I work in canine rescue in Mississippi, where spay/neuter rates are low, euthanasia rates are very high, and the stray animal population is a huge problem. The calls are nonstop these days: starving dogs, dogs hit by cars, abused and neglected dogs who live their lives on 6-foot chains in muddy yards with no shelter, litter after litter after litter of puppies surrendered by desperate owners who never got their female spayed and now can't afford the costs of food for the pups.

Maybe there is a shadowy network of puppy mills fronting as dog rescues. I don't know. All I know is that the rescues down here are overrun and constantly in desperate need of funds, and these are real people (and real dogs) that I deal with every day.

You bought a designer breed from a breeder and now (apparently?) have decided not to neuter him. Fine. I don't care. But to say that only "some" rescues are "genuine rescues," and that "a lot" of these dogs actually come from puppy mills is a distortion of reality.

You use a lot of slippery and imprecise language, so I can't tell how just big you think the "fake rescue" world is...? Down here, flea markets are notorious puppy-mill sales grounds (and the bane of rural rescuers), but I have never seen any of the people selling dogs at flea markets claim to be rescuers themselves. If you can provide further specific examples of this phenomenon, I would appreciate it. If I seem defensive, I apologize: it is only because we (rescuers) are drowning in dogs and bills down here, and the insinuation that some unspecific-yet-alarming percentage of us are actually trafficking mutts for profit, and that maybe just to be safe you're better off just buying a purebred dog from a breeder, makes me feel like an insane person.

I hope that you will interview some rescuers for this series - particularly rescuers in areas of the country where there is a massive surplus of unwanted dogs. (I also hope anyone reading this far might consider donating to a local rescue! The pandemic/unemployment crisis has taken a massive toll on rescues everywhere, and even the smallest donations are hugely appreciated!)

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I will sterilize every single female dog and cat I ever own and not out of my own convenience of not having to stocking up on doggie maxipads and having to listen to incessant 3 am yowling, but because it's healthy for them. Even human women who don't have children see an increased risk of ovarian, cervical, and uterine cancers. I'm not going to allow my pets to procreate, so why would increase their health risks? Not to mention what an intact tomcat will do to the ambiance of your home...

You say "snappy mutt" like it's an insult, which I'm sure you mean it as such as you tout Moose's generic heritage (which sorry to say, a goldendoodle may be AKC recognized, but he's a mutt too if we're calling technicalities). What do you suppose these average owners who aren't sterilizing their pets are going to do when Sadie has 13 unexpected puppies? Even the most dedicated pet owners can have a moment of nondiligence, taking to another dog park patron for example. Say your neighbor has a mix breed female and Moose gets away from you long enough to impregnate her. Are you going to accept the financial responsibility for those puppies? Will you find homes for those mutts? I find it unlikely.

While, it's all good and fine to say you have moral beliefs on bodily autonomy, you're discussing a non issue here. You mean to say "there aren't enough 'designer' puppies available". There are more than enough mutt pups to go around, but they get overlooked because they were never wanted and having a mixed breed dog doesn't quite hit the middle class charts like introducing your perfect french bulldog or labradoodle. If you're going to raise this kind of controversial topic, you need to also have solutions for the wholesale adoption and welfare of dogs who are not "idyllic" breeds.

I've been involved with dog and cat rescue for almost 8 years now, providing a permanent home at my own out of pocket expenses, not to mention the daily care and maintenance. I have 5 dogs now, all rescues, all mixed breed small, "yappy", snappy, and senior. I would have 5 more if my husband hadn't set a limit. I can assure you that there is no shortage of dogs or puppies in my neck of the woods.

In my adult life, I have never made a puppy my priority, but I can understand where that would be the ideal dog. The problem is wanting "that" dog, that special breed above all others. Consider amending this article with some information about those looking for dogs contacting shelters to be placed on a waiting list for specific breeds or ages and also adding information on the downsides of leaving your pet intact. Your point is not invalid, it's controversial yet interesting, but it's too one-sided to be palatable.

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> Rather than a dog surplus, what we have is a shortage of pups.

From the information in the piece, this seems like an overstatement. Just how the United States produces a net surplus of unrefined oil products yet still imports certain types of crude from abroad, there can be dog imports while still too many dogs are euthanized. Indeed, 40% of the dog population euthanized each year being reduced to 2% seems to be a massive point in favor of de-sexing—but that's still an enormous number of dead dogs.

As Katie notes, the dog trade seems to be driven by demand for specific breeds. If people have these preferences, it seems logical that reducing unplanned breeding via de-sexing would reduce the number of breeds in less demand. In a world in which every single dog is de-sexed, reputable breeders could respond to market signals and produce the precise number of puppies in each breed. This seems preferable to the alternative of uncontrolled exponential breeding.

Fortunately, it seems that this market is on its way to forming. Unfortunately, it seems to be very small. Even though the piece tries to characterize a market of $2.6 million over 11 years as "big business," it's not. It works out to less than $650 per day. I'm sure it's not the extent of the dog market in the United States, and I agree with Katie's point that we shouldn't necessarily think of shelters as Good and commercial breeders as Bad.

I liked the piece, but I don't think the narrative of "de-sexing has created these unintended consequences" pans out. If our goal is to prevent needless euthanasia, our program of de-sexing seems to be working.

