Two articles were published about dogs (and cats) in the New York Times on September 4, 2019, that describe, in part, varying positions of a complicated issue-spay and neuter of pets in the United States—“Spaying, Neutering and Rescuing Lead to Drop in Pet Euthanasia” by author Alicia Parlapiano and “Dogs Are Not Here for Our Convenience” by Alexandra Horowitz.  Ms. Parlapiano describes the decreased euthanasia rates across the country attributable—at least in part—to voluntary spay and neutering programs and increases in adoptions from shelters and rescue organizations.

As previously discussed, beginning with the voluntary spay and neuter program instituted by the Maine Department of Agriculture decades ago, most states in the North East and other locations have significantly reduced the number of dogs roaming the streets resulting from irresponsible dog breeding.  There are some pockets in the country, where there are populations of stray and roaming dogs.  As Ms. Parlapiano reported, after a tragic and fatal dog attack in Dallas in 2016, consultants “determined that there were about 8,700 loose dogs roaming in the city that year.  The dogs were almost exclusively found in low-income South Dallas neighborhoods.”

Importantly, the consultants did not conclude that the dogs were purebred or purposely-bred dogs purchased from pet stores.  This false narrative has been used extensively by animal activists to convince lawmakers that pet stores are evil, the puppies they sell are sick and genetically flawed, and that they come from puppy mills.  All lies, but which have had their intended effect—ban sales of professionally and purposely bred dogs to people through pet stores.

Now that the vast majority of people are buying, aka adopting, dogs through shelters and rescues, the continued existence of the amazing number of dog breeds is imperiled.  A recent study, published by INDEPENDENT, titled “Humans have altered dogs’ brains, research finds” by Jason Bittel, reports that “selective breeding [of dogs] by humans has resulted in a single species with more physical variation than almost any other in the animal kingdom.  And now, scientists have provided the first evidence that all of this selective tweaking has not just changed dogs’ sizes, shapes, colours and behaviours.  It has also altered the way their brains are built.”If true, the behaviors of certain breeds that people find enduring and specifically desire in their family pet, may be lost if purposefully-bred dogs were entirely replaced by randomly, irresponsibly-bred dogs that end up in shelters and rescues.

Ms. Parlapiano also reported on two increasingly important issues affecting pets that are subject to shelter and rescue environments: (1) that there is a significant lack of uniform data to track the movement of animals through these international, national and local systems—often unregulated (my contribution); (2) the increased scrutiny of euthanasia rates in shelters, results in movement of animals from facility to facility—which may be detrimental to each animal’s health and welfare (also my contribution).

But the overarching observation that spay and neuter programs have led to decreased euthanasia of animals in shelters, is questioned in the other dog-related article published in the same edition of the Times—“Dogs Are Not Here for Our Convenience,” an op-ed by Alexandra Horowitz which will be discussed in a subsequent blog.