Not Enough Dogs?

March 28, 2016

I was reading an article in Pet Business Magazine about the shortage of dogs in the United States. Now there are days when I feel that there is a shortage of dogs at Pet Camp (come on campers, make those reservations!), but a shortage of dogs in the country? I had never even considered that. But here was a piece explaining that within three to five years we would have a shortage of puppies in the country. How could this be? Pet Business Magazine cited a presentation by Mark L. Cushing at the Pet Industry Leadership Conference in January 2016 that argued that the increasing number of local pet sale bans and a decrease in the number of breeders made this inevitable. Pet Business Magazine took this one step more and argued that the failure to address this would mean that dog ownership would become luxuries that only the rich could afford, and that pet related business (I guess including pet care facilities like Pet Camp) would suffer.

Let me start by reminding everyone that I have a pure breed dog and support the efforts of breeders to continue to breed the qualities and traits that make breeds who and what they are.   I have also said that I personally have never purchased a dog at a pet store and don’t think I ever will. I have no idea if my personal behavior reflects the norm or not, but before I went any further in this discussion I wanted everyone to know my personal beliefs.

That said, I think this argument about a dog shortage is nonsense! The basic premise of the “research” to substantiate this shortage is that the U.S. population is growing (true), that if the percentage of households with dogs stays the same there will be a need for more dogs than today (also true), and that because some municipalities are banning the sales of dogs at pet stores there will be a shortage of dogs (not true). The argument continues that shelters and rescue groups are not the answer to this shortage because they don’t create puppies; true enough, but I remind Mr. Cushing that pet stores don’t create puppies either. Puppies are created by both responsible and not-so-responsible breeding and unplanned litters (those not attributable for any planned breeding); you probably learned something about this in sex ed. The presentation maintains that shelters (a term not defined in the presentation) at most can provide 25%-30% of the dogs needed in the United States and that other dogs must come from home breeders, hobby breeders, commercial breeders or foreign imports.

As far as I can tell, what this presentation really seems to be arguing is that there will be a shortage of pure breed dogs and/or designer hybrids (a doodle of some sort or another). But even here I’m not sure this is accurate. It may be that at any given time a specific person may not be able to locate the breed (or doodle) of choice (I know that I will need to wait for my next female Landseer Newfoundland when I’m ready for another dog), but that is not the same thing as saying there is a shortage of dogs. You might not find the specific car you want, in the color you love, with the sunroof and navigation package and leather seats on the dealer lot on any given Sunday, but you’re bound to see plenty of cars.

Lastly, and perhaps even more importantly, where is the actual data to support any of this? I looked up the presentation and found the PDF, but there were no links to actual data to substantiate the premise (there were links regarding the discussion of imported dogs). I love dogs and think that they are an important part of my life and the lives of my children (and they do pay my mortgage and provide jobs for about 25 others at Pet Camp). We have had puppies from breeders and adopted adult dogs from shelters and rescue groups. At times we have had to wait for the “perfect” dog or actually plan ahead to get a dog we really wanted but I don’t think any of this means that there is a shortage of puppies and very much welcome the opportunity to review any data to support the argument that there is one now or will be one in the future.  We sent the article and PDF of the presentation to Virginia Donohue, Executive Director of San Francisco Animal Care and Control, to get her take on this argument.  Her response, while more thoughtful than ours, was very similar: “The good news in this presentation is that only 7% of dogs are coming from pet stores and that nearly 30% are coming from rescues and shelters. Adopting from a shelter, if at all possible, is what we encourage the public to do. We certainly don’t foresee a shortage anytime in the near future.”

Thanks for reading.

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