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There are so many places, where dogs are in desperate need of homes. The Hawaiian islands is one of them. Where do you get the statistic from, that there is a shortage? Spay and neuter is absolutely vital and there is still a lot of resistance to it here, articles like this are not helpful in that regards. We rely on mainland transfer programs for these animals to stay alive, which are not abundant enough and came to a halt this year until this flight happened. The shelters are filling up again so fast and unwanted, neglected and suffering dogs and cats are the norm here. https://www.instagram.com/p/CHEFWE3pZtt/

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I live in NW Arkansas and I can tell you why everyone (here at least) wants to see pets spayed or neutered.

When a family gets a dog for the first time they dont expect the amount of work it takes to raise one. They think they can control the dog somehow, then end up with puppies.

When they find out that Mutt puppies can literally not be given away around here they dump them.

Cats are literally pests around here because of this and cause property damage, (my car's paint was torn up from a feral cat).

So when I see someone who wont spend the money to make sure they are being a responsible resident of the community for everyone's sake, I do judge them.

I own a dog and he cant go outside at night with me in my own yard because there are always feral cats around and he's already been attacked once.

My niece and nephew (toddlers) aren't safe because of irresponsible pet owners.

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I didn't think much about the international "rescues" that have populated the adoption sphere so thanks for the enlightening aspect how people are getting dogs nowadays. I think most people wouldn't want to get their nice looking puppy from an inhumane mill in Eastern Europe... but put enough middlemen between the consumer and producer and it seems like adoption of these rescues is copacetic.

It reminded me somewhat of the story that had just come out about the Apple/Winstron worker riots in India. I think most consumers would be aghast at getting their $1000+ electronics through slave labor, but put enough subcontractors logistically between the endpoints and it seems good enough for U.S. capitalism and its consumers.

So far, I'm leaning to keeping sterilization as I much rather have 2% versus 20%+ euthanization rates, plus I think the international aspect of adoption can always be massaged toward a more humane place with proper regulation and government oversight.The USDA already does with food and animal products from abroad.

I have an open mind about this subject so I'll be interested in reading the rest of the series as they come out.

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Not sure where you and Moose live, but in California, especially metro areas, we are overloaded with dogs in shelters. Public shelters are almost all kill shelters. While all breeds eventually come through a shelter, they are mostly filled with pits and pit mixes, and chihuahuas. Overbred and abandoned on the streets to breed some more. Sterilization is really necessary to help control the overpopulation and euthanizing.

Rescue groups who deal with puppy mills generally get adult dogs who can no longer breed, and puppies who can’t be sold. These dogs would normally be killed.

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I live in relatively-rural France.

Neutering pets is not the norm here, and while there _are_ too many puppies to be adopted, feral cats are a more serious problem (populations swell, they kill much of the local wildlife and attack pets, and lead miserable, short lives), human infection rates with toxoplasmosis are startlingly high, and it'd be much more valuable to convince more people to sterilize.

This is an interesting read, but it really does feel like only limited parts of the US have gotten past the point of "way too many freely breeding animals" to the *much easier & less awful problems* of "finally breeding isn't our of control".

Getting a pet is still a large responsibility that is still very commonly underestimated. The best approach is not likely to be "tell all English-speaking readers around the world to let their pets breed."

I haven't researched this myself; but please please get real stats on eg how many puppies are coming from overseas, vs how many are from other sources, and do not encourage any decisions based on tiny percentages.

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I am the cofounder and photographer for Who Will Let The Dogs Out, a non-profit under Operation Paws For Homes working to bring attention to the plight of unwanted and forgotten dogs especially in the rural South. I have visited many, many shelters and old school styled pounds and can say without any doubt there is NO shortage of adoptable puppies and dogs. To the contrary, the South is overrun with more than they can care for and dogs are still being killed every single day. Spay and neuter programs would help and upstanding rescues are working hard but are simply not enough. The idea that spay and neuter has created a shortage of puppies is something I have heard is true in Canada but here in the US there are so many places where people don't even give their dogs minimal care like food or shelter...places where it is legal to keep your dog on a chain outside 24/7. Spay and neuter programs are a part of a solution to their problem not a cause of their poor welfare.

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Katie said that this series would be even more contentious than other social justice issues and the comments are good evidence of that.

There are some interesting critiques here in the comments, but to the people who labeled this article "unhelpful," I think it's important to understand that in a long series on a particular topic, each individual chapter will not cover the entire picture.

It is possible for the modern rescues to be swamped *and also* for the current situation to be orders of magnitude less horrifying and cruel than drowning a hundreds of dogs per day in a big city like NYC.

I would love to read more about how people working in the rescue field feel about it, and I would love to see how their anecdotal evidence compares to what things were like in the 70s.

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Spend some time taking in foster dogs from the San Antonio Texas city shelter. There is a network all over the country desperately trying to save dogs scheduled from euthanasia ... daily. I was on the emergency foster list, taking in dogs that were literally rescued on the day they were scheduled and the requests I received every damn day were frantic. Yes, many of these dogs ended up on a transport to places like Massachusetts, Colorado, or Canada where there is a demand for rescues. But I can tell you San Antonio and nearby areas are overrun with abandoned and stray dogs (many are American Staffordshire terrier mixes). I didn't read the link you provided but I wonder what's in it for rescue organizations to bid on puppy mill dogs? Something about that smells like a wet dog. I also worked in Austin's no-kill shelter system and I can assure you, none of the dogs for rescue were puppy mill dogs. Again many were American Staffordshire terrier mixes and the cages were always full to the brink. While I agree that we need to revisit the de-sexing of our pets, I take great exception to this piece. Come spend some time