Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

There is an often-repeated mantra of the AR groups that 25% of dogs entering shelters are purebred. This claim is based on a shelter survey that was done decades ago, when shelter demographics were considerably different than they are today.

This study of a handful of shelters lists the numbers of purebred dogs entering shelters at 29 percent. However, this is a study limited to 12 shelters and only the owner-relinquished dogs were assessed. Please note that only 5% of cats were purebred. Averaged out, that is a rate of only about 12-13% purebred animals, considering that cats outnumber dogs in shelters by almost a 2-to-1 margin.

A similar previous survey found the percent of purebred dogs in shelter intakes at 7.3 percent (reported by Nassar, Talboy, and Moulton, 1992, American Humane Association)

In fact, there is no definitive way to ID a dog by breed. Breed is something that we presume depending on whether or not the animals can reproduce their same type. Even DNA testing is unreliable. Pedigrees and DNA for parental match are helpful, but breed ID is uncertain at best. Even asking the owner about their relinquished pet’s breed is not accurate, as owners may report their animal as purebred when it isn’t. It’s human nature to want to tag your pet as belonging to a breed. “My dog is a Chihuahua”…commonly heard by shelters as they receive a small dog that is not purebred by a longshot. But, he LOOKS like a Chihuahua, so they've always referred to him that way. They don't even know where he came from, they found him. Or they got him from a neighbor who had a litter and doesn't know exactly who the sire was. Hmmm.

Another baloney statistic bandied about by the animal rights kooks is the number of intact animals entering shelters. The ASPCA claims that 90% of intakes are intact animals.

Firstly, it is only possible to see by visual inspection if a dog was surgically neutered. No one bothers to check to see whether a dog with all his original equipment is actually fertile. As for a bitch, it is not possible to know for sure by external visual inspection whether she is intact or spayed. Even surgical scars, if present, are meaningless, as there are other surgical procedures done other than sterilization. Hard to believe, I know!! And the pre-pubertal spays that are so in vogue right now leave almost invisible marks. Many a shelter pet has been opened up for a spay, only to find that OOPS she has already been spayed.

Shelters workers in most cases presume to know the reproductive status of pets by simply looking at them. When it comes to trap-neuter and release prorams for feral cats, it is a common practice to notch the ear prior to release so that, if picked up again, they’ll know it’s already been neutered. If it were easy to tell if a cat was neutered or intact by looking at him, why would they bother with notching the ears?

Male cats require a careful palpation to assess for testicles. How many stray and feral cats are actually assessed before they are killed? Most likely, NONE. True, feral cats are unlikely to be neutered, and cats are the majority of shelter intakes in most areas, usually by a 2-to-1 margin. Yet shelters lump their presumptions regarding the reproductive status of dogs right in there with those of feral cats and kittens to drum up sensationalism in their propaganda.

We do know that 78% of owned dogs and 88% of owned cats are sterilized. (APPMA 2012 nationwide owner survey). Here in California, the latest shelter stats show that out of 467,000 dogs entering our shelters in 2010, 89,000 were owner-surrendered. So, about 20% who were "pre-owned", shall we say. The 90% figure is suspect simply due to the fact that, based on averages, at least 15% of intakes would be sterilized former pets. And only if virtually NONE of the other intakes were sterilized would there be a ghost of a chance of approching that 90% figure.

Incidentally, the California stats do not include reproductive status, of either dogs OR cats. For obvious reasons discussed here. Yet ASPCA continues to pronounce their bullshit facts and figures on their websaite as gospel truth.

Shelters are presuming to know what they cannot possibly know, the reproductive status of their intakes. They rebuke the public for the false presumption of failure to neuter, and, to add further insult to injury, they are lumping dogs and cats together....but only when it suits their agenda of sensationalizing their phoney baloney statistics.


  1. Nice post, excellent addition to the recent numbers showing just how much shelter intakes and euthanasias are continuing to plummet. 10 years ago, it was about 5% of dogs being euth'd, now it's hitting 2%.

    Instead of shelters talking about "overpopulation" and full cages, they now talk about "hitting the wall" which is a great thing.

    While this hasn't stopped the indoctrinated from lashing out at breeders, it's great news.

  2. what does "hitting the wall" mean in shelter speak? as usual an excellent post.. now to get anyone to actually believe it..

  3. I guess I don't really dispute the 25% are pure bred. While yes, they don't KNOW that they're pure bred, at least 25% APPEAR to be purebred. My experience on this would indicate this is fairly close (and maybe a bit low) although probably varies some from shelter to shelter. I'm not sure it matters a great deal to the breeding community if that number is true or not.

    The 90% are not altered number just seems ridiculous to me. Unless a shelter has an unusually high intake of feral cats (which some do) there would be no way to get to that number. Our shelter is probably close to 50/50 on dogs (and yes, we do know this because at some point we have to alter them ourselves if they're not already) -- it's less than that for cats, although most of our intake is kittens or ferals which drives that up.

    As you noted, for OWNED animals, spay/neuter compliance remains very high and cost/never getting around to it are the key reasons people don't (most people find altered animals easier to deal with than unaltered ones if they just want a pet animal -- certainly most people with indoor pets don't prefer dealing with heat cycles). Make it cost effect and convenient for those who want to do it and that probablem generally works itself out.