Dogged Research

Wise words from “Animal People” editor Merritt Clifton….

Mark Robison’s most egregious error, among many, was presuming that shelter intake in ANY manner reflects the dog population of the community. This was recognized as a false presumption as far back as the first demographic studies of the shelter dog population, done more than 70 years ago. Among the early discoveries were that “indoor” breeds, also known as “lap dogs,” were greatly under-represented among shelter populations, because they were less likely to be found running at large; hunting breeds, especially beagles, were over-represented, precisely because their usual use was likely to result in some getting lost to run at large.

Pit bull terriers were first identified as over-represented in shelter dog populations by studies done in the mid-1980s. At that time they were under 1% of the U.S. dog population, but about 2% of shelter dog admissions. I did my first survey of shelter dogs by breed in 1993. What I was specifically looking for was any statistical confirmation of the anecdotally reported boom in shelter admissions of Dalmatians that followed the re-release of the 101 Dalmatians film & the release of sequels. What I found was that while Dalmatians rose to 4% of dog admissions to shelters during the time frame in question, pit bulls rose to 5% during the same years, and 10% of the dogs killed in shelters, while still falling short of 2% of the total U.S. dog population based on classified ads listing dogs for sale or adoption. Ten years later, in 2003, pit bulls had leveled off at between 3% and 4% of the total U.S. dog population (they are currently 3.3%), but were up to 23% of shelter dog admissions and 50% of shelter dog killing.

Pit bulls are currently 29% of shelter dog admissions, nationally, and 60% of shelter dog killing, even though pit bulls have also been adopted out in greater numbers over the past five years than any other breed.

Also worth mentioning, I have tracked fatal & disfiguring attacks by shelter dogs & dogs adopted from shelters for nearly 30 years now. Only two ex-shelter dogs (both wolf hybrids) killed anyone during the 1980s; none did in the 1990s; eight have since 2001, including four in the past two years, three by pit bulls, one by a Rottweiler. [More fatalities may come to light in this category — the origin of dogs involved in fatal attacks often does not come to light until resulting legal actions go to court.]

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Arlen Kathan
    Jan 08, 2012 @ 05:23:55

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  2. Cliff Barbrick
    Jan 18, 2012 @ 23:21:15

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