The Coming Shelter Dog Shortage

It is becoming more and more obvious that supply and demand for shelter dogs in the United States is coming into balance. For example, the entire state of Colorado had a live release rate for dogs of 92% for 2013, and that was with over 17,000 dogs imported from kill shelters in other states. Dog transports have become big business, with dogs being moved from areas where they are not getting adopted to areas where they go out the door quickly. Generally speaking, New England and parts of the northeast, upper midwest, and Pacific northwest now have shortages of shelter dogs. With the spectacular progress that No Kill is making in places like Jacksonville, Atlanta, Baton Rouge, and other cities and counties in the southeast, the sending shelters may not be needing to send dogs for much longer.

If these trends continue – and it certainly seems like they will – we will have a shortage of shelter dogs for people wanting to adopt. What happens then? If the usual laws of supply and demand apply, commercial breeders will step up the number of dogs they breed to take advantage of the shelters who no longer have enough dogs to challenge them for market share. (Note: I’m talking about commercial, for-profit breeders here, not show breeders. Show dogs have their own set of problems, but most show breeders take reasonably good care of their breeder dogs and puppies and many of them do an outstanding job, including helping with rescue.)

So is there anything wrong with commercial breeders increasing their output? After all, the United States was built on commerce. I think commercial breeding is bad, though, for several reasons. First, dogs are not widgets. Commercial breeding has long been associated with puppy mills, where breeder dogs (who often have heritable health problems) are kept in terrible conditions and puppies are poorly socialized. The puppies are shipped, sometimes for long distances, to pet stores where they are kept in less than ideal conditions, which makes them more vulnerable to illness and trauma. They are then sold by people who may make little or no effort to match puppy temperament to the temperament of the purchaser. The puppies will likely be sold intact. Then, after the sale, there will be little or no follow-up to make sure the puppy is settling in with no problems.

No Kill shelters offer better veterinary care, more attention to housing and enrichment, spaying and neutering before placement, more care at placement, and better follow up than pet stores. They provide a lifetime safety net for the animals they place. So from the point of view of both the dog and the owner, a No Kill shelter is a far better place for acquisition of a dog than a pet store.

Another reason that shelters losing market share to breeders would be a bad thing is that No Kill shelters thrive on community engagement. The more people in the community who are involved with the shelter, the stronger the shelter will be. If people get their dogs from pet stores, they will be less likely to be familiar with and involved with the shelter, and community engagement will suffer.

And if commercial breeders increase their market share due to a shortage of dogs in shelters, then the breeder dogs who spend their lives producing puppies will continue to suffer. The negative publicity about puppy mills has hurt the industry badly, and cut their market. But there is probably a limit to how much can be accomplished by telling people about the horrors of puppy mills. After all, people have heard a lot about the horrors of factory farms, and yet they continue to eat meat. Not everyone is going to resist buying a puppy at a pet store, even if they know on some level that they are supporting a cruel business.

Although the puppy mill industry has been its own worst enemy in the past, recently some leaders of the industry have been indicating a desire to clean up their image. I wonder if they are planning to do so by simply taking what they are doing out of the public eye. The thing that has hurt the commercial dog breeding business in the past more than anything else is the photographs of miserable, matted, cherry-eyed, terrified dogs stuffed into cages. A simple way for the industry to fix this without having to actually change their ways would be to consolidate and move their operations into big warehouses like the ones currently used for laying hens. They could have a few model buildings to take the press through and simply not allow access to the rest. That way they could keep their operations completely out of the public view. No more photos made public of wretched, mistreated dogs living their lives in tiny cages. Keeping the dogs out of the public eye would not only make the public more willing to buy from pet stores, it would also help to ward off legislation to regulate puppy mills. There would be no ongoing proof of cruelty, and fewer people pushing for regulation.

The ideal thing would be for No Kill to find some way to co-opt the industry – to make sure there is a big enough supply of shelter dogs for community No Kill shelters to be able to maximize their market share. The most obvious way to do this would be to start importing homeless dogs from overseas. This would not be a permanent solution, because foreign countries are beginning to use TNR for street dogs, which will eventually drop their populations to sustainable levels. But until that happens, foreign countries would be a good source of supply for shelter dogs. We would be helping the shelter system in the United States while saving huge numbers of street dogs overseas.

