October is the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ (ASPCA) Adopt-A-Dog Month® and also the American Humane Society’s Adopt-a-Shelter Dog Month. Adopting a shelter dog not only saves a dog’s life, but it also helps slow down the increase of backyard breeders and puppy mills where dogs are often mistreated and neglected. It also breaks the vicious cycle of the many unwanted puppy mill breeding dogs or genetically undesirable puppies that come from mills who eventually end up in shelters. These dogs get discarded due to sickness from poor living conditions, diseases from overbreeding and in-breeding, or merely no longer being viable breeders. Adopting from a shelter says “no” to mass breeding for financial gain and “yes” to animal welfare.
Shelter dogs are misunderstood in that they are thought to be unadoptable, but that is often not the case! Dogs end up in shelters for many reasons: owners not having a caregiver when leaving for vacation, their owners not being educated on the breed personality before adopting, not being able to handle the responsibility of training a puppy, or owners losing their job or moving into a space that does not allow dogs, to name a few. Many of these dogs are house trained, people-friendly, and ready to get placed in a good home.
Another reason that a dog might end up in a shelter is because the owner thought they were getting a pure-bred but were misled by the breeder. Remember, it’s the personality that matters, not the breed. And by the way, mutts are awesome! There is no truth to the myth that purebreds are better pets than mutts. In many cases, purebreds have more genetic-related problems than mixed breeds. In reality, it is the mutt that will manifest the best of breed DNA it carries, resulting in a super-mutt or super resilient immune system. According to Dogtime.com, “They have more variation in their lineage, which means that genetic diseases that come with recessive genes are more likely to be suppressed by dominant genes.” Not to mention the physical uniqueness that comes with a mixed breed can be adorable! No two will look exactly the same!
But even if you want a pure-bred, you might want to check with your local animal shelters before going to a breeder. There are many purebreds who get placed in shelters due to poor planning by the owner, for example. You might just find what you’re looking for, and without paying thousands of dollars!
A shelter is also a good place to find a dog that has already gone through that awkward puppy stage. And by awkward, we mean chewing on furniture and shoes (teething), having “accidents” all over the carpet, or whining all night due to separation anxiety from being away from its momma. While they may be cute, they are not always the ideal pet for first-time dog owners as they will try the patience of a saint. Adopting a dog that has already learned some of the basic foundation skills that comes with being a young adult (ages 1 through 8) can save a lot of frustration, and decrease the odds of the dog ending up being surrendered to a shelter, as previously mentioned.
According to ASPCA's animal statistics, nearly 6.3 million domestic animals end up in U.S. shelters every year, with approximately 3.1 million being dogs. While these numbers have dropped over the past decade, nearly 920,000 animals are euthanized, 390,000 of those being dogs. Both numbers have dropped due to increased adoptions, adoption efforts, such as animals going into foster care, as well as continued education of spay/neuter programs and efforts.
Because October is also Pit Bull Awareness Month, we’d like to include them when it comes to adoption. Recent statistics show that dogs labeled as Pit Bulls spend three times longer in shelters than other breeds, and half of the Pit Bulls in shelters end up being euthanized (approximately 800,000 annually). Part of the reason there are so many in shelters is because of over breeding by backyard breeders. Another reason is due to the stigma that surrounds them as being fighting dogs, even though aggressive behavior has mostly been bred out of them. It’s quite often the disposition of the owner or inappropriate or lack of experienced training that causes bad behavior; the bad behavior not inherently being in the dog. When at the shelter, you can ask the shelter staff to give you information about the disposition of the dog. Don’t pass by the Pit Bulls! They can be the most loving and faithful companions when given the chance.