Filling Empty Dog Pounds

Tufts E-News
Feb 6, 2003

No. Grafton, Mass. [02-06-03] At local animal shelters around the country, the dogs up for adoption may be a lot further from home than many people would imagine. With stray animals on the decline in many communities, but interest in adoption still high, a Tufts expert says many shelters are importing stray animals from around the world to meet the demand.

“Animal shelters in the USA are casting a wide net – from Puerto Rico to as far as Taiwan – to fill kennels,” reported USA Today. “Critics say many shelters have solved the stray problem in their own area – but rather than shut down, they become de facto pet stores. Some charge more than $200 per adoption for imported dogs.”

According to Tufts’ Gary Patronek – the director of Tufts’ Center for Animals and Public Policy at the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine – U.S. shelters may be a victim of their own successes.

“The drive to have dogs spayed and neutered in the USA has cut down on unwanted litters. And adoption campaigns have helped empty dog pounds,” reported USA Today. “But [the Tufts expert says] people who want to adopt dogs increasingly find aged dogs or undesirable breeds like pit bulls at shelters.”

Imported animals are filling the demand.

“In the last seven years, one organization in Puerto Rico has shipped more than 14,000 strays to the states for adoption,” reported the newspaper. “Shipments from other countries also appear to be increasing. Most imports are small to medium-size dogs popular among adopters.”

In order to enter the U.S., the imported animals do not need to be quarantined – having certificates of good health and proof of rabies shots are sufficient.

“But Patronek said bringing dogs in from abroad runs a serious risk of importing a disease,” reported the Scottish newspaper The Scotsman.

According to the Tufts expert, “What makes it so scary is that you just don’t know what might emerge if you aren’t at least looking for it.”

And despite their similarities, shelters and pet stores have important distinctions from one another.

“[Patronek says] not-for-profit shelters may be chartered to insure animal welfare, but they are relatively unregulated,” reported USA Today. “Pet shops, on the other hand, generally operate under more stringent state and local regulations.”

But some pet owners don’t mind that the stray animals they’ve adopted are from other countries, not their local communities.

“I read a lot about how hard their lives are in Puerto Rico,” Marianna Massa – who adopted two imported stray dogs – told USA Today. “It just affected me so much. I had to do something. If I had a farm, I’d have more.”