In 2009, I had the opportunity to change my life and someone else’s life; I adopted a dog. Rusty (pictured below), a Brittany spaniel, was on his way to being put down after he went from family to family, due to aggression issues caused by abusive humans in his early life. After six years with Rusty at my side, we continue to bond at a very deep level with no aggression issues. In the U.S., 2.7 million unwanted pets are euthanized each year. People need to know that there are animals waiting to be adopted into the right families and that most of the time, it means the difference between life and death.
The U.S. loves pets. In 2012, it was estimated that there were 164 million owned pets, up from 67 million in the 1970s. That comes out to roughly 62% of all American households having at least one pet. It’s no wonder why there are 3,500 shelters in the U.S. that receive between 6-8 million animals a year. Millions of pets are owned but end up unwanted for one reason or another.
One of the reasons that shelters are receiving so many animals is puppy mills. Puppy mills are commercial dog breeding sites that are developed to sell dogs over the Internet or in stores. The well-being and future of the dogs is an afterthought, with money being the only factor in their business. The name of the game is to pump out as many dogs as they can and sell them to whoever wants them. Just like rabbits at Easter, families purchase dogs without giving their future a thought and 1-3 months down the line the now unwanted, sometimes abused, dog is sent to a shelter.
It’s a long road ahead to finding the right balance in the U.S. when it comes to keeping pet populations in check in order to lower euthanasia rates. However, there are immediate steps that animal lovers can take. Like Bob Barker says, “spay and neuter your pets” is a good place to start.
For a family seeking an animal, the first step in the process they should do is visit their local shelter and visit the dogs to see if there are any good matches. If this doesn’t turn up the perfect match, then the family can search out responsible, caring breeders. These breeders, or sometimes rescue families, might have dogs for a family that will match their needs. They will often conduct a home visit first and get some background on the family wanting to purchase or adopt a dog.
When it comes time to find a new companion, shop or adopt smart. This will put pressure on abusive puppy mills with the hope that one day they will no longer be relevant. There are many responsible breeders, rescues, shelters and clubs that can provide the U.S. with a healthy dog population – the ultimate goal being to utilize those breeders, and cut out the bad ones.