Melissa Chan wrote in an article for Time magazine last week, “a surge in pandemic pet adoptions offers opportunities for criminals to seize on nationwide demand and shelter shortages…”
People are so desperate for French bulldogs, one small private investigator in Nebraska who specializes in missing pets says calls have increased 60-70% in the past 18 months, averaging 3-5 requests a week.
Reading the article, I could only shake my head. It seemed to me Chan was writing about another world altogether. It wasn’t the news that so many pets are being stolen—that is individually tragic—but it was how she so breezily tossed off the phrase, shelter shortages, as if it were fact.
There are still plenty of dogs who continue to sit in shelters for months or years or are euthanized. Mia, one of the most loving fosters I’ve had has been in rescue over a year now.
In rescue, you often hear people refer to the problem in the south as an ‘overpopulation problem‘. But that’s simply not true either. There are not too many dogs in this country. There are simply too many unwanted dogs. There are plenty of homes. In fact, if every person so desperate they will pay for a stolen dog, instead adopted a shelter dog, we’d be closing shelters all over.
The Humane Society’s latest numbers (2019-2020) reported that 44% of people got their dog from a rescue or shelter – which is great news. (although that was the same percentage as 2017-2018) About 30% bought their dog from a breeder or pet store. The rest found them as strays, received them as gifts, bred them at home, or got them from a friend or neighbor.
The country has somewhere around 90 million dogs and there are about 6 million dogs entering shelters each year. Of those, about 1 million are being euthanized. (Here I have to note that of the 50 shelters, rescues and dog pounds I have visited, I would bet maybe half of them report any numbers anywhere, so I’m gonna guess that those numbers are on the low side.)
Do a little math, and it’s clear that if just a third or less of those people who are planning to buy a dog, instead adopted a dog, no dogs would have to die. None. This fact just levels me every time I think about it. It’s so easy. Such an easy fix.
As I read the Time article, though, I kept coming back to the words ‘shelter shortages.’
Every Friday, Amber of Halfway Home Animal Rescue (featured in the documentary you’ve been hearing so much about) drives to the pounds in western Tennessee to pull dogs that would otherwise be euthanized for space in those crowded shelters. I don’t think Amber, or many people in rescue have seen these mythical shelter shortages.
Inevitably, she can’t take every dog in danger and she can’t get to every pound or shelter.
There are no shelter shortages or overpopulation problems—there is just a problem of marketing and geography. There are enough dogs for everyone in this country, if everyone could just get past breed labels and breed prejudice and open their hearts to a dog—a good dog.
I know lots of good dogs. In fact, I have an incredible dog in my kitchen, still patiently waiting for her forever home a year after all her puppies were adopted.
Mia languishes here for a lot of reasons, but the largest one is that she is so clearly a ‘pit bull’ type dog. Yes, she has outsized energy that has to be managed. But it’s really not that hard to do.
Yes, she has bite addendums, but I would assert that they are undeserved. I have yet to see her bite, growl, or even threaten a single person in her year with us. Here she is with my 86-year-old parents who visited for the second time in a year on Easter Sunday:
And here is Mia, tolerating Fanny Wiggles who wants her to get up and play:
Are you as amazed as me that this sweetheart of a pup is still in foster care over a year later?
If Mia had been snapped up amidst the shelter shortages, we would have been able to save a dozen other dogs by now. Instead, we spend our days saving just this one. Lucky for us, she’s a wonderful guest and well worth saving.
Thanks for reading!
For information on me, my writing, and books, visit CaraWrites.com where you can also find more information on my book, One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, (Pegasus Books, July 2020) and my latest novel, Blind Turn (Black Rose Writing, Jan 2021)
If you’d like regular updates of all my foster dogs past and present, plus occasional dog care/training tips from OPH training, be sure to join the Facebook group, Another Good Dog.
And if you’d like to know where all these dogs come from and how you can help solve the crisis of too many unwanted dogs in our shelters, visit WhoWillLetTheDogsOut.org where you can follow the blog that shares stories or find the link to our podcast!
Our family fosters through the all-breed rescue, Operation Paws for Homes, a network of foster homes in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., and south-central PA.
If you can’t get enough foster dog stories, check out my book: Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs. It’s available anywhere books are sold.
I love to hear from readers and dog-hearted people! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many of the pictures on my blog are taken by photographer Nancy Slattery. If you’d like to connect with Nancy to take gorgeous pictures of your pup (or your family), contact: email@example.com.