Dogs are the quintessential pet: they play, they can be trained to have great manners and perform all sorts of commands, and they respond to us and seem to love us in return. But they are also a huge commitment of our time, energy, and money.
Dogs tend to be surrendered to the MSPCA for one of a few common reasons:
1) Time. While cats can be left for hours on end, even overnight, a dog requires more regular human companionship. This isn’t just because dogs are pack animals who rely on the social aspect of a family, but they also need to be exercised and allowed to relieve themselves throughout the day. Some dogs are okay being left alone for 8 hours a day, while others cannot ever be left alone. When people surrender for this reason, it’s often due to a schedule change for the family members, or a change in the dog’s needs that requires more time to care for her.
2) Money. Depending on the animal, dog ownership can be an expensive endeavor. There are the usual costs: food, gear (food dishes, collars, leashes, toys), and medical costs (parasite prevention, wellness exams, and vaccines), but there is also the likeliness of additional expenses. These could be medical costs, including emergency treatment for a trauma, or a disease or other illness that is difficult to diagnose or expensive to treat. Dogs who are destructive might cost their owners hundreds of dollars in replacement furniture and training classes. And there are added expenses, including hiring a dog walker or kennel to care for your dog when you cannot. In many cases, those who surrender for this reason have lost their income, or cannot afford necessary, but expensive medical procedures.
3) Behavior. Some dogs are surrendered because they exhibit unwanted behaviors. These might include “puppy-like” behaviors like jumping, mouthing, house soiling, excessive barking, or walking poorly on a leash. In these cases, the issue is more a lack of training than a deep-rooted behavioral problem, and the best remedy is an adoptive family willing to commit to a training regimen. But some behaviors are more extreme, including aggression toward other animals or people.
4) Housing. With the poor economy, many families have been forced to move away to find jobs, downsize from a larger home to a smaller home, or sell their home and rent an apartment. Not all homes are large enough for some dogs, or have the necessary accoutrements (like a fenced-in yard). And not all landlords allow dogs within their properties – especially those of a targeted breed (like Pit Bulls or Rottweilers).
Some people believe that shelter dogs are somehow damaged or second-rate because they were given away by their first families. This is simply not true. Many of the animals that we take in are here because of an issue their families couldn’t resolve, but one that has nothing to do with the animal’s temperament or behavior. This isn’t to say that our dogs are perfect, but then, who is? Each of our animals, just like us humans, has his own quirks and character traits that make him special. And since we are all different, it is convenient that we have such a breadth of adoptable dogs to choose from.
Among our adoptable dogs, you’ll find puppies (some are even born in the shelter, the result of dogs surrendered while pregnant) as well as “mature” dogs upwards of 13 years in age. Our adoption centers feature purebred dogs as well as mixed-breed dogs; on average, 1 in 4 shelter dogs is a purebred. Some breeds are surrendered to us more than others, including Chihuahuas and Pit Bulls. Again, the public might believe that this means there is some inate part of the dog that makes them “likely” to end up in a shelter – but again, we look to those surrendering as much as the animal being brought to our doors. Some of our dogs can be placed with cats, other dogs, or kids, while some prefer to be the only “baby” in the house.