54% of U.S. pit bulls are seeking homes, up from 41% in 2018
Americans seeking to add a dog to their families had 17.2 million dogs to choose from in the first week of July 2019, a third more than in July 2018, according to the 10th annual ANIMALS 24-7 mid-summer survey of online classified ads offering dogs for sale or adoption.
The ANIMALS 24-7 surveys are timed each year to reflect the post-“puppy season” peak of dog acquisition, after most of the dogs who will enter their first homes during the year will already have been born, weaned, and advertised.
The numbers of dogs offered for sale tends to represent dogs entering their first homes other than birth homes. The numbers of dogs offered for adoption tends to reflect how many dogs of each breed once had a home, other than a birth home, but for some reason––usually behavioral––ended up with a shelter or rescue, seeking a new home.
More dogs pushes U.S. farther from every dog having a home
The spectacular increase in dogs available may be good news for people seeking dogs from breeders, but should be seen as catastrophically bad news for anyone trying to achieve a no-kill nation, in which every dog finds a “forever home.”
The ANIMALS 24-7 survey numbers show that no currently popular approach to reducing “dog overpopulation” shows unequivocal success, other than routine spay/neuter, while many approaches much ballyhooed by humane organizations show unequivocal failure.
Promoting adoptions from shelters and shelterless rescues appears to have reduced the inventory of dogs available for adoption by about half a million since July 2018.
Yet despite ever-increasing expenditure on efforts to rehome pit bulls, and an ongoing tendency for shelters and rescues to mislabel pit bulls and pit mixes as any other breed of dog that they may faintly resemble, the total number of pit bulls and pit mixes advertised by shelters and rescues is up by more than 150,000.
Shelter & rescue inventory of non-pits is depleted
Adopters between July 2018 and July 2019 more aggressively than ever before snatched up any and all non-pit bulls and pit mixes, depleting the non-pit inventory at shelters and rescues, while assiduously avoiding pits.
The net effect was to skew the U.S. shelter dog population even farther toward domination by pit bulls and pit mixes.
Twenty-two percent of the dogs offered for adoption by shelters and rescues in July 2018 were pit bulls and pit mixes. This surged to 31% by July 2019: approximately equal to total pit bull and pit mix intake by shelters and rescues circa 2013, but total pit bull and pit mix intake now appears to be about 50%. The difference between intake and pit bulls offered for adoption is approximately equal to euthanasias.
Because breeding pit bulls in high volume and raising them in group housing tends to lead to “dog-aggressive” puppies often killing each other, major commercial breeders seldom produce either “purebred” pit bulls or pit mixes.
Instead, practically all pit bulls are the products of backyard breeding.
Trends in pit bull advertising are therefore a convenient way to measure the success of efforts to legislate against backyard breeding.
Those numbers are not encouraging. Pit bulls in July 2019 were 7.9% of the dogs advertised for sale, down slightly from 8% in both 2017 and 2018.
However, because so many more dogs were bred and put on the market, the 8% in 2018 amounted to 925,000 pit bulls. The 7.9% in 2019 came to more than 1.3 million pit bulls, or 375,000 more pit bull puppies than a year earlier to compete for homes against the million-odd pit bulls at shelters and rescues after flunking out of homes.
Breed makeup of the total U.S. dog population
Each year the most complex part of the ANIMALS 24-7 mid-summer survey of online classified ads offering dogs for sale or adoption, which took a full week to complete in 2019, is projecting the breed makeup of the total U.S. dog population. This is done by combining the newest survey data with the trends visible in the summer survey numbers from past years.
(Scroll to bottom for complete data on all breeds registering 1% or more.)
Among the estimated 78 million dogs in the U.S. as of July 2019, about 5.8%, or about 4.5 million, appear to be pit bulls or pit mixes. This is slightly more than one dog in twenty.
Observed ANIMALS 24-7 a year ago, “Nearly 15% of the dogs available to the U.S. public for sale or adoption as of mid-June 2018 were pit bulls, but that scarcely made pit bulls the most popular breed. Rather, the numbers indicate the magnitude of the pit bull glut afflicting animal shelters and rescues throughout the nation: of a total of 4.4 million pit bulls alive in the U.S. as of June 2018, 1.8 million––41%––were seeking homes. 21% of U.S. pit bulls currently available are in first year of life; 19% have lost at least one home.”
600,000 more pit bulls without homes
Pit bulls in July 2019 are only 11.6% of the dogs available, because of explosive surges in breeder offerings of popular small dogs, but the available pit bull supply is up from 1.8 million to nearly 2.4 million.
Yet the total U.S. pit bull population is still “only” 4.5 million.
What this means is that 31% of the pit bulls in the U.S. are puppies in their first year of life, seeking their first homes after their birth homes.
23% of the pit bulls in the U.S. are advertised for adoption, having lost previous homes.
Altogether, 54% of the U.S. pit bull population are still seeking a “forever” home.
And of the pit bulls who have homes, the numbers indicate that approximately half will flunk out of their homes within the next year.
