Why finding a home for a dog is only half the battle.
In the US, there are an estimated 77.8 million dogs in family homes.
We know that approximately 3.3 million of those dogs will end up in a shelter.
What we don’t know are how many that will be “rehomed” to a friend or family member. But in a recent study, dogs that made their way into a shelter sat at 36%, with “rehoming” sitting at 37%. Can we assume that basically the same amount, 3.3 million dogs, will be given away? Yes…yes we can.
But why is that? Who is doing this and why are they doing it?
And most importantly, what can I do to help?
How do we keep these dogs in their homes?
To understand what I can do to help, I first have to ask the “5 W’s”
A study done in 2014, “Goodbye to a Good Friend” made some important discoveries.
Where did they get their dog?
Most unwanted dogs were given to the owners for free from family or friends.
We want to think that if we give a dog to a friend or family member that they will have a better shot at life, right? It seems that this isn’t always the case. Looking deeper into the study I found that when someone rehomes in this manner it is mainly due to “family problems” such as financial difficulty or housing issues.
And seriously, if your sister is going through hard times and wants to give you a dog that you already love, how hard would it be to refuse? It’s a tough spot for anyone to be in. So…you take in the poor dog for your sister, maybe not thinking about how this dog will change your home. Or how this dog could change in your home.
When did they decide to rehome their dog?
Most unwanted dogs are rehomed between the ages of 5 months and 2 years.
And most have only been in the home for a year or less.
Now I could assume that it is due to puppies being puppies. They are messy and noisy and high energy. For some, house training is a hurdle or they just like to play bite too much.
But, can puppies be blamed for being puppies? Does the fault lie with the animal? Or does the fault fall squarely on the owner’s shoulders?
Did the facility or the breeder educate the new owners? Are there safety nets for these new owners? Do they know where to get the info they need?
Or are there limited solutions? They can rehome, they can drop a small fortune for a trainer or they can stick the dog in the back yard or the crate. Or maybe they can Google a few articles that may or may not help.
And before you tell me the countless ways that they can help their own situation, remember…we are crazy dog nerd people for a reason. WE have that nerd side that most don’t have. Having a dog is supposed to be a fun fulfilling easy thing that people succeed at all the time! Right? Right??
Who did they give the dog to?
Most unwanted dogs were given away for free, continuing the cycle.
Remember the stat from earlier? Most unwanted dogs were given to them…and then they turn around and give the dog to someone else. The cycle continues. And with each turn of that wheel the dogs mental health deteriorates another notch.
Following at a close second, shelters saw 34% of these unwanted dogs. And if you think that bouncing from one home to another causes stress to canine mental health, just think of what dog jail does to them.
Why did they rehome their dog?
Almost half claimed “Pet Problem”. Surprise!
Now you and I both know that it just can’t be that half of unwanted dogs have “pet problems”. They may have problems with their pets, but that doesn’t mean that the dog has a problem. But to a frustrated owner, semantics can go kiss their ass, right?
And let’s go back to that first handy dandy stat. They got this “problem” for free. They did their down-on-her-luck no-good sister a favor and look what it got them!
The other unwanted dogs found themselves in the “family, housing, cost problem” column. Family problems range from allergies to unrelated health issues, housing problems because the landlord said “Oh hell no” and cost problems because only rich people should have dogs.
Oh. Wait. Should people not adopt dogs if they can’t read the future? Or maybe people shouldn’t adopt unless they have a spare grand laying around? Only in a perfect (spayed and neutered) world baby!
What can I do to help?
I have been doing what I can to help get dogs adopted. We are making great strides with RunningDog and that will allow us to help even more dogs find homes.
But if they don’t stay there, are we only putting a bandaid on a gaping wound? What if we could head the problem off at the pass?
What I propose is a safety net for new owners.
There are pet pantries for dog food.
There are low cost spay/neuter programs and vetting programs.
But remember, “Pet Problems” outranked “Cost Problems” by far. If a frustrated pet owner has a high energy destructive dog that needs to be crated for 8 hours a day, there IS no safety net. There is nothing this owner can do that won’t cost them dearly.
Dog walker: $300 a month, and that’s on the cheap side.
Dog Day Care: $550 a month, easy.
Dog training: $240 for 6 sessions. If you’re lucky. (And don’t forget about the homework!)
What I propose is subsidized home visits. How far would midday walks, runs, playtime go toward relieving not only the owner’s stress, but the dog’s stress?
If we can not only help dogs get adopted, but have a hand in helping those dogs stay in their homes, we can help stop the cycle of rehoming. We will be creating more adoptable dogs on the front side, and helping those dogs acclimate to and stay in those new homes on the back side.
And that, my friends, is next on my list.