Another way to tackle the problem would be for volunteers to breed litters which would then be donated to their local shelter for placement. This would have many advantages. The volunteers could provide great homes for the parents and intensive socialization of the puppies. The volunteers would have no incentive to inbreed, or to breed brachycephalic dogs. Only dogs with good health and good temperament would be bred. The volunteers could adjust the type and size of dogs bred to the local demand. The puppies would have all recommended veterinary care and be spayed or neutered before they were adopted. Shelter workers who have a lot of experience in matching dogs to adopters could make sure that every placement has a good chance for success, and could follow up to catch any problems early.

People who work in dog rescue and sheltering may think this is a completely crazy idea, because everyone has (rightly) always been concerned with decreasing breeding, not increasing it. But something similar is already being done in some contexts, such as service dogs. Dog breeding does not always have to stem from monetary or selfish reasons. And imagine how much it would help shelters with maintaining and increasing market share and community engagement if they always had healthy puppies available for adoption. People will get dogs from somewhere, and it might as well be shelters.

The usual objection to shelters bringing dogs in from outside, whether the dogs are adults or puppies, is that shelters should be placing all of the healthy and treatable dogs in the community before importing dogs. I have heard from shelter directors, though, who found that shelter traffic goes up when the shelter has a variety of dogs to choose from, which helps all the dogs get adopted. Other people think that shelters should not only place all the healthy and treatable dogs, but also all the sanctuary and hospice dogs before bringing in dogs from outside the community. For example, I have heard people object to transports of dogs into Colorado even though Colorado has a 92% live release rate for dogs. We can do transports at the same time we do hospice and sanctuary, though, because the two goals are not mutually exclusive. Dogs transported in are going to the regular market. Sanctuary and hospice dogs require special facilities that are not part of normal shelter marketing and must be separate programs.

For now, our current transport system is working well, and as far as I can tell we are not quite to the point where there is more demand than supply nationwide for shelter dogs. But that time is coming, and it would be a good thing for No Kill to begin to think about what we will do when that day arrives. My suggestion would be to start now with establishing lines of supply with foreign countries. Some rescues have been doing that and have been criticized for it, but perhaps we should be supporting those endeavors instead. It also might be a good idea for a shelter in an area of established dog shortage, such as New England, to try a pilot program of volunteer breeding just to test the feasibility of the approach.

32 thoughts on “The Coming Shelter Dog Shortage

  1. Dana

    I think you are forecasting an event which will not happen. The aging demographic alone in this country will cause a drop in adoptions, as older people feel less able to take on as much. In fact, there needs to be a safety net in place to provide good homes for dogs whose owners have died or gotten too ill to take care of them – a better system than the current one of much instability/insecurity through shelters/rescues. I believe the rescues/fosters are doing such a good job that they are the primary reason there are fewer dogs in shelters, allowing for the high adopting states to import from high kill shelters. These fosters want to find permanent homes for the animals in their care. People have multiple pets – some more than they can handle – because they feel guilty about the homeless ones due to excellent marketing by the non-profits. Many of us would prefer fewer responsibilities as we get older but we made a commitment to “our kids” and intend to fulfill it. Yes, there certainly are homeless and sheltered dogs overseas available to fulfill a backlog of requests but I see absolutely no need to encourage mass breeders. In fact, I don’t think service dogs need to be bred either. I think there are plenty of shelter dogs that could be turned into service dogs.

  2. Victoria Brooks

    I agree. I also imagine that as communities go No-Kill and there is less of a supply, the standards of care requirements will naturally go up. Currently, even as San Antonio is closer to No-Kill, there are many strays roaming the streets. There are plenty of chained backyard dogs or “owners” who allow them run at large outside. People, while disturbed by it, may not be as quick to call it in and will leave them on the streets until they can find a foster rather than bring them to the shelter with a potential to be killed. AC’s may not be as inclined to go after breeders with large scale neglect situations due to creating an overfull shelter. So, one outcome, is that standards of care will naturally increase. People will be less tolerant of animal neglect. Another is that people who may have more animals will decrease their numbers, because they no longer “have to” maintain that many for fear of them being killed.

