Your 'Puppy Experience' Is Killing More Animals
"Is that your dog?"
I've asked that question thousands of times over my past 13 years in animal rescue. But this time it was a bit different.
Just minutes before, I slammed on my breaks, barely missing the dog. I had been driving down busy University Drive in Mesa, Arizona, and saw the black and tan dachshund out of the corner of my eye. She darted into the busy road and dashed right in front of my SUV. Stomach in my throat and my hands death-gripping the wheel, I gathered my thoughts and found my breath as the doxie ran to the entrance of a mobile home park.
I followed the dog, parked my vehicle a bit haphazardly, got out and started to chase after the dog. Just then, the black sports car pulled up, parked and a young woman got out. Short skirt, high heels, designer bag and cell phone in tow, I knew the dog was hers even though she didn't seem the least bit rattled by the situation.
That's when I stopped and asked. She said the dog slipped out the front door. The woman wasn't as frantic about it as I was and couldn't run as fast as me due to her spiked heels. I asked the dog's name and ran after the dog, calling her by name. I cornered Lily by a mobile home, snatched her up and brought her to the young woman who barely thanked me.
Was I in an alternate universe? These things are happening way too often, I thought.
No tags, no collar, and I soon found out no chip. I begged the woman to make sure she at the least got the dog a collar with ID tags.
Then I asked a typical rescuer question.
"Is she spayed?"
It's just a gut feeling you get after rescuing for so long, but I already knew the answer. Boy do I like when I'm wrong, but this time I wasn't.
"I want her to have puppies," the woman said nonchalantly.
I've heard it a million times. The dog obviously was from a breeder or a puppy store, meaning she was likely born in a puppy mill.
She was a thing, a possession, an accessory just like the woman's designer bag and blinged-out cell phone case. As I tried not to scream and yell at the woman, my blood was boiling. I think I bit my tongue pretty hard because I tasted blood.
Breathe, I told myself, just breathe. In these situations you know you don't have much time to explain, give the facts, the stats, anything to stop the person from breeding the dog and instead get the dog spayed. My stomach was in knots. What's wrong in my eyes was not wrong in hers. I had just minutes. Could I get this woman to do the right thing?
"Every time you breed or buy dogs, shelter dogs die," I said. I told her about the hundreds of dogs who die every week in the local shelter. Young dogs, old dogs, puppies, pure breeds, mixed dogs, you name it, I said, as she blankly stared at me. I was getting nowhere. I told her that Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, the local Phoenix pound, is the second-highest kill shelter in the nation, with an intake of roughly 94,000 dogs a year! People dump their dogs on a daily basis. By breeding her dog she would be adding to the overpopulation problem.
More blank stare.
So I pulled out my last hat trick. "Did you know that with every heat, the chances of cancer increase for your dog?"
"But I still want the experience of her having puppies," she said.
Thispyometra-in-dogs/"> is the stuff of animal rescuer nightmares. You tell someone that their dog's chances of cancer increase with every heat, that pyometra - an infection of the uterus - is a consequence of not spaying your dog, and they still don't care. How do you make someone care about their dog - not to mention dogs they have never met? How does cancer not compute?
Many people think the local pound is filled with old, decrepit dogs or mainly pit bulls or bad dogs. Yes, there are old dogs. Yes, there are tons of discarded pit bulls. Many of them are wonderful. There are young dogs who may have soiled the carpet. But nine times out of 10, a dog at the pound is there due to human error. Local shelters throughout the nation are loaded with all types of dogs, including puppies who need a home before they are put on the daily "E" list (euthanasia list). There's an "E" list almost every day. It can consist of puppies and their moms, the full breed Dalmatian that someone turned in, the dog dropped off because a family had a new baby, the family who is moving and can't or won't take their dog. The puppy who grew up and grew too big. There's the trade-in: an old for a new model. The list goes on.
Typically the pound has more mixed breed dogs than purebreds. But if you're looking for a particular breed, chances are if you give it enough time, you'll find your match: from German shepherds and dachshunds to shih tzus and cocker spaniels, most breeds end up at the pound at one time or another. The pound doesn't discriminate. Neither do the people who dump them. There are breed-specific rescues for every type of dog you can imagine.
When you insist on breeding your dog, you're only adding to the monumental overpopulation problem. People created it, but we can fix it. Spay/neuter is a great place to start to get the problem under control.
You can have your puppy experience and save a life at the same time. Just check out your local shelter. No need to be a part of the killing problem; be a part of the solution. If that puppy isn't there today, he or she will be there soon enough. We can fix the problem by fixing our dogs.
For more general information about spay/neuter, and to find out about locations in your area, please visit the ASPCA website. To learn about more resources and about World Spay Day 2016, visit the HSUS website.