“Stay home” orders bring sharp turn toward safe dogs
Eighteen of the 28 Americans killed by dogs by the Fourth of July, 2020, including 15 pit bull victims, two killed by mastiffs, and one killed by a Malinois, were killed by their own family dogs in their own homes––a record pace of mayhem in every category.
Those statistics may help to explain many of the others discovered by the 11th annual ANIMALS 24-7 midsummer survey of more than 4.2 million online classified ads offering dogs for sale or adoption, conducted on July 5-6, 2020.
Spending more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, due to “social distancing” restrictions, Americans’ dog choices appear to be tilting back toward safe, familiar Labrador and golden retrievers, who had declined in popularity for three years running, and toward small dogs as never before.
Lowest total of pit bulls for sale & adoption in 30 years
Pit bull popularity has contrastingly plummeted to the point, in a glutted market, that pit bulls in all variants combined were just 2.7% of the dogs offered for sale and 3.6% of all the dogs advertised in mid-2020, the lowest numbers in 30 years.
The 2020 ANIMALS 24-7 midsummer survey included separate counts run for dogs offered as Ambulls, Amstaffs, American bulldogs, American bullies, American pit bull terriers, bull terriers [except Boston bull terriers, better known as simply Boston terriers] shorty bullies, Staffies, and Staffordshires.
The combined totals make pit bulls still apparently the third most popular dog breed type in the U.S. , averaging 5.5% of the U.S. dog population since 2010, with about 4.3 million pits in homes, shelters, rescues, and breeding kennels.
However, fewer than half as many pit bulls were offered for sale in 2020 as in six of the past seven years. Rottweilers and other “bully” breeds, such as bull mastiff, cane corso, Dogo Argentino, and similiar mastiff variants showed comparable declines.
But 30% of all pit bulls are still seeking “forever” homes
Despite the steep drop in breeder advertising, pit bulls remained by far the dogs most available for adoption from shelters and rescues. A whopping 37% of all the pit bulls available in midsummer 2020, at least 1.3 million total, were “recycled” pits who had already flunked out of at least one home before arriving at a shelter or rescue, compared with just 16.3% of greyhounds and 10% of Chihuahuas, the next most common breeds offered by shelters and rescues.
Only 8.6% of the dogs advertised by shelters and rescues were listed as pit bulls in midsummer 2020, but spot-checking adoption ad photos indicated that pit bulls actually made up 43% of the total shelter inventory. About 80% of the pit bulls and pit mixes advertised by shelters and rescues were listed as other breeds, or without any breed identity mentioned.
Taking that factor into account, about 30% of all the pit bulls in the U.S. as of midsummer 2020 were without a “forever home,” consistent with the trend of the preceding two decades.
Track closures mean more greyhounds for adoption
The homeless greyhound population, meanwhile, was inflated by the closure, due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, of all 11 dog tracks in Florida plus the Birmingham Race Course in Alabama.
The Florida tracks were doomed anyway by the passage of Amendment 13, approved by voters in November 2018, which mandates the end of greyhound racing within the state by 2021.
The Birmingham track, opened in 1987 as the Birmingham Turf Club, was converted from horse racing to greyhound racing in 1995, and was the last greyhound track left in Alabama.
What’s a Lowchen?
Small breeds jumped from a then-record 34% of the dogs offered for sale in the 2019 ANIMALS 24-7 midsummer ad survey to 55% in 2020. Leading the surge were Lowchens, considered a rare breed just a decade ago. Small terriers, 3% of all the dogs offered for sale in 2020, remained the most popular small dogs, but Lowchens rose to 2.5%.
Because there are several hundred recognized dog breeds and breed types, even the most popular dogs rarely account for much more than 1% of the total volume of dogs advertised.
Among entire dog breed categories, only large retrievers, hounds, pit bulls, small terriers, and the northern breeds have ever accounted for more than 7% of the dogs advertised in either any of the ANIMALS 24-7 midsummer classified ad surveys, or in retrospective surveys covering the years 1900-1950, 1970-1979, and 1980-1989.
What the surveys measure
The ANIMALS 24-7 surveys, usually done within a few days of the Fourth of July, 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 for sale.
The numbers of dogs offered for sale each year tends to represent dogs entering their first homes other than birth homes, and directly reflects what dogs the breeders believe they can sell.
If the breeders guess wrong about demand for a particular breed, those dogs are usually discounted until they do sell, and the breeders then re-calculate their breeding plans for the next year.
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.
Laboratory use of surplus
As the ANIMALS 24-7 surveys actually measure dogs advertised, rather than dogs sold or adopted, there is the omnipresent risk that some of the dogs may not find homes and may be otherwise disposed of, either by being killed or through sale to laboratories.
This has not been a significant risk for breeder-advertised dogs in the U.S. during the 21st century, with puppies in constant strong consumer demand.
U.S. laboratories still experiment upon about 60,000 dogs per year according to USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service data, but almost all of those dogs are bred by laboratory supply specialists. The U.S. National Institutes of Health has not funded experiments using “random source” dogs, meaning dogs not specifically bred for lab use, since 2014.
France allows sale of surplus pups to labs
In France, however, breeders afraid of getting caught with a surplus of puppies they could not sell due to COVID-19 quarantine requirements on March 17, 2020 won a governmental decree “which amends the regulations on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes” to allow the sale of the dogs to laboratories.
“The relaxation of these criteria benefits non-specialist suppliers and will give rise to a new system of shameful abuse and, eventually, make organized massacre legal,” charged One Voice founder Muriel Arnal.
Operating since 1995, One Voice is the leading French animal rights organization.
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