    I also don’t think “volunteer breeding” is needed. There are still plenty of puppies all over the South being born everyday. Longview, TX recently had 70 puppies available on the kill list for this coming Tuesday. I think rescue and the concept of rescue will evolve naturally as the situation changes. There is already some international rescue going on and I would imagine, will continue to grow.

  3. Susan Houser Post author

    Wonder why they don’t just send those puppies north? These days if a shelter cannot place 100% of healthy or treatable puppies, they need to turn in their shelter license. And I say that as someone who is respectful of how difficult it can be to produce good outcomes in shelters, especially in the south.

  4. Michael Tefts

    The goal of every shelter should be to put itself out of business so Its services are no longer needed in the community rather than becoming the puppymill/retail store that that all supposedly abhor but are resembling more and more as each day passes.

  5. chienblanc4csi

    This is satire, right? Or a draft for a Hollywood script?

    Really, you might be sorry you posted this. This will be shared with a lot of animal welfare folks, and I personally will be sharing this with my state and federal lawmakers. And I will be saying “I told you so.”

    This is very interesting:

    Your post is a study in Cognitive Dissonance. What situation are you describing here – large scale breeders? Or large scale importation/transport? Hard to tell. “The puppies are shipped, sometimes for long distances, to pet stores [shelters] where they are kept in less than ideal conditions, which makes them more vulnerable to illness and trauma [shelters are very risky places for puppies, where they mix with random adult dogs]. They are then sold by people who may make little or no effort to match puppy temperament to the temperament of the purchaser. [sounds like a typical 3-day ‘adopt-a-thon]” This looks more like “inhumane” relocation than breeders, to me, with 35+ years’ experience in rescue/shelter strategic planning. Explain to us how breeding mutts with the label “rescue” for sale is any different than breeding by a USDA inspected commercial breeder? Some magic wand? Some vulcanizing process of purpose bred puppies with unknown genetics and no pre-breeding health screens that turns these animals into something more worthy of a good home than a purpose bred puppy from a conscientious, legal breeder? As opposed to . . . what?

  6. Susan Houser Post author

    Thanks for the link to Dr. Weiss’ article — I was unaware of it or I would have cited it in my article. You appear to be on the side of commercial breeders, so I certainly do not expect you to like my article. Something must have been posted on a pro-breeder website today, because I’m getting lots of comments from people who appear to be in favor of commercial breeding. I’m not posting all of the comments because some of them contain gratuitous personal insults. By the way, most rescue transports today are done by volunteer pilots, in which case they are very fast, or by van with frequent stops along the way for rest, food, and water. I know that it is possible to do long-distance transports humanely by van because I’ve done dozens of them myself, some of them over very long distances.

  7. Susan Houser Post author

    To me, the key is whether the impetus for placing the animals is commercial or not-for-profit. The reason we have puppy mills and backyard breeders is because people make money that way. People will get their pets from somewhere, and better that it’s a non-profit operated for the good of the animals than a commercial business operated for the cash that its owners can scrape out of it.

  8. Chris

    It’s amazing to me that anyone that sells a puppy is now a “commercial breeder”. And what would that make the shelters? They would be commercial breeders supplying a demand for puppies! The non-commercial, responsible breeders seem to always get left out of this equation. There are breeders who don’t breed for profit, health screen all their dogs, carefully place each puppy in what they determine is the best home possible, educate the new owners on that breed, always answer any questions the owner has, and take back the dog at any time in the dog’s life if circumstances make it impossible for the owner to keep the dog. Yes, they sell the puppies for money, and that pays for the health screenings, many vet visits (more health screenings and well-puppy checks), etc. They do it for the love of the dogs, and know that it’s an expensive hobby. Neither “commercial breeders” nor shelters can provide that kind of service. It scares me to death that shelter staff now think they’re capable of being conscientious, responsible breeders to supply a demand that they’ve created.

  9. Susan Houser Post author

    Where are those wonderful breeders who sell puppies but are only in it for the puppy’s best interest? They are certainly not the commercial breeders, who are in it for money. They are not the show breeders, who are in it for success in the show ring (some show breeders do a good job with puppy health and placements, but too many of them breed dogs with genetic health conditions or inbreed).

    I’ve had about enough of this conversation – fair warning, I won’t post any more of these comments unless it looks like someone has actually read my post and has something relevant to say that has not already been said.

