The unfortunate and misguided bans of sales of professionally and purposely-bred dogs throughout the United States (which as previously described violates the constitutional rights of many and exposes people and pets to a host of infectious, sometimes deadly diseases), reveals a dearth of objective and science-based research about the welfare of dogs (and puppies) historically provided to the public from breeders through pet stores compared with the welfare of these pets sold (aka adopted) through rescue and shelter channels.
Fortunately, through the work conducted at universities, including, for example, Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science (“CAWS”), and Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, peer-reviewed, science-based research is underway and the results published.
At Purdue’s CAWS, researchers “facilitate the well-being of animals using sound science and ethics to investigate and promote the best animal care and management practices.”
Dr. Candace Croney and her research group, study the “Welfare of Breeding Dogs.”
The welfare of dogs housed in commercial breeding facilities is of great public concern. However, little research has been performed to examine the welfare status of the dogs on-site at kennels, characterize the nature and extent of welfare problems experienced, and explore solutions. We are developing tools to evaluate the behavioral and physical welfare of commercial breeding dogs and create practical recommendations to improve their lives and those of their puppies.
In addition to studying techniques and practices used by dog breeders, the group also studies the multi-factorial issues involved when people chose to adopt or purchase a new dog. Researchers conclude, as reported in “Factors that impact dog selection and welfare:”
Dogs are not selected based on a single factor. While animal shelters and rescue organizations work hard to encourage the adoption of the dogs under their care, they may not be able to meet the demand for purebred dogs. This demand creates the need for a solution that balances consumer freedom of choice as to where (and how) to obtain a dog with ethical concerns about procuring dogs from sources where animal welfare is not adequately protected.
Notably, the paper also identifies the fact that, regardless of the source, pets can experience varying levels of welfare. Increasingly, as shelters are pressured into decreasing numbers of animals euthanized (a laudable goal, when properly implemented), shelter residents are moved from shelter to shelter or rescue or even adopted out, even when behavioral and/or medical abnormalities exist.
A study recently conducted at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine attempted to take a sharp, science-based look at brick and mortar shelter populations in the United States.
One of the authors (Kimberly Woodruff) noted:
For many years, people have quoted numbers of animals going in and out of shelters, but there’s never really been any research behind them . . .Even beyond that, nobody really knows how many shelters are in the United States. There’s no official registry for shelters and no group providing oversight. Shelters can be anything from a few kennels to a huge facility that adopts out thousands of animals a year.
As previously discussed, the National Animal Interest Alliance has been tracking the movement of dogs and cats into and out of shelters, using data obtained from government agencies, and reporting this information on the NAIA Shelter Project.
Both the MSU research and the Shelter Project are hampered by the unreported movement of pets through rescue organizations, which are often completely unregulated, are not required to register or obtain a license to function, and do not report animal movement to any agency. Some states have adopted laws governing these entities, including those in the Northeast, like Connecticut and Rhode Island, where so many transplanted pets are relocated.
As the MSU study discussed, concerns about the spread of diseases and pests through adoption networks must be addressed:
‘For example, there are a lot of dogs moving out of the Southeast and into other regions,’ [researcher] Smith said. ‘Well, this is a highly endemic heartworm disease area, we possibly could be transporting heartworms across the country. That means we need to do due diligence to control that disease. We may need to ask those shelters about how they’re addressing heartworm disease and other regional diseases.’