Shelter Dogs – Removing the Stigma

There are approximately 5 million dogs destroyed every year in shelters across America.

These dogs ended up shelters for numerous reasons and most due to no fault of their own: pets not being spayed/neutered, resulting in unwanted litters; people deciding they don’t have time for their dog; a new baby comes into the family and the dog is cast out; pet owners moving and can’t take the dog to new location; an old dog is replaced with a new puppy; a new girlfriend/boyfriend doesn’t like the dog and so on.   There are a plethora of reasons dogs end up in shelters, including those that can’t be helped, such as an owner becomes ill and is no longer able to take care of a beloved dog – or the owner dies, or in the case of owner homelessness.

Because of these reasons, shelters and rescue groups are full of loving, well-mannered, adoptable dogs.  Even dogs that have suffered abuse, cruelty and abandonment are without behavioral issues and are affectionate and often are in need of little to no training.  And yet, there is still a stigma attached to shelter dogs – that they are all somehow damaged and plagued with behavior problems, that little is known about them and it is better to purchase a pure bred puppy – often from pet stores or online, than adopting a shelter dog.

The reality is you know even less about a puppy that is purchased from a pet store or online, which most often come from cruel breeding operations, where the dogs are subjected to filth, hunger, thirst, untreated diseases and it is not uncommon for these puppies to have genetic and behavioral disorders.   For puppies purchased from responsible breeders – breeders who care for their dogs and will show you the living conditions, you will get to meet the parents, but there are no guarantees the puppy you purchase will have the same temperament as its parents. 

With shelter dogs, many are surrendered with their history information, and they spend time with shelter workers and volunteers who learn about them.  They are temperament tested and often, they have been in foster homes, all of which provides a lot of direct information about the shelter dog that would never be available with the purchase of a puppy.   And for those who believe the only way to get a purebred dog is by purchasing them, the truth is many can be found in shelters and rescues because breeders dump them if they don’t sell or are no longer producing, large, profitable liters. 

The key to finding the right rescue dog is knowing what to look for before going to the shelter or rescue.   Do some research on breed characteristics so that the dog you choose fits into your lifestyle and home.  (A Blue Heeler or Border Collie mix aren’t the best if you are looking for a couch potato dog!)   When visiting the shelter, take time to learn about dogs that catch your eye.  Some may come to the front of the kennel and be excited to see you, while others may hang back, due to the stress of the environment or fear of the unknown.  Give them all a chance.  Spend time with dogs that you like outside of their kennel, such as in a fenced-in outside area or a special room where you can interact away from other dogs and people.  If you have children or dogs, bring them to meet the dog you are considering before you adopt.   

The stigma attached to shelter dogs is outdated and every minute of every day that false belief is proven incorrect, in the tens of thousands of shelter and rescue dogs that are adopted and go on to live their lives out in loving homes.  By adopting, you are saving more than one life, because when you give a shelter dog a home, it opens up space and opportunity for another homeless dog to get the family he/she deserves.

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