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Is There a Puppy Shortage, or a Puppy Surplus?

The answer to that question has a lot to do with where you live.

    If you're in a rural area in the southeastern part of the United States there are still far more puppies than there are homes for them. There are likely abandoned dogs in public places, and your municipal shelters are likely still euthanizing for time/space.

    In 2006, here in Louisville, Ky., I worked for Louisville Metro Animal Services (LMAS).  
    At that time our shelter, along with the grand majority of shelters nationwide, was euthanizing more than 1/2 of the animals that came in... and most euthanasia was due to time/space.  
    This means "time/space" was written on the kennel cards of the dozens of animals that were put down daily as the reason for euthanasia... referring to the lack of kennel or cage space and the lack of time to wait for a kennel or cage to open up. 

Simba, a transport dog we fostered

    This is still hard for me to even write about.  -Losing so many animals near and dear to me during my 1 yr tenure as an employee with LMAS (I started as a volunteer and continue volunteering to this day) was... well... the primary reason I 'lasted' only one year working there.  
    Months into the job I began 'fantasizing' about my own death, writing up a last testament that I'd like for my body to be put in a black, plastic garbage bag, pissed and defecated on by my corpse (our pets would often relieve themselves during the dying process).  
    Then I wanted my body driven to and dropped at the local landfill by a city garbage truck, with all the other city's garbage.          -This is how our shelter animals were 'disposed of.' 
     It is how shelter animals are disposed of to this day, across the nation. 
    I pictured this sad scenario drawing a couple minutes of nationwide media attention, hence, helping raise awareness on the plight of our shelter pets and- knowing my death could help save innocent pet lives- would make it all worthwhile.
    Clearly this wasn't healthy, and thankfully I opted to quit before my fantasizing went too far.  
    I'm so grateful to still be involved in pet rescue work, but not as an employee of a high-kill shelter. 

Chester, another former transport foster, 2 years ago

Imagine how I feel as a former shelter worker from a time when we were killing 65%< of our pets knowing that...

    there are currently dozens of pockets across our nation that are actually facing 'puppy-shortages?!'
    I don't really know how to feel about this... strange, happy of course, and a little worried...

    Strange because it seems surreal in a way, knowing where we were, as a nation, just a decade ago. 
    Happy because obviously I'm glad there are less homeless pets now! There are less innocent pets dying every single day now! There are more people and pets enjoying the benefits of pet sterilization now! 
    A little worried because this puppy/dog shortage in some areas of the country can be convoluted to work for impure motives such as greed. It can provoke people that know nothing about pet rescue or breeding to go into rescue work or breeding. This could have catastrophic consequences.  
    And mainly I'm worried because it could cause us, as a human race, to miss a superb opportunity to solve the pet overpopulation problem worldwide


How Did We Get Here?

    The simple answer to that is: spay/neuter. 
    To not 'oversimplify'... several avenues were and still are taken to increase pet sterilization nationwide... whether it be trap neuter and release (TNR) operations for our feral cat communities, or low cost sterilization clinics, mobile spay/neuter units that target high-need zip codes, or new laws in regards to pet sterilization, we, as a nation are getting our pets 'fixed' at higher rates than ever (for statistics on this, refer to links to scientific studies at the bottom of the page).  
Kitten, Twix, rescue kitten in need of surgery (I do not have this kitten in my possession; for link to info, see bottom of this post)
    
    -Spaying and Neutering Your Pet is a Good Thing.   
    -A sterilized pet lives a healthier and longer life. PERIOD
    
     Also worth noting, most of these spay/neuter initiatives were paid for, at least in part, by non-profits.  
    So if you fell for the sad pet faces on the ASPCA ads, and donated $15/month to save lives, don't feel bad! It worked!  
    It's still working!  
    As a matter of fact, I occupied an ASPCA-grant-funded position at Miami Dade Animal Services so, these well-recognized rescues (with track-able success) absolutely have boots on the ground... and are in the combat zones.


