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Features December 2013 Issue

What About Rescue?

As for “the whole idea that you cannot breed dogs “until the shelters are empty,” it’s a non-starter, AKC judge Charlotte McGowen says. Rescue dogs are big business in themselves. She comments, “you get a rescue dog and are [told] ‘that’ll be $500, please.’”

Tufts’s Jerold Bell, DVM, corroborates her thinking. “America wants puppies, but there aren’t enough of them,” he says. That’s what helps keep puppy mills in business. As for all those strays out there, he comments, “in the northeast, there virtually are no stray populations. The locally obtained dogs we see in shelters in New England are given up largely for economic, family, or behavioral reasons. There are not wild packs running around anymore because we’ve done so well with spay/neuter. However, shelters need strays to adopt out, and many dogs in shelters in New England are shipped up from the South. Just about every single stray or rescue dog in my practice [in Connecticut] has been shipped up from the south to be adopted. There are some very well organized animal transportation groups. It’s big business to ship dogs up from the south and get them adopted.”

Furthermore, Dr. Bell says, “not everyone wants a mixed breed stray or rescue dog.” He states, as Ms. McGowen does, “that they may want the reproducibility of a purebred — the behavior, the characteristics.”

Dr. MCobb of Tufts’s Shelter Medicine Program agrees that not everyone wants the dogs often found in shelters, even if they are truly stray, homeless animals that have not been shipped from somewhere else. “Because we have so few native puppies in the northeast,” she says, “a shelter may tend to provide a haven for more challenging dogs, those given up because of behavioral problems or because they were not trained properly, and these may not be good first-time dogs for families, especially those with young children.”

That said, there are people who are able and willing to adopt non-puppies from shelters. For those who have the time and resources to rescue a shelter dog and work with her, it can be a very rewarding way to go. Many dogs have social and behavioral issues that can be corrected with dedicated care and training, so they turn out to make great pets. And even a dog shipped from one region of the country to another location is still a saved dog that would probably be euthanized if it were left in the area where it was born.

But, adds Dr. McCobb, “if you are looking for a particular breed of dog with more of a sense of what his prior life was along with his temperament, there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting a puppy from a responsible breeder. The most important thing is that the dog you bring into your life is the right fit for your family. That’s the best way of ensuring that you will provide the animal with its forever home.”

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