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.’

  • drrne

    The Connecticut Department of Agriculture has reported 87,137 dogs legally imported into Connecticut during the 5 years between 2012 – 2016 by individuals and organizations of varying size collectively known as “rescue organizations.” The number of unrecorded and illegal importation of additional dogs into the state is presumed to be substantial, but unknown. From this information we can definitively say that Connecticut does not have a broadly defined “overpopulation” problem. While small, predominantly urban, pockets of uncontrolled and unintended reproduction do occur in very localized areas, the Connecticut Department of Agriculture data shows that there is no shortage of available homes looking to add new dogs. The data also reveals that breeders of purebred dogs, here and elsewhere, have little to nothing to do with this excess population being imported, precisely because the vast majority of these imports are mixed breeds, and because almost no one intentionally breeds mixed breed dogs. Demonizing local or distant breeders through social pressure and state laws intended to limit their activities and by attempting to regulate pet stores out of existence, will do nothing to stem unintended reproduction and subsequent importation of tens of thousands of mixed breed dogs created elsewhere to Connecticut. To say otherwise is simply conflation of the facts.

    Indeed, Connecticut’s local supply is so completely inadequate to meet its local demand, that individuals and organizations take advantage of those circumstances to pursue their own animal welfare goals as they perceive them, and create a substantial revenue stream presumably to continue and enhance their work, among other possible likely uses of those funds.

    What is oft ignored are the continued, upstream consequences of this massive south-to-north, and international-to-south-to-north influx, which is that little attention is paid to solving the problem, (unintended reproduction) at its sources. Thus, the shipments merely defer such actions, and relocate the issue away from its origin. Generations of puppies yet to be born in the source regions through unintended reproduction, are today already destined for inclusion in this ultimately futile effort. Perhaps one day both humane minded people and all the the states and Federal governments will come to understand what is happening and redirect all of our efforts to solving the problem rather than just moving or delaying it. Only then can we hope for a home for every born puppy and ending wholesale euthanasia for “lack of space.”