The True Fate of Animals in Atlanta’s Shelters
Pet guardians are fooling themselves if they think the animal they turn in to a shelter is likely to find a new home. In the Atlanta area, the chances are only one-in-three. Fully two-thirds of pets impounded in area shelters are killed.
But by far, the vast majority of dogs and cats that end up in Atlanta area shelters are stray or lost pets, not guardian turn-ins. And very, very few of these animals are reunited with their guardians. If guardians would keep tags on, or even tattoo or microchip, their pets, the problem would be greatly alleviated.
Area shelters are perpetually overcrowded, which creates a dangerous situation. Pen overcrowding causes stress and sometimes aggression on the part of the animals. But, even more dangerous, with numerous animals in a single pen, if one of them is sick, they all have to be destroyed.
Annually, between 88,000-131,000 animals have been killed in Atlanta area shelters in recent years. In more graphic terms, area animal shelters destroy 20 tons of household pets per week.
Animal shelter staff dread the arrival of “Kill Days”, but recognize that there’s nothing they can do to avoid killing healthy pets. If society would take responsibility for their pets, by spaying/neutering them, keeping identification on them, and preventing them from wandering off, this problem would be swiftly eliminated.
Why Are There So Many Homeless Pets?
There are so many homeless pets because, unfortunately, many people do not think about the long-term commitment, financial responsibility, moral responsibility (e.g. spay/neuter, heartworm prevention), and work involved when they bring a pet into their home. The decision to add a pet to your family is a serious 10-15 year commitment and should not be taken lightly.
In addition, we have an overwhelming pet overpopulation problem in the United States. Each year approximately 8 million healthy dogs and cats are killed simply because there aren’t enough homes for all of them. This is due to individual pet guardians not spaying/neutering their pets (accidental breedings), individual pet guardians breeding their pets on purpose and thinking it is OK because (1) they have a “purebred”, (2) because they think that their pet should experience motherhood, (3) because they think that their children should witness the miracle of birth, or (4) because they think that they have such an exceptional pet; and also because of puppymillers and irresponsible breeders.
For example, here in the metropolitan Atlanta area alone, there are hundreds of animal rescue groups and yet every year over 131,000 dogs and cats are killed in Atlanta area shelters. Animals rescued by groups associated with Pet Orphans Rescue Referral come from a wide variety of sources including animal shelters who were about to destroy them, direct guardian give-ups who were about to turn them in to the shelters, and strays whose homes could not be found.
The top ten reasons we get our pets are:
1. Strays – These occur from guardians who let their pets roam; who don’t spay/neuter them, so they look for opposite sex companionship; guardians who abandon their animals or never bother looking for them once they are gone; and by guardians who don’t keep ID tags on their animals at all times (regardless of if the dog is an inside-only dog or if the dog has never before gotten out of the yard).
2. Moving – We can’t tell you how many times a day we hear this one! Guardians moving to other cities who don’t want to pay to transport their pets, guardians moving into an apartment complex that won’t take pets, guardians who don’t want to pay a pet deposit, guardians moving into a new house and don’t want their pets to dirty it, etc. This is by far the number one reason why guardians dump their pets! Pets are not junk that you throw away when you move; pets should be family members that are brought along every time the family changes its residence! If this doesn’t work for you then don’t get a pet in the first place.
3. Having a baby – Why is it that so many people no longer want to keep their dog (whom they formerly treated as a baby), when they have a human baby of their own? We find that people dump their formerly beloved family pets due to no fault of the pet’s simply because they have a baby. Often they tell us that the dog is wonderful with the new baby but that they simply don’t have time for it anymore. Or they tell us that their dog isn’t good with a baby and we find that they have selected a dog breed that is well known to be incompatible with babies and toddlers. If they had done simple research prior to getting a certain dog breed and if they had exposed their dog often to small children, they probably wouldn’t have had this problem. Also, we find that some dogs don’t do well with babies because the families dump the dogs into a permanent backyard existence or an ignored existence once they have a baby. We recommend that people have their family first and then adopt a pet. If that isn’t possible, pick a breed or mix that is known to be good with children and socialize to children often. A good book to read is “Childproofing Your Dog” by Brian Kilcommons.
4. Don’t have time for – The same people who were so enthusiastic about their new puppies or dogs when they first got them often consider them a burden once they realize that they are living beings who have certain needs that cannot be ignored. They are not toys that can put away when the guardians feel like it. These people call us and say “I’m traveling more now”, “I’m working more now”, “I’m going out a lot now”, “I’m not home enough and the dog isn’t getting the attention it deserves” or “I feel guilty but don’t have time for the dog”. Don’t get a dog unless you can make a 10-15 year commitment to its care.