  10. Dave

    Already been tried before. It occurred in Soviet Union from 1920s up until the fall of the Iron Curtain. It worked to a certain degree for breeds which produced monetary incentive (eg. commercial hunting and commercial trapping which brought revenue to the government) and military. Russian Hounds, Laikas, East European Shepherds and Russian Black Terriers benefited from those programs.

    But it was a complete failure when it came to addressing the needs of the people (eg. companionship, personal protection, estate protection et al). The Moscow Watch Dog and Moscow Water Dog were good examples of how they flopped.

    It’s not a new concept, and it certainly shouldn’t fall under “dog-rescue” or “animal-shelter”. Let’s just call it what it is “government-ran” or “government-subsidized” or “non-profit” kennel-breeding programs.

    I am not against the idea of a non-profit or government-ran kennel-breeding program, but it would be wise to take a look at the former Soviet blocs to see what worked and what didn’t work. There’s no need to try and re-invent the wheel when one can just look at what other countries have done in the past.

  11. Jackie Ann

    There will always be a need for shelters. In your scenario, if an owner unexpectedly dies and has several animals, where would they go if no relatives would take them? If someone is losing their home and has nowhere to place their animals and doesn’t want them to live in the car with them, where would they take them? If someone found a stray animal and could not keep it because they lived in housing which did not allow pets, what would they do with it? Certainly I’d like to see a decreased need for shelters, but I don’t think they will ever be gone entirely.

  12. Susan Houser Post author

    People who think the shelters will wither away believe that in the future there will be many fewer pets in the position you describe (because of pet retention programs, increased owner responsibility, etc.) and that the remaining animals can go directly to rescues who will treat or rehab them as necessary or place them. The shelter, under that scenario, will only take in animals who cannot be treated or rehabilitated, and only for the purpose of euthanasia. The reason that’s bad (in addition to ceding the dog market to commercial breeders) is that good shelters today serve as a rallying spot for community engagement and donations. They cannot do that if their only function is to kill untreatable and vicious animals.

  13. Christina

    Susan I find it amazing you can categorize show breeders, and these are the hobby breeders, as somehow the bad guys! Show breeders are the very ones that health test, socialize, do all health screens, shots etc. are are there for the puppy buyers that buy the ones they don’t keep! Kind of tells me you do not understand the great passion for fogs and care show breeders have to create the best dog possible! These are the ones who are there for owners for the life of the dog. I have met the most wonderful people who nurture and help their pet buyers because each puppy they have bred is special to them.

  14. Susan Houser Post author

    It’s all relative. I don’t think show breeders – most of them – are as bad as the puppy mills, but I also do not think they have solely the welfare of their dogs in mind. If that were the case they would never inbreed, breed brachycephalic dogs, breed dogs with known genetic defects, breed extremely large dogs, or extremely tiny dogs, or extremely heavy dogs, or dogs with skulls too small, or backs too long, and on and on. And some show breeders are terrible people. I vividly remember one woman who kept her Shelties in small crates stacked up in her garage, where several of them exhibited stereotypy.

  15. chienblanc4csi

    And by the way, I do understand that all ground transport of animals is not inhumane. But it’s unregulated. And can you promise that your type of situation is the norm, affecting the majority of the animals? And how many times are individual dogs transferred and counted? And again, we have that unknown – private rescue groups outside any tracking system.

  16. Susan Houser Post author

    Not sure where you’re coming from with the idea that transports are “unregulated.” States started requiring health certificates for transported animals many years ago. And Massachusetts, for example, has elaborate quarantine procedures. Some of the state regulations have been so overzealous, in fact, that I suspect that commercial breeders had a hand in pushing them through. As for animals on transport who broke with contagious diseases, in my experience it was extremely rare – well under 1%. For one thing, sending shelters knew that rescues would stop pulling from them if they were irresponsible and endangered other animals by sending sick ones.

  17. Eleanor Sobkowiak

    Way back in the old days, we tried to tell people that “spay and neuter one until there are none” was an AR mantra to get rid of them all. Shelters and rescues not only picked it up, they put it into action.

    If this is about the dogs, and not supporting an industry, then running out of shelter dogs would be a great thing, no?

    But like most canine issues, it never seems to be about the dogs. Sarah Mclachlan’s job will be kept secure.

