Each year 9 million dogs are born and 4 million are abandoned or surrendered. Many of these animals find themselves in the nation’s rescue and adoption shelters. Of these shelter dogs, an estimated 1.5 million are euthanized annually for reasons ranging from behavior problems that could be resolved to simply not being adopted within a requisite period of time from a “kill” facility. Sadly, many adoptable dogs are destroyed to make room for others.
People are the problem, not the dogs. Humans are responsible for too many dogs that meet an untimely end because of owner ignorance or negligence.
While natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, can result in lost or forced abandonment of animals that never find their way back home to loving owners, irresponsible breeding and uncaring owners are often the cause of a dog ending up in a shelter. So can behavior problems, such as constant barking and house soiling, force a heartbroken owner with no options to surrender an otherwise much loved companion. Sadly, many of these problem behaviors are natural for dogs, but unacceptable to the owners. In most cases, something can be done to alleviate these problems if only the owners are properly informed.
Thankfully, today a majority of America’s dog owners are opting to rescue a shelter dog and give it a second chance at life as part of their family. 25% of all shelter dogs are pure breeds, although in some instances they lack any identification, such as a microchip that most registered pure breeds have.
While significant strides and improvements have been made in how a shelter dog is evaluated and characterized for “matching” to a prospective owner, the return rates for adopted shelter dogs can run as high as 25%. The reasons are numerous. For example, an inappropriate match of the dog to the adopter, which may be a result in serious discord between owner and dog. Behavior problems may emerge as a result of this mismatch. Inadequate early-life socialization of dogs with humans and other animals is another cause. Unfortunately, prior mistreatment of dogs, including physical abuse, chaining, starvation, encouraged aggressiveness, or simply neglect of an animal that craves human companionship, may also contribute to a dog’s behavioral issues and case-specific incompatibility.
The Center for Canine Behavior Studies hopes to provide a part of the solution to help resolve these problems by following the lives of dogs—especially shelter dogs—and their owners, and over the life of the dog collect relevant data on the dog, its owner and the environment within which the dog lives.
Over time and a large survey population, better understanding of the nature of dogs, the behavioral tendencies they show—often based upon unknown mixed-breed characteristics and traits, the owner and the living environment—will provide insights that could help reduce this annual canine holocaust.