5. Puppy has grown up – “The puppy has gotten too big”, “We wanted a small dog”, “It’s not cute anymore”, “It’s gotten too big for inside the house/apartment”, “Now that it’s 9 months old it’s acting too wild”, “It’s too rough for my kids” or “It’s too hyper”. Be very careful when you adopt a puppy that you are prepared to handle the dog when it reaches adult size. Don’t just look at the tiny puppy and think how cute it is. Look at an adult of comparable adult size and make an intelligent decision. Keep in mind that a puppy needs lots of training and exercise in order for it to become a well-behaved pet. When you get a puppy, sign up for a good puppy obedience class and practice often. Also, keep in mind that most puppies and dogs will not exercise themselves…you need to exercise them by providing long walks, ball-throwing, etc. Remember that the large breed puppy may play rough and may be too active for your small children. Keep in mind that puppies are a lot of work and that there are hundreds of thousands of well-behaved adult dogs being killed at our shelters every day that might be a better choice for your family’s pet.
6. Behavioral problems – “Dog barks too much”, “Dog chews everything up”, “Can’t get it housebroken”, “Too hyper”, “Dog jumps on us”, “Dog digs up garden”, “Dog runs away or jumps fence”, or “Dog is aggressive to strangers or other dogs”. Dogs who are raised as outside-only pets are usually unhappy and bored and will develop many of these problems. Don’t get a dog unless you will keep it mainly as a housepet. Puppies can’t get housebroken unless someone is home during the day or can come home from work often enough in order to let it outside. Dogs who are not obedience-trained will often act hyper and wild. Dogs who are not socialized to strangers and other dogs when they are young will often act aggressively to them when they grow up. Dogs that are not spayed/neutered will often escape from the fenced yard in order to find a mate. If you don’t want chewing, then don’t get a dog under the age of 3 years. Puppies and young adult dogs naturally will chew, chew, chew. If you have this problem now, confine your dog to a “dog-proofed” room with plenty of chew toys when you’re not watching it. Make sure that you have the time and money to spend with a puppy or adult dog and that you will allow him to stay mainly inside your home before you consider adopting a pet.
7. Children have lost interest – Loving parents often adopt a pet for their children with the understanding that the children must take full responsibility for its care. We have found that children lose interest in caring for their pets within a very short period of time and it then becomes a battle between the parents and children. Please don’t adopt a pet unless you, the parent, want the pet as much as your children do. Children cannot handle the responsibility of housebreaking a puppy, obedience-training, exercising, feeding, brushing, health care, etc., so don’t let their begging influence you. YOU will be the one responsible for this pet.
8. Elderly guardians – We get many calls from the children of elderly people who pass away or have to go into a nursing facility. They have made no prior arrangements for who is going to take care of their beloved pets. Please make arrangements in your wills for who will get your animals if something happens to you. If you are a senior citizen and are thinking about adopting a puppy or dog, please add 15 years to your current age to determine how old you will be when the dog reaches the end of its lifespan. If you think you will be too old to care for it, then consider adopting one of the many wonderful, already housebroken, older dogs for your home.
9. Vacation – It is hard to believe that people could be so callous but “We’re going on vacation” is a real excuse that has been used by people surrendering their animal. By not boarding their pet, that family saved about $100! over the course of a week-long vacation.
10. New Romance / Lost Romance – “My new boyfriend/girlfriend is allergic.” “My husband and I are getting a divorce.” Responsible breeders report that these people are often searching for a new puppy after the new relationship sours or after they recover from the trauma of the divorce. If you have given up a dog or cat for one of these reasons, you’ve frankly lost your right to buy a new puppy or kitten until the expected lifespan of the one you dumped has expired.
Sad text from actual correspondence to an Atlanta Area Rescue
Note: Names of the dogs and their former guardians have been changed in order to protect the ignorant. X-Breed has been substituted for the name of the specific breed of dog. Otherwise these letters were left exactly as they were received.
Dear X-Breed Rescue,
We have two X-Breed dogs, one male and one female, named Samson and Delilah who have been family pets since they were puppies. They have had two litters of puppies who we found very good homes for. They are now neutered and have been for some time. They are current on all shots and do not have heart worms, and they are on flea and tick repellent and heart worm preventative. They are not well house trained and my husband has grown very tired of dealing with this problem. They will use a dog door, but we do not have a fenced yard, and when our neighborhood grew we could not let them use the dog door any longer.
As much as we hate giving up these dogs because we know they are attached to us, we feel that we would be happier and so would they if they lived someplace with a fence and a dog door and someone who would take more time with them.
My husband is determined to find them a new home. Our children will all be in college or out on their own in the fall, and the dogs will be left alone at home for longer periods of time. None of us are good at walking them, and I only groom them every once in a while.
I would like to find them a home where they could stay together. They have been a pair since they were puppies. They are AKC registered and “Sir Samson McGuillicutty” was born on June 7, 1995 and “Lady Delilah McGuillicutty” was born on December 24, 1995 which makes them about 7 years old.
We are happy to keep them in our home until a suitable home can be found for them. Can you help us with this problem?
An Irresponsible Pet Guardian and Backyard Breeder.