Where Do We Go Now (can you hear Axl singing)?

    There are so many potential answers to that question, more than I can ponder for one blog post. 
    I've heard mention of shelters working in partnership with responsible breeders.  
    Transport is alive and well.  
    I for one foster for Mobile Mutts Transport Rescue (Ky. Mutts is our local arm of Mobile Mutts Rescue).  -Dogs that are in danger of being euthanized where they are (southeastern shelters) are transported to pockets in the northeast that are facing dog shortages.  
    They're then put into vetted foster or adopter homes upon arriving to their doggie-destinations. -Fascinating right?
     -Logistics can be very tricky with transport.
   -And the thought of shelters partnering with breeders seems downright weird to me.

Ky. Mutts puppies- transported from homeless to loving homes (link at bottom of page)


 I hesitated on writing this blog because I certainly don't have all the answers. 

    We're in uncharted waters here, to my knowledge.  
    
There's a lot of action in the rescue world and one must be diligent about knowing who to trust and who not to trust. 

    I have seen people with the best of intentions over the years become hoarders.  
    I have seen people and rescue groups abandon dogs in boarding, by the dozen. 
    I have seen 'rescue people' go to jail.  
    Breeders, that's another story.  My background is in rescue.  I do not associate with the breeding community but I've heard horror stories, as we all have (puppy mills, mommy breeding-machines, 10 dogs/crate, dogs never getting out of their cages, etc).  -Overall, it's not a pretty business.
    
There's a lot of grey area in pet adoption and rescue now-a-days and again, I certainly don't have all the answers but, if someone said, "You're in charge of getting the country on the right track, addressing the dispersing of pets across the nation in a way that will be most beneficial to homeless pet populations and to educated, informed humans that wish to have a pet," I'd say we need to do this:


    1.) Ramp up transport efforts in key areas (transport is not only limited to the street by the way; there are helicopter transports too)
    -there's limitless potential in transport right now but, again, funds and logistics are key challenges
    2.) Keep adoption centers and legitimate rescues 'stocked' (via partnerships with rescue transports from other counties and states if necessary) because: if people keep seeing adoption centers with empty cages and crates, they'll assume the pet overpopulation problem has been solved, and that's just not the case. Potential adopters will also become frustrated by not being able to adopt in a timely manner and may buy a pet from a breeder rather than rescue. 
    3.) Years down the road, once we will have 'solved' pet overpopulation in this country via continuous spay/neuter initiatives, public education and transport programs, we work out a strategic relationship with nearby countries and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, areas with an extreme surplus of homeless pets (Cuba, Bahamas, Haiti, The Dominican Republic, Jamaica, etc.) Later... years later... we can ramp it up and rescue from as far away as China. 
    -I am aware international pet rescue is already 'a thing...' groups with success and knowledge in these areas (especially in regards to legal aspects) would play a key role in making these enormous 
strides in pet rescue work. 


Our own dog, Benny

Finally, and most importantly, what can you do if you're looking to add a pet to your family?

    -Look online at sites such as petfinder to get a feel for what's available in your area
     Tip: type in different zip codes within the site so it shows dogs and cats from different areas of your city. Expand your radius within the search engine if you're not finding what you're looking for. 
    
    -Go to your local municipal shelter (most of the time listed as "______ Animal Services" or to your local Humane Society)

    -If you're not having luck locally, ask a friendly, helpful employee at the local shelter, "Does this shelter receive transport dogs from somewhere else?" -Ask with a pleasant smile of course.      If they do, ask what days new arrivals will be in. Or, if you don't mind a little driving, ask which shelters and counties they work in partnership with, and go to those shelters. 

    -Seek out a concierge adoption service (careful to know who you're dealing with!!!). 
    Although this isn't the primary focus of The Paw and Feather Plan, I do help adopters out too.  

The dignified senior cat, Sir Chunky, concludes this blog post. 

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