Occasionally, a parallel between the world at large and the animal sheltering world leaps out at me. Today it was how animal shelters have preached what amounts to abstinence-only education when it comes to finding a new pet (especially dogs).
Be patient, go to your local upstanding animal shelter, wait until you find the right dog for you, and then go through the process of getting to know it really well before you commit. And never, ever go to a breeder, under any circumstances. If you don’t end up with some deadly disease you’ll go blind and get hairy palms and no good dog will ever want to be your companion again.
This message has in large part been effective at getting people to choose to adopt rather than slut around with Puppy Millers. But is this message causal? Or is it that more people simply opt to adopt for a variety of reasons, just like a majority people don’t have children out of wedlock, regardless of what type of sex ed they get?
We’ve been arguing about sex ed for decades without agreement, despite the clear research that shows that any sex education is better than none and that abstinence only provides neither a positive or negative impact in the long term. I doubt that we will get more than anecdotal proof to support my industry’s general agreement that shaming people in adopting adult mix breeds rather than buying a pure breed puppy is a credible alternative to a fully educated adopter/purchaser.
That’s because we all know some people simply want a puppy. That’s fine. Some people want a particular breed. That’s fine, too. Why should we expect everyone to want to adopt a mixed breed dog? Let’s be honest, many shelters have moved into a shameless pit bull adoption shaming mode of, “If you don’t want to adopt this pit bull you are a bad person!” Maybe the person just wanted to adopt a Yorkie?
And if you know the person who is not responding to our abstinence only message about breeders, a person who is hot to trot and get promiscuous with their dog purchasing options, how are they supposed to know what to do? Our message has been “All breeders are bad” and “Adopt, don’t buy.” But then we put a premium on pure bred dogs up for adoption at shelters and we all drool over The Working Dog Group Competition of the Westminster Kennel Show. It’s like telling our teenagers not to think about sex while we channel surf the Lingerie Bowl and DVR Magic Mike. Parents aren’t the only ones giving mixed messages.
Just like some kids are going to have sex before they are married, some people are going to want to buy a damn puppy. Shouldn’t we work harder to make sure they know how to be safe in their purchase? How to avoid getting a dog with a disease, or one with a behavioral problem down the road, or avoid a breeder who will just take advantage of their naivety?
All things being equal, I want people to go to a shelter and wait to find that perfect pet, and remain committed to that pet forever. But all things aren’t equal. That’s why I also want people to know how to choose the right resource other than animal shelters and make the best possible choices.
The world is changing. So many people are making better decisions about obtaining a pet than ever before and animals are benefiting more than ever before. Certainly fewer face death as unwanted pets in shelters than any time in the last 50 years. But we can’t take our eyes off the ball. People still need to be educated and we need to acknowledge their desires for options we don’t think are the best for them. We need to help them find a good match and not some dude who will proverbially grab them by their genitalia while they are dog shopping.