This is quite the controversial subject, and I’m still not completely sold on my own feelings, so let me start with some thoughts. First of all, I believe that you CAN find puppies, small dogs and purebred dogs in northern shelters and rescues. Obviously. I’ve written about it before. Second, I love the bully breeds, love them. They’re awesome. But not everyone wants the same thing, and we do have a culture where instant gratification is the norm. Because someone wants a puppy right now does not necessarily mean he/she will turn out to be a bad dog owner. I won’t for a second advocate impulse buying an animal, but if it’s going to happen, hopefully it’s a shelter pet and not a dog from the local pet store (i.e. puppy mill dog). I know lots of people who fell in love with that puppy in the window and turned out to be spectacular dog owners. People, like dogs, are individuals.
But we don’t get a ton of puppies and kittens at the PSPCA where I regularly photograph. And because we’re one of the only rescues in the area that will take on “pit bull” type dogs, we end up with a lot of them. Sometimes, because I’m human, I turn green with envy when I see other photographers getting to photograph puppies and purebred dogs (especially the small ones, the “cute and fluffies” as one shelter marketing director calls them).
There are a lot of puppies in the south, lots of them. And almost every day I see purebred German shepherds dying in shelters in California (apparently there is a rabid backyard breeding problem there). So here in the north, a lot of rescues will pull puppies from the south to place them in loving homes up here. It’s an animal rescue underground railroad that you can read more about in Kim Kavin’s book Little Boy Blue, and it’s something that fascinates me and makes me feel very mixed emotions.
Because ACCT Philly takes in 32,000 animals a year. This month last year they took in 3,569 animals – IN.ONE.MONTH. That’s 981 dogs, 2,350 cats and 238 small animals. They’re likely on schedule to bring in close to the same number this year as well. Of those 981 dogs 362 were euthanized, of those 2,350 cats 1,143 were euthanized and of those 238 small animals 81 were euthanized. That’s a total live release rate of just 53%.
Regardless of your politics on sheltering, it’s a bad time of year for open access shelters.
So I get miffed when I see local rescues bringing in puppies from the south. But the little voice in the back of my head that speaks logically tells me people want a puppy, and it’s supply and demand and a life saved is a life saved, who cares where the life is from?
But I look back at the ACCT stats and think about what’s going on at other open access shelters in my area, and how the staff and volunteers at those shelters must feel everyday seeing people adopting southern puppies from local rescues while their favorite 6-year-old pit bull walks down the line for the last walk he’ll ever get, and my eyes well and the rage sets in.
One of the things I was taught when I was very young was to never try and carry the world on my shoulders. I still feel like I do that, quite a lot, or at least try to, but I also try to carve out my little corner of the world and make it better, in whatever way I can. That’s why I volunteer, that’s why I have this blog. If everyone thought like that in our own community about adopting a pet, maybe the demand would be for a “local” dog no matter the age, size, weight or breed. Maybe there would be less breed bias, and maybe we would run out of dogs. Maybe ACCT wouldn’t have to euthanize so many animals and maybe then we could consider bringing in dogs from other areas.
But that’s a lot of maybes. And like I said, I’m still not sure how I feel, because I have trouble separating my emotions from my logic.
What do you think?