What does Dog Rescuing have to do with Sustainability?

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In today's guest post Dr. Erin Redman shares one of her passions with us and discusses how our treatment of companion animals relates to Sustainability.

Achieving Sustainability requires that we:
  1. Accept responsibility for the cascading effects of our actions (& understand the cascading effects of our actions).
  2. Have empathy for others—this includes, for example, removing the stigma and negative judgments associated with poverty.
  3. Stop thinking of ‘away’ as a solution for our undesirables-e.g. toxic waste sites, shipping electronic waste to China, and much more.
  4. Stop conspicuous consumption in order to not only reduce the divide between social groups but also to reduce consumption overall.
  5. Reduce the policy bias towards short-term ‘band-aid’ fixes & instead focus on long-term, sustainable solutions.
Regarding the dog situation in the US, let me start by providing some background information:1)These numbers should not be viewed as exact, in ASPCA's own word's "Currently, no government institution or animal organization is responsible for tabulating national statistics for the animal protection movement."

Puppy Mill
Typical treatment of dogs at puppy mills.
  • 5 to 7 million companion animals enter the shelters each year
  • ~3 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year
  • 20-30% of dogs in shelters are pure breeds
  • the average age of a shelter dog is 18 months old
  • yet only 15% of people with pets in the U.S. adopted them from a shelter or rescue group
  • there are an estimated 15,000 puppy mills2)The colloquial term for what are effectively horrendous factories for breeding dogs.
  • 90-99% of the dogs sold (as opposed to be up for adoption) in pet stores in the United States are believed to come from these type of dog breeding facilities
While these statistics are certainly a sign that dogs are often viewed as merely cash crops for the breeders or name-brand accessories for those that must purchase the latest hot breed, the title question still stands, what does that have to do with Sustainability?

The Links between Sustainability and Dogs

I am going to return to the five points I made about sustainability above and discuss each point as it relates to dogs, dog adoption, shelters, and euthanasia:
  1. Accept responsibility for cascading effects: If you purchase your dog from a pet store, you are giving money to puppy mills hence endorsing their business practices (voting with your purchases is a topic commonly discussed in Sustainability as well). When you purchase your dog from a breeder or pet store, a dog you could have saved/rescued from the shelter is being euthanized. A dog rescued from the shelter is a dog that is not euthanized and a dog from a breeder is a vote in favor of a breeder-based system (and all its consequences).
  2. Have empathy for others (in this case dogs): While virtually everyone loves their own pets, empathy is about extending concern and care for others beyond your own family/friends/tribe. This means that while I understand a person that purchases their pet may love that one pet, their actions show apathy for all the dogs in shelters, in breeding facilities, and being euthanized. Dogs depend on humans and the rate at which we abandon and euthanize them is truly deplorable, let’s try to have empathy for all those amazing dogs being abandoned and killed.
  3. MattedDog
    This poor dog had been (ab)used for breeding.
  4. Stop thinking of ‘away’ as a solution for our undesirables: This is a particular problem for backyard breeders and puppy mills. If a dog they use for breeding is done reproducing, they drop it at the shelter, if a puppy is born with undesirable markings (or as is often the case in Mexico—the hairless chi that is born with hair!) that puppy is dumped at the shelter. Shelters are the garbage bins used by breeders and those that purchase from breeders use their purchasing power to support these practices.
  5. Stop conspicuous consumption: A dog is not an accessory that should be used to demonstrate economic status, yet many people want the latest fad-dog or the most expensive giant breed they can find, creating demand which is filled by unscrupulous breeders.
  6. Reduce the policy bias towards short-term ‘band-aid’ fixes: It costs taxpayers roughly $2 BILLION a year to round up, shelter and euthanize homeless animals. Wouldn't it be better if we just stopped breeding so many dogs and started rescuing the dogs we already have? Or at the very least, instead of externalizing the costs of breeding dogs to the taxpayers, maybe those that breed the dogs (& create these problems) should actually bear some of the burden of this $2 billion yearly bill. It is similar to the proposition that oil companies should pay the costs of oil spills, especially when the spills are due to a company’s negligent practices.
Similar to sustainability, in which we believe that if you want a world with greater equity, less waste, cleaner air, etc., then you should behave accordingly through your purchases, your civic engagement, & so forth; with the dog situation if you think euthanizing 3 million animals a year is pretty sad and the conditions in puppy mills are unacceptable, then you should probably act accordingly--adopt & spay/neuter!

Calabaza was abandoned, pregnant, at one of the Maricopa County Shelters. We adopted her on Oct. 31st, 2012.
+Need more reasons to adopt a a shelter dog? Here are 13 more!

+Great advice, red flags and other warnings to be aware of if you are considering adding an animal companion to your family.

Footnotes   [ + ]

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