Dog ownership is up and rising at an incredible rate. Mostly due to millennials postponing having children, and empty nesters intent on filling the void with a pet, usually a dog, or two. Demand has begun to outweigh supply after decades of public education promoting spay and neuter programs and responsible pet ownership.
Many breeders claim waitlists up to two years long. Retailers report strong sales. And most shelters and rescues are finding it hard to find adoptable dogs to fill the demand, especially puppies. Pitbull type breeds which overwhelming represent in the shelter system across the United States and the State of Florida are the only dogs that are readily available, and with years of news headlines highlighting their reputation for numerous attacks and deaths attributed to them, many families refuse to risk bringing a Pitbull into their home.
Taxpayer funded shelters like Orange County Animal Services Shelter are open-intake shelters and are typically filled with the powerful Pitbull types, but are severely lacking for more desirable adoptable dogs, and even fewer puppies, which are typically scooped up by private rescues or the lucky few adopters. But even with the less than desirable over-representation of Pitbull types, the Orange County shelter was able to achieve a 96% live release rate in 2020, with not a single dog euthanized for lack of space.
This lack of “inventory” should be cause for joy. After all, isn’t the idea of an empty shelter a GOOD thing?
Unfortunately, numerous private shelters and rescues in the area have been IMPORTING dogs from other states and countries, putting our local adoptable dogs at risk for euthanasia, bringing in and transmitting strains of diseases and viruses not found in our local population, and adding additional burdens to our taxpayer funded animal shelter.
Pet Alliance, a privately run shelter located directly across the street from the Orange County Animal Services shelter has been regularly importing dogs into their shelter from other sources for many years according to the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) Shelter project data. Just this one shelter is bringing in close to a thousand dogs a year from outside of the area, and that number is expected to continue to rise in coming years.
Moreover, a phenomenon referred to as “retail rescue” has sprung up in the last decade where many private shelters and rescues, desperate for desirable dogs and puppies to continue their operations have begun buying them from breeders and flipping them into the rescue market, many times without being honest to the public where they obtain them, and using large amounts of donation dollars to purchase them. Donation money that would be better utilized to help actual homeless pets. Investigative reporter Kim Kavin, wrote extensively about retail rescue and the underground breeder to rescue market in a 2018 Washington Post article and in the Huffpost in 2019.
When private rescues and shelters import animals and purchase them from breeders, moving away from their primary focus of helping the local homeless pets, it puts more pressure on the taxpayers in those communities.