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Stop the Killing

Pet Overpopulation in America

  • Over 60,000 pets are lost or stolen in the U.S. every year 8 to 12 million animals are euthanized each year Approximately 61% of all dogs entering shelters are killed
  • Approximately 25% of all dogs in shelters are purebreds

Fate of a dog in an Atlanta shelter. WARNING: Most of you will find this film clip disturbing. Perhaps if you see what happens daily at shelters all over the country you'll better appreciate why pet overpopulation needs our attention NOW.

"Throwaway" Pets

The majority of dogs that enter shelters, i.e., "the pound," are strays picked up by Animal Control, not owner turn-ins. Some strays are dogs that have become separated from their owners and wander the streets until they're picked up by Animal Control. Other strays once belonged to someone, but when they were no longer wanted, they were "dumped" to fend for themselves. We've all seen these "throwaway" dogs with their haunted eyes, matted coats and skinny bodies, scavenging for whatever scraps they can find to ward off their hunger. Eventually they, too, are picked up by Animal Control and taken to the shelter. For every dog that enters an already overcrowded animal shelter, one must leave to make room, usually by euthanasia. The statistics above speak for themselves. Here's what you can do to keep your dog from becoming a shelter statistic:

1. Keep an ID tag on your dog AT ALL TIMES. Even the most responsible dog owner can lose a dog. Someone leaves the gate open; your dog, who's never been out of the yard, smells, sees or hears something new and leaves the yard to investigate. Because he's in unfamiliar territory he may become lost. Unfortunately, without ID tags only 16% of dogs are reunited with their owners. Dogs with ID tags are reunited 90% of the time. Even if your dog never goes out of the yard, make sure he wears his ID tags, because accidents do happen. Microchips are another excellent means of identification as a backup method. Ask your local veterinarian about microchipping your dog.

2. Before you get one, research what kind of dog is best for you. Chosing the right dog not only makes for wonderful companionship, it prevents having to decide what to do with a dog you no longer want. Dogs have to be obedience trained, given lots of attention and lots of exercise. They have to be taken outside several times a day to use the bathroom. Different breeds have different needs so you need to find a good match. Puppies need to be let outside to use the bathroom every couple of hours in order to be housetrained and adult dogs are often a better match for working people. Most dogs who are kept as outside-only pets do not get enough attention, are often unhappy and develop behavioral problems like constant barking, digging, roaming, etc. NEVER keep a dog on a chain as it can actually cause dogs to become aggressive. Either leash walk your dog or keep it in a fenced area when it is outside.

3. Make a lifetime commitment to your dog. Don't get a dog with the attitude if it doesn't work out, I'll just take him to the pound. When you decide to get a dog be absolutely sure you're willing to care for it for a long time. He'll probably live for 10-15 years and you shouldn't get him unless you can commit to his care for that entire time. Think ahead -- if you're young and will probably get married or have a family in the next 15 years, be sure to choose a dog that is good with children and socialize him to children. If you are elderly you may not be healthy enough to care for a dog in 15 years...getting a middle aged or older dog would probably be a better choice than a puppy. If you are getting a dog for your 12 year old child, please realize that your child will be going off to college and that his dog will be your complete responsibility for the majority of his life. Dogs can be expensive, so don't get one unless you have the financial resources to provide it proper veterinery care, which can get very expensive, especially in emergencies.

Pet Overpopulation

Pet overpopulation in this country is at crisis level. The statistics above make it abundantly clear that SOMETHING must be done to curb the proliferation of these "thowaway" pets. The killing of 8 to 12 million animals a year is unacceptable. There are some things you, as an individual, can do to help curb pet overpopulation:

1. Spay or neuter all your dogs by age 6 months. Many people plan to spay or neuter but don't do it early enough...they do it after the first accidental litter. Do it BEFORE your female dog's first heat and before your male dog reaches adolescence. Spaying before the first heat almost eliminates the chance of getting mammary cancer and neutering will prevent many bad habits which occur in male dogs, such as marking or roaming in order to find females. Plus, it will prevent more unwanted litters from being born. Even if you find homes for all the puppies you produce, those homes could have adopted a puppy from a shelter instead, thereby reducing the number of unwanted dogs. And if you don't ensure that your puppies are spayed or neutered before they go into a new home, you're increasing the odds that the cycle of pet overpopulation will occur again.

2. Don't breed your dog just because it is a purebred with papers or because it has championship lines. Papers are a dime a dozen and almost all purebreds have some champions in their lines -- it doesn't mean that your dog should be bred. Leave breeding to the dedicated professionals who are members of their breed clubs who screen for genetic diseases, who sell on spay/neuter contracts and who will take back their dogs any time in the animal's lifetime if they are ever unwanted. Reputable breeders breed very infrequently and do so out of love of their breed, not to make money. We get dogs in rescue with championship lines all the time. People who are breeding their pets because they want to make some extra money, because they want to duplicate their pets, because their friends want a pet like theirs or because they want to show their children the miracle of life are contributing greatly to the overpopulation problem. If you want to get a dog just like the one you have, then go back to your original breeder. If you want your children to experience "the miracle of life", then call your local humane society or rescue group and offer to foster a pregnant mother or newborn puppies in your home.

3. Adopt a pet instead of buying one from a breeder or a pet shop. Area shelters are full of wonderful purebred and mixed breed dogs that are literally DYING for a home. Consider adopting a pet from a shelter first. There are also hundreds of rescue groups in the country -- one for every single breed of dog and some for mutts. These groups consist of dedicated volunteers who rescue dogs from animal shelters and from people who can no longer keep them. If you are absolutely sure that you want a purebred puppy and the rescue group doesn't have any available, then don't use the classified ads to find a reputable breeder and certainly don't purchase from a pet store (they get their puppies from puppymills, not from reputable breeders). Contact the breed club of your choice (i.e., the Shetland Sheepdog Club, the American Kennel Club, etc.) for a referral to a reputable breeder. Reputable breeders breed for good health and temperament, show their dogs, take back their animals if the owners ever decide they are not wanted and sell their pet quality puppies on *enforced* spay/neuter contracts.

4. Foster a dog, volunteer or donate money or supplies. Most shelters and rescue groups in your area are in need of volunteers to help with animal care, foster homes for dogs until permanent placement and donations of money and supplies. If you don't have time to volunteer or cannot afford a monetary contribution, donate items like used doggie beds and carriers, collars and leashes, toys and dog food coupons. Every little bit helps!

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