The National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA) has just published a study regarding the number of purebred dogs in U.S. shelters. The study aimed to determine the total number of purebred shelter dogs available to the public for adoption by counting the animals listed online each week at eighteen shelters over a one year period. (The project originally included more than eighteen shelters but those that didn’t update their listings regularly were eliminated.) I am assuming that some purebred dogs never made the online listings, and therefore were not counted, because they were reclaimed by owners, pulled by rescues, or shipped to other areas for adoption.
While the study acknowledges that some dogs listed as purebreds by shelters are actually mixed breeds, the group did not have the resources to send breed identification experts to eighteen shelters every week for a year and therefore agreed to accept the shelter’s listings as accurate. However, in reviewing several of the screenshots taken of the available weekly listings of dogs and the number of purebreds who were counted that week, it appears the study excluded dogs who were listed as purebred but had no photo (see example). On the flip side, there were presumably some purebred dogs who were incorrectly listed as mixed breeds.
According to this study, the number of purebreds in US animal shelters is closer to 5% (5.04%) than to the 25% so commonly cited by national animal organizations and quoted by the media. It is interesting to observe that the number of purebreds in shelters would be 3.3% were it not for two breeds that are overrepresented, Chihuahuas and dogs described as Pit Bulls. Together, these two breeds account for 35% of all purebreds listed by shelters in this study. The public seems to be aware that dogs described as Pit Bulls are overrepresented in American shelters. What is not well known is that Chihuahuas are the single most numerous purebred found in shelters today.
Shelters who regularly import large numbers of dogs from other areas had the highest number of purebreds, as might be expected.
In a press release regarding the study, NAIA is calling for changes to federal and state laws:
- Prohibit the importation of rescue dogs from foreign countries immediately
- Impose the same oversight requirements on animal rescues and shelters as those imposed on other animal dealers
- Require animal shelters to report the source and number of the dogs they take in and the disposition of those dogs
There is a lot to digest here. I hope readers will weigh in with their thoughts.