dog to be a part of their family. I do believe this. I feel strongly that a big part of becoming and retaining “humane communities” is that all have the opportunity to have a pet in their life. I do not think pets should be just for certain people (those who can afford a puppy from a high-end responsible breeder, for example), but for all people who want to care responsibly for a pet. The crisis is that we are running out of puppies! There are many communities that simply do not have juvenile dogs entering their sheltering system and, in many cases, the adult dog population entering the shelters has significantly decreased – and significantly changed. What those in this field have laid the foundation for and have worked so hard for is happening!
This is great news!! And, this is the source of my concern. So here is where the crisis is – when there is a need, the void is usually filled. How do we want the void left by the lack of puppies to be filled? I know one thing we can all agree on, we sure do not want it filled by puppy mills and those who breed with no understanding of the importance of early socialization, proper nutrition and the like. This is a conversation we having been having for a few years… At HSUS Expo this year, I heard a few people mention the next step for some shelters may be to find ways in which we become the source for puppies for folks. I know what some of you are thinking – that in your community, there is certainly not a lack of puppies coming in. And that may be true. Chances are, there are less than there used to be, but there may still be puppies at risk.
Yes – there are still plenty of opportunities for relocation programs to help move dogs and puppies from where there are too many to where there are not enough, but as responsible large-scale relocation programs like the PetSmart Charities Rescue Waggin’ help infuse source shelters with resources and know-how, we are seeing source shelters as temporary, as they too soon see the inventory entering their shelters change. We know what a dog can add to our lives – how they can help us through the bad days, bring us joy when joy is hard to find, keep us honest, keep us human…and really, this is the kicker – that interaction can keep us kind.
How can we fill this void? How can we assure that anyone who wants to add a dog to their life can find a humanely raised puppy? What does the future hold? Please let’s figure this out, ‘cause I need to be able to sleep through the night – I am keeping my dogs up!
Emily Weiss, PhD, CAAB
ASPCA Vice President, Research & Development
Dr. Emily Weiss’ work at the ASPCA involves developing programs and processes that focus on impact on animal welfare. In her previous work as a behaviorist, she developed training programs to improve husbandry and decrease stress for many zoo animals. She has also developed assessment tools for shelter animals, including the SAFER assessment and Meet Your Match Canine-ality, Puppy-ality and Feline-ality. Dr. Weiss is co-editor of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, and has published and lectured extensively in the field of applied animal behavior.
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