  18. chienblanc4csi

    Let’s try this again, since you refused to post my earlier comment which included a report from the Connecticut state vet on exactly how unregulated transport really is. How about another chance for your readers to hear for themselves how this controversial system is working – or not working – in one state. And although this one man’s investigation was conducted 4 years ago, it isn’t any better today, according to a report by Dr. Goldman this past November. If you care about the treatment of animals, you shouldn’t be afraid to let your readers hear the truth. Unregulated, or poorly regulated, the effect is the same – bad for animals and people. If shelters are willing to overlook 1% contagious infection, maybe the debate should begin over exactly which contagious diseases are worth the risks of high volume interstate transport of pets – a 1% chance of distemper, which is fatal only to dogs, vs a 1% chance of rabies . . . that’s a very different thing.

    Your comment about your suspicions that commercial breeders were responsible for “overzealous” regulations is , well . . . *facepalm* . . . I can hardly believe the contradiction! You can’t have it both ways. Can you explain why regulations should be different for breeders than for shelters?

    How about a very recent report, that highlights the lack of regulation on this interstate transport: Quote from the report: “There are no federal laws regulating the state-to-state transport of animals for adoption and that has some animal welfare advocates worrying about pet trafficking and the spread of diseases. Dr. Martha Smith-Blackmore, Chair of the Animal Welfare Committee for the American Veterinary Medical Association and Vice President of animal welfare for the Animal Rescue League of Boston, says guidelines should be developed by veterinarians to ensure the welfare of transported animals.”

  19. bestuvall

    are you planning to give the puppies and kittens ( I assume you are also including cats since they are also being transported due to shortages) away for free? because when you start to breed dogs you will quickly find out is is no picnic. It is hard hard work. will you be breeding “pure breds’ or mixed breeds? how will you health test the mixed breeds .. will you breed both large and small dogs.. or breed then to “order”? Will you expect vets to give you some sort of discount because you are breeding them “for non profit” because vet fees are huge when it come to breeding dogs..”placing” animals is not breeding animals .. there is huge difference.

  20. Susan Houser Post author

    Sorry about your other comment, it must have gotten lost in the blizzard of comments that I’ve deleted for name-calling or repetition today. As for the link to Dr. Goldman, I stopped listening when he said in the introduction to his talk “I don’t have data.” And here’s a link with another take on Dr. Goldman: As for the CBS story, it also has no data on any problems in transports, just fears expressed by one person. And you might want to go back and re-read my statement about the disease incidence I saw, which I said was “well under 1%,” which you inaccurately translated to “1%.” One in a thousand is different by a factor of 10 from one in a hundred. And as for your apparent fear of distemper and rabies, you seem to be unaware that animals who are transported have all had their vaccinations — that is one of the things required to get a health certificate. As for why regs should be different for breeders than for shelters, if you are speaking of the federal dealer transport regs – breeders are engaged in interstate commerce, and shelters are not. That means the feds have jurisdiction to regulate commercial breeders, but not non-profit shelters.

  21. Susan Houser Post author

    Mixed breeds don’t usually need health testing in order to produce healthy puppies because the health problems in purebreds mostly come from the limited gene pools and inbreeding (or “linebreeding,” which breeders think of as OK because the inbreeding coefficients aren’t quite as high). Mixed breeds are pure outcrosses, so they have hybrid vigor. No epidemic of bad hips like GSDs have because of being bred for extreme angulation, of patellar luxation due to breeding tiny dogs, of bloat due to being deep-chested, of PRA – I could go on. As for volunteer breeders, this is already being done by some non-profits who want particular qualities in service dogs. They fundraise for the expenses.

  22. Eric Johnson

    A couple of things. First the idea of importing puppies from overseas runs smack into the new CDC rule that requires puppies that are imported to be vaccinated against rabies plus 30 days. This equates to 5 months of age … far older than “cute puppy stage.”

    Next, the wholesale breeding of mixed breed dogs flies in the face of the AR movement and its teachings. How is your proposal any different than a “puppy mill” dropping off an entire litter at the shelter because it couldn’t be sold for some reason.