From the well-documented veterinary care they gave their dogs, these were ostensibly good pet guardians However, it is difficult for anyone who has ever received a bill for braces on a teenager to believe that this husband, an Orthodontist who owns his private practice, and his wife, who works as his office manager, could not afford to put up a fence. Additionally, it was obvious to the Rescue people who handled the dogs that they had never been crated. In the absence of a fence outside the dog door, simply crating these dogs while they were at work until they learned to hold it and could be trusted in a baby-gated kitchen or tiled area and walking them a few times a day would have completely solved their problem.
The President of the Rescue replied and told them they could not refer people to the dogs because Rescue would have to foster them long enough to get them housebroken. They responded:
Thank you for your quick reply. This sounds very good to me. I will miss them very much, but I feel that they would be so much better with a fenced yard, and if you can teach them to be house broken that would be wonderful also.
My telephone number is xxx-xxx-xxxx. I will be home on Tuesday working in my yard.
Delilah is a little shy, and Samson is more aggressive. They would love to be herding dogs. They are both over weight. Delilah more than Samson.
This is hard for me, but I feel you are caring people who would love and care for them as well as possible. I will look forward to hearing from you.
An Irresponsible Pet Guardian and Backyard Breeder.
This is such a perfect example of irresponsible breeding. Delilah is “shy’ and Samson is “aggressive.” These temperaments should never be allowed to reproduce. “They would love to be herding dogs” probably means that they chase moving things and nip at heels. Dogs that cannot be taught to control this behavior should also not be bred. A responsible knowledgeable breeder would know that this is not herding instinct it is the prey drive. Herding instinct is a modification of the prey drive where the drive is to chase, push or gather the sheep and not to kill them. Prey drive is very dangerous to small children when it goes unchecked or is magnified by doubling up on it when breeding. Indeed, the guardian surrender form later revealed that there had been a problem with the dogs chasing and nipping at runners and children.
The woman believes that she found good homes for the puppies she produced but in truth she never really bothered to check up on the puppies. At least one of the puppies this couple produced had already been turned in to rescue a few years before the parents. Responsible breeders are available to answer questions about housebreaking. These people don’t have the knowledge to help themselves with housebreaking so they are incapable of fulfilling their moral obligations as breeders. A responsible breeder is available for the life of the pet to take the dog back if the new guardian cannot keep them for some reason. If any of the puppies they produced need to be rehomed in the future, I’m sure this couple with think it is the job of rescue.
In later conversation, the guardian revealed that the dogs had never urinated in the house until after the puppies. Keeping up with the puppies was just too much for the woman. Puppies often seem like a really good idea till they get to be about 4 weeks old and start to pee and poop all over the place. Once she got the urine scent in the house the parent dogs continued to lay down scent on top of the old. Nevertheless, these problems could have been solved with a bottle of clorox, a visit from a carpet cleaner, a couple of crates and a baby-gate. The puppies produced a revenue of $2400. Responsible breeders put this money back into the care of the animals who produced the offspring. Since they skipped doing the tests responsible breeders do to ensure they are producing sound healthy puppies, they still had expenses for shots, food, vet care, etc… Though there might not have been enough left over to pay for a fence, surely there was enough for a couple of crates and a baby-gate.
How do we know that they skipped the necessary screenings for genetic disorders on the parents? Simple, Delilah has an inherited eye disease. She is in the process of going blind. How many of her puppies will inherit this problem? How many of her puppies have been spayed and neutered? Unfortunately, the McGuillicutty Family wasn’t responsible enough to do an eye check before breeding. They weren’t responsible enough to purchase from someone doing eye checks to begin with and their failure to require spay/neuter of the pets they produced will ensure that this problem is perpetuated in many other Atlanta area backyards. How sad.
The guardian surrender form revealed that the dogs had slept on the bed with either the children or the parents all of their lives. After they were dropped off at their temporary Rescue Foster Home, they paced back and forth to the door their guardian had exited all the while whining and crying. Watching animals mourn an unworthy guardian is the worst part of being a rescue volunteer. Sadly, it is impossible to explain to an animal that someone has fallen out of love with them.
It is interesting to note that the woman has time to garden. One wonders if the puppy money was used to buy plants.
The McGuillicuttys produced 6 puppies. Given a conservative estimate… If half of those go on to produce six puppies and half of those go on to produce six puppies in the same manner as the parents, the McGullicuttys will be responsible for 2184 dogs born in the Atlanta Area within the next ten years.
Are the McGuillicuttys evil mean people? No. They are irresponsible people who are uneducated and unaware of the havoc they have wrought. In all likelihood within five years while their legacy to Backyard X-Breed breeding gains speed, the McGuillicuttys will purchase a new pair of puppies of a different breed and start the process all over again. To their way of thinking, it was some fault of the original breed that kept them from getting housebroken or caused them to not hang around in the yard after they went out the dog door. The McGuillicuttys believe they bear no responsibility whatsoever. They couldn’t be more wrong.
Think about it… 20 tons of dead animal bodies produced in one year in the Atlanta Area alone. It boggles the mind.
P. O. Box 720422
Atlanta, GA 30358