How to Solve Our Dog Overpopulation Crisis and Resulting Euthanasia Rates

What are the core causes of our extreme dog overpopulation crisis and how do we fix it?
November 30, 2023
-
Big Ideas
by
Stephanie M. Casey

We have a dog overpopulation crisis. This crisis causes an average euthanasia rate of up to a million dogs and cats in the United States, annually. You probably already know this. And that is why you are here.

Welcome, let's fix this!

I believe we can. I believe change is possible. Other countries have done it.

Meanwhile, in the United States... for decades, generations - rescues, shelters, volunteers, fosters, and adopters scramble to save the lives of abandoned and homeless dogs. Devoted humans (primarily women working in a volunteer capacity) work around the clock to promote, serve, and save. Yet... the flood of dogs (and cats) in need never lets up. We cannot adopt, foster, or rescue our way out of this. The core issues behind the crisis must be addressed to solve the problem.

What Are the Core Issues Which Cause Dog Overpopulation?

1. BREEDING More dogs than there are homes for them

  • LICENSING and REGULATION It is extremely easy and inexpensive to get a dog breeding license and breeding is largely unregulated.
  • SPAY & NEUTER We need it embraced, practiced, and to be the law across the nation until the population is manageable and the culture has changed for good so we do not get in this overpopulation predicament again.
  • HUMAN VANITY We have created a value market for dogs which look a certain way. There is often little care, from those who want dogs of a certain look, about their health or temperament. Celebrities, advertising/media, and the public who showcase these breeds, creating a trendy "product," models the dogs as a value product, creating demand. This demand "breeds" the backyard breeders. When there is a market for something, product is created. Current Examples include Bulldogs of all types, 'Oodles of varying mixes (these are mutts, by the way), Working Breeds which are especially cute and fluffy as puppies (then readily abandoned later) including Shepherds, Huskies, and Great Pyrenees. When the film "Dog" starring Channing Tatum came out, we all knew we would see piles of Malinois Shepherd types flooding shelters and rescues T-minus 1 year from its release. And that is indeed the case. Malinois are a very smart, working breed with specific needs and not a match for most common dog owners.
  • "ETHICAL" and "RESPONSIBLE" BREEDING Many will suggest they support this type of breeding but not backyard breeders. I have a hard time with this and am not sure what the answer is but here are my overarching thoughts on this... Any breeder is going to force a female dog into repeated insemination, pregnancy, and birth. That feels wrong. I wonder if it was illegal to profit from selling dogs if these breeders would still do it because they "love the breed." What if breeders were only allowed to breed dogs if they naturally had sex, could only breed a female once, and could not sell the dogs but only place them in homes? How many would still participate? Did you know that many of the short legged, flat-faced dog breeds cannot give birth naturally? They have to have C-sections. That feels wrong. Humans have bred them for physical characteristics which modified their bodies in such a way they are not be able to naturally give birth. That doesn't seem okay. Some AKC breeds have standards which include mutilation such as docking tails or pinning ears. Hard no on that one. And, ultimately, if we say only folks who can monetarily afford a "well bred" dog have the right to a "good," "well bred dog" - is that cool?

2. DOG KNOWLEDGE ...the lack of

  • WHAT ARE DOGS? Dogs are predators. Period. Even the tiny, fluffy ones! How do they communicate? What are their needs to be mentally, physically, and emotionally sound so they live copacetically in our homes? They need exercise, mental stimulation, leadership, direction. Humans need to meet these needs - it is our job as dog owners!

3.  DOG RESPECT ...the lack of

  • OBJECTIFICATION I believe this has been exacerbated by social media - it is all too common to see dogs posed, sometimes with props or in costumes receive floods of comments such as,"how cute!" Or videos of a tiny baby in a dog's personal space. Or forcing a dog to perform in some way for human entertainment. Dogs are not toys or children. This type of media leads an uneducated dog public to think of dogs as toys or children and expect them to tolerate or even welcome this treatment. Those things are not only disrespectful to a dog's nature but also... dangerous. How would you react if a stranger lunged into you and threw their arms around you or made you pose in a costume while threatening physical punishment while people took your photo?

THE GOOD NEWS!!

1. DOGS HELP HUMANS BE BETTER and there are millions of US Citizens who recognize this, love their dogs, and want to see change on their behalf!

  • HUMAN HEALTH Appropriate, calm relationships with dogs lead to happier people who get more exercise and experience less loneliness
  • THEY TRAIN US When you learn how to lead a balanced life with a dog, this helps us understand how to cultivate balance and peace in our own lives
  • CONNECTION TO NATURE A good relationship with a dog connects us to nature. They are simple in that they get joy from the most basic sources such as eye contact, sniffing, playing, and being with us.

So... How Do We Make Change in Our Dog Culture?

I believe the only way to accomplish permanent cultural shift on this front is via a saturated, ongoing national campaign a la the national anti-smoking campaign: Government, Education, Media, Entertainment, Law, and Notices everywhere dogs are.

We know that effort was effective via a decade of focused, collaborative effort to change the culture, permanently. When I was a kid in the 80s smoking was allowed on planes, inside every structure, pervasive on television and in film, and it was normal to see smokers anywhere and everywhere and inhale their second hand smoke.

And, like second-hand smoke damage (and smell!), the dog overpopulation crisis affects human and societal health. This is a human wellness and safety issue as much as it is a dog wellness and safety issue.

Ample data exists (google for limitless resources or start with: FBI, National Institute of Health, Office of Justice Programs) showing the correlation between humans who mistreat, neglect, or abuse animals and the mistreatment, neglect, and abuse of humans. Did you know the Uvalde school shooter was torturing cats and putting it on YouTube?

We don't need abandoned dogs roaming our streets and parks. We don't need dogs allowed to suffer, chained, starved on a chain in a backyard. We don't need dogs euthanized because they become inconvenient for a human or have contracted diseases for which there are simple prevention methods.

We need support for food and vet care when a family is struggling financially - the dog is part of the family. We need a public which believes dogs deserve basic respect, care, and support and understand how to meet those needs.

What's The Plan?

It's happening... stick around here at Dallas Love Bugs as I work to build alliance amongst animal organizations, sound the alarm, align resources, and crack the mirror of the status quo.

We need to think about things, differently. Do things, differently. LET'S GO.

ACTION STEPS TO TAKE, RIGHT NOW:

  • LEARN about the problem, fostering, the plight of municipal shelters, the "333 Rule"
  • SHARE your knowledge with friends, family, neighbors, co-workers as opportunity arises
  • MODEL dog respect, be the example
  • ADOPT NOT SHOP most dogs who end up homeless are just as loving, healthy, and trainable as bred dogs
  • SUPPORT shelters, rescues, and individuals doing the work

Does this feel overwhelming? HELPFUL RESOURCES FOR YOU:

Let's Make It Better, Together!

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