Shelter killing = half of pit bull mortality
The only reason the total U.S. pit bull population has not mushroomed, meanwhile, appears to be that the pit bull mortality rate is also in the vicinity of 31% per year: about triple the rate for all other dog breeds combined.
About half of U.S. pit bull mortality (circa 675,000) appears to be humane euthanasia by animal shelters, chiefly for behavioral reasons, while the rest die from a variety of other causes.
Animal advocates hoping to make the U.S. a “no kill nation” by rehoming more shelter dogs, which translates into rehoming more pit bulls, have pushed hard in recent years for legislation to end the sale of commercially bred puppies by pet stores.
The underlying strategy is to put so-called “puppy mills” out of business by cutting off their markets.
Rather than take pit bulls from shelters whom they cannot rehome, rescues buy small dogs from “puppy mills”
If puppies of popular breeds are unavailable from pet stores, the thinking goes, people who want dogs will be forced to adopt shelter and rescue dogs, specifically the pit bulls and pit mixes which have accounted for more than 25% of the dogs admitted to animal shelters and more than half of total shelter killing for in excess of 15 years now.
But the 10th annual ANIMALS 24-7 mid-summer survey of online classified ads offering dogs for sale or adoption more clearly than ever shows the failure of that argument.
Reality is that small dogs, puppies of any breed except pit bulls and pit mixes, and even medium-sized dogs of non-pit lineage long ago became scarce at shelters and reputable rescues. This trend has continued to the point that many so-called rescues have been exposed in recent years for selling dogs––mostly of small and fluffy breeds––bought directly from commercial breeders.
“Adoption fees” for small dogs rival breeder prices for purebreds
These dogs are nominally “culls,” said to be too big or too old for commercial sale through pet stores. Advertised as “rescued,” however, they typically command “adoption” prices comparable to the prices paid for purebred and “designer breed” puppies.
Meanwhile, most breeder marketing these days is done online, directly from breeder or wholesaler to customer, bypassing pet stores entirely.
The advent of online marketing coincides with an ever-increasing trend toward extreme polarization in promotion of dog breeds. While pit bulls and other large, dangerous breed types come mostly from backyard breeders, small breeds come mostly from commercial breeders, and mid-sized breeds, weighing 25 to 50 pounds at maturity, are less and less popular with anyone.
Small breed popularity surges
Mid-sized dogs dominated customer preference in retrospective ANIMALS 24-7 surveys covering the time frames 1900-1950, 1970-1979, and 1980-1989. Yet of the 26 breeds and breed types who together account for 76% of the dogs advertised for sale in July 2019, only 5.4% are in the medium size range.
34%, however, are dogs of eleven small breeds who––except for beagles and Chihuahuas––have historically seldom amounted to more than 1% of the dogs advertised.
Nine of these small breeds rated so far below 1% in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 ANIMALS 24-7 surveys that we failed to log their numbers, before returning in 2017 to our present practice of logging the totals for every breed, no matter how low.
The bottom line is that people who prefer small dogs for whatever reason, including apartment living and aging, are showing themselves unlikely to be coerced into adopting pit bulls, no matter how much pressure is put on pet stores to help promote pit bulls.
Boxers & bull mastiffs
Meanwhile, the 10th annual ANIMALS 24-7 mid-summer survey of online classified ads offering dogs for sale or adoption shows two other trends that should alarm the humane community. More than six times as many boxers and bull mastiffs were offered for sale in 2019 as in 2016. Boxers were, in fact, offered in greater numbers than any breed except pit bulls, while bull mastiffs, including Presa Canarios, surged to 3.6% of the dogs offered for sale after never previously topping 1%.
Both boxers and bull mastiffs share most of their traits and ancestry with pit bulls. Both also rate among the top 10 breeds in frequency of inflicting fatal and disfiguring injuries on humans, according to the data logged by ANIMALS 24-7 since 1982.
Backyard breeders may be producing boxers and bull mastiffs in higher volume lately to supply customers who believe they want a large, dangerous dog, but prefer to avoid the pit bull reputation. This suggests that boxers and bull mastiffs may soon also be over-represented in owner surrenders to animal shelters and impoundments for dangerous behavior, if they are not already.
A conspiracy of dunces?
A conspiracy theorist might suggest that advocates for pit bulls and other dangerous dogs purposefully produce a glut of such dogs, many of whom will never find “forever homes.”
This in turn ensures that the humane community will keep pouring resources into boosting the image of pit bulls and other dangerous dogs, in order to avoid having to euthanize the perpetual surplus.
But imagining such a plot would require imagining that significant numbers of dangerous dog advocates are both cleverly diabolical and more far-sighted than their counterparts who run humane organizations––and that dangerous dog breeders, especially of pit bulls, are at the same time deliberately producing overpopulation which in turn results in thousands of animal shelters and rescues giving pit bulls away for free, undercutting the paying market.
Imagining such a conspiracy theory also requires imagining that the humane community will never awaken to reality and pursue breed-specific legislation to stop the overpopulation of dangerous dogs as aggressively as it has pursued legislation against so-called “puppy mills,” most of which produce dogs of breeds that are genuinely in demand and rarely harm anyone.
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