    Finally, you look askance at the show breeder for line breeding yet you depend on “hybrid vigor” to support your own version of a backyard breeder. Hybrid vigor would only apply to the 1st generation … if that. Hybrid vigor won’t keep a puppy from developing hip dysplasia for example. Eye conditions affect most breeds and breeding two disparate breeds with recessive PRA will just produce a dog with PRA, no matter what you call it. The research and effort a breeder puts into avoiding PRA is what sets the hobby breeder apart from just a breeder.

    Nice seeing one who thinks outside the box but there’s a ways to go.

  23. Anne Simmons

    Show breeders are not responsible for the extremely tiny or extremely large dogs, because show breeders are breeding to a set, written standard that height requirements for each breed. Show breeders deplore the “teacup” size fad because of the associated health issues.

  24. Arnold L. Goldman DVM, MPH

    This blog post unabashedly puts the lie to claims of those who properly advocate for minimizing shelter pet euthanasia, but at the same time quickly profess to not be advocating for elimination of the purebred dog and the right of people to obtain and own them: ……”The ideal thing would be for No Kill to find some way to co-opt the industry – to make sure there is a big enough supply of shelter dogs for community No Kill shelters to be able to maximize their market share. The most obvious way to do this would be to start importing homeless dogs from overseas.”…….What a disingenuous and shameful display of arrogance and paternalism. The writer is advocating for the use of foreign source dogs to prevent future commercially bred, purebred dog sales because, essentially it contradicts the meme “adopt don’t buy, because dogs are dying.” The truth always manages to be revealed, eventually. Thank you for putting it out there.

  25. Susan Houser Post author

    I think rules on rabies vacinnations are very sensible, especially if dogs are imported from countries like India that have a high incidence of rabies. Five months of age is still a highly adoptable age, though. And No Kill shelters have proven that the idea that most people only want to adopt cute puppies is outdated. There no doubt are some people who only want a puppy, but people fall in love with individual animals, not age groups, and what No Kill does is provide an opportunity for each animal to shine as an individual.

    As far as me recommending “wholesale breeding” to supply shelters with puppies, where do you get that from my post? I suggested a pilot program to determine if it was feasible to have local volunteers breed dogs as needed to fill a shortage of shelter animals – that’s hardly “wholesale.”

    As for hybrid vigor, the increase in hybrid vigor applies only to the first generation of a cross between 2 different breeds, but the increased vigor remains as long as outcrosses continue. I don’t want to get into a dissertation on genetics in this response to a comment, but deleterious genetic conditions tend to be recessive, for the very good reason that dominant deleterious genes greatly decrease the likelihood of an organism’s genes being passed on. The reason that purebreds have more genetic problems is because the widespread use of inbreeding and the founder effect makes it more likely that particular recessive conditions will show up because their frequency in the population is much higher. Continued outcrossing keeps those genes hidden except in very rare cases. There is nothing wrong with recessive genes being hidden by low rates in the gene pool, and in fact that’s nature’s way of dealing with deleterious recessive mutations. There’s a lot more to it than that, particularly the habit of purebred breeders going overboard for extremes of “type,” which is why the Aussie people and the Border Collie people and many others were so reluctant to get sucked into the AKC maw. Mutts do not have perfect health and they can certainly have genetic-based conditions, but at least with mutts we don’t have people deliberately making the situation worse by manipulating genetics to get a certain look. It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature.

    By the way, I am a strong supporter of AR, and not just for shelter animals, as I’m a vegan. I have doubts about whether pet ownership is justified at all. But since it exists, I think it’s self-indulgent to refuse to make the situation as good as possible for the animals that are trapped in it. If I were a dog or cat I would not want to start my life in a puppy mill, and the odds of pets starting their lives in puppy mills will be higher the less market share that shelters have.

  26. Arnold L. Goldman DVM, MPH

    This post is ill informed. It presumes that other-than-defined-breed dogs are naturally healthier. This is demonstrably false across the vast population and sub-populations of such dogs throughout the country. For example larger “mixed” breed dogs often have coxofemoral dysplasia to one degree or another, whether they “look” like German shepherds, various bully breeds or bully breed crosses or other appearance “definable” mixes.

    To the assertion: “Mixed breeds don’t usually need health testing in order to produce healthy puppies…..” It’s not that they dont need testing, what exactly would they be tested for (and who would pay for the testing of an unintentional litter)? Not knowing their breed, line or familial tendencies means for all practical purposes one cannot test for “their most likely” problems, because no one set of likely problems can be known. One also cannot “breed out” undesirable traits from an intentionally muddled gene pool. Randomness begets further randomness.

