A lot of time is spent lamenting the ‘overbreeding’ of dogs in Australia and its implications to shelter and pound intakes. “Irresponsible pet owners access puppies too easily and then abandon them” the theory goes, “if we could restrict the number of puppies bred each year, less would end up in shelters.”
Anyone who reads this blog, know’s I love to put a good sheltering theory to the test. And as it turns out, this one was pretty easy.
Australia has 3,754,000 dogs (source: Contribution of the Pet Care Industry to the Australian Economy 2006). But for ease of our examination today, lets look at just 1,000 dogs and their likelihood of entering a pound.
Less than 5% of dogs ever need the services of a pound or shelter (source: The National People and Pets Survey 2006). So from our model 1,000 dogs 950 of these dogs will not enter a shelter, and 50 dogs will enter a shelter.
From that tiny 5% of dogs entering shelters, 85% of these are entering the shelters as strays (lost pets), or 43 of the 50 dogs.
Just 15% are owner surrenders, or around seven of the dogs. These are our so called ‘irresponsible owners’. (Source: What Happens to Shelter Dogs? An Analysis of Data for 1 Year From Three Australian Shelters (2004))
So, of these seven dogs, what could we be doing to stop them being ‘dumped’ at shelters?
No Kill advocates call a euthanasia rate for untreatably sick or aggressive pets as less than 10%. We’ll call that one dog of the seven.
Leaving us around six dogs entering the shelter.
Let’s give the public the benefit of the doubt and say half of them have genuine reasons for giving up their pets. So we have
Three dogs who were surrendered for genuine reasons
Three dogs who were surrendered by ‘irresponsible jerks’.
So in a wrap up – as animal advocates we need to consider that we have low resources, are short of time and really want to be working on programs which show maximum impact. By these calculations, if we work on programs to restrict breeding and pet ownership, for every 1,000 dogs, we’ll be improving outcomes for just three.
What do these figures mean in the real world? Remember our overall figure of 3,754,000 owned dogs in Australia? Approximately 188,000 of these dogs will enter shelters; which *does* seem like a lot. But when you consider the overall percentage of 5%, it really does reflect a pretty responsible community. While just a little over 11,000 dogs (from nearly 4 million!) end up in shelters because of truly ‘irresponsible’ owners.
While there are groups who are working hard to make dog breeding more humane and ethical (and I’m not meaning to pass judgment on their work, as I do believe what they are doing is important), when we look at it purely from a ‘shelter intakes’ point of view, our work should focus much, much less on this. In fact, it could and should be prioritised as the following:
Which is definitely not how we’re prioritising things, when we focus solely on ‘reducing breeding’ or ‘restricting ownership’ as the solution to pound killing.