    To the assertion: “Mixed breeds are pure outcrosses, so they have hybrid vigor…….” This is also demonstrably false. Depending on individual conformation, medial patellar luxation, lateral patellar luxation, coxofemoral dysplasia, hemivertebrae, hepatic shunts and many other problems not uncommon in some purebreds are also not uncommon in some outbred mixes.

    Intentional outcrossing down to say, a “civilized coyote” phenotype will not eliminate inherited or familial problems in dogs. What it will do is eliminate two thousand years of selection for aptitudes and abilities compatible with human needs and forms of canine work. With selection for aptitudes does come some undesirable traits, however continued intentional breeding can eliminate or minimize undesirable traits. Unlimited outcrossing will neither minimize nor maximize anything.

  27. Susan Houser Post author

    I can’t speak for other people, but the reason I think the commercial dog breeding industry is bad is because it’s cruel. I have attended an auction at a puppy mill and have participated in the rescue and placement of dozens of breeder dogs from puppy mills. One, who was 4 years old, could not walk when we got her because of severe, bilateral patellar luxation which had never been addressed (we fixed her knees so she could walk normally). The puppy mill dogs we rescued were almost uniformly suffering from severe mental issues that lasted for years – undersocialization and what appeared to me to be almost PTSD symptoms. You appear to think that I am challenging the “right of people to obtain and own” dogs. Nothing in my post addresses the “right” of people to obtain and own dogs (although in fact rights over animals are restricted in a great many ways, particularly with anti-cruelty laws). What I do challenge is the right of commercial dog breeders to corner the market for dogs.

  28. Susan Houser Post author

    Show breeders are indeed responsible for breed standards, because those standards are set by the breed clubs. Show breeders are responsible for the extremely large dogs because they breed the great danes, and for the small dogs because they breed the yorkies. The reason the giant breeds only live 7 or 8 years is because dogs’ hearts are not designed to support the body size of a giant breed. That sounds like a pretty important health issue to me.

  29. Susan Houser Post author

    As I said before in answer to another comment, what we worry about with genetic conditions is the recessive ones, because the dominant ones are easy to see. Recessive conditions are more likely to be “doubled up” and expressed the higher the inbreeding coefficient is. Purebred dogs have higher inbreeding coefficients than mutts, often dramatically higher. The reasons for this are (1) inbreeding, (2) the founder effect, and (3) genetic bottlenecks created by closed registries. For example, there is one AKC terrier breed that was reportedly down to a population of 8 animals at one time. Because purebreds have higher inbreeding coefficients, they have more expression of recessive characteristics, including the bad ones. It’s simple math. As far as testing mixed breeds for the recessives they carry, it’s unnecessary because the odds are small that any breeding with another mixed breed dog would double up on any of the deleterious recessives they happen to have.

    As far as many conditions being dependent on conformation, you are correct – for example, patellar luxation is more common in smaller dogs, and other types of orthopedic problems are common in large dogs, whether they are purebred or not. But we would not have extremely small dogs or extremely large dogs to start with without breeding of purebreds. If you breed 2 small dogs of differing breeds and get a small mixed breed, that dog can still suffer the effects of its small size. The answer to that is less breeding of purebreds so that dogs return to the norm that their genetic complement is designed for.

  30. McKneal

    To Susan Houser,

    Your story about the issue at the auction is indeed sad. However, what you fail to differentiate is who owned the dog that was sold? Was it a USDA licensed breeder or a back yard breeder / hoarder that should be put out of business? If it was the latter, you have contributed to the problem by buying from this seller who most likely will continue to sell his/her dogs while not changing his animal husbandry protocols. Either way, you could have put this information in the hands of authorities.

  31. Susan Houser Post author

    We only bought stock from people who were going out of business. Buying stock, to the extent that it drives up costs for people still in business, is a good thing, I think. We also took in at no cost female breeder dogs in the 8-9 year age range who could no longer reproduce, to keep them from being killed by the puppy millers.

  32. Susan Houser Post author

    Hi folks — I’m closing comments for this and the other posts on this subject. I’m getting lots of comments, and they are getting repetitive. I think both sides (or three or four sides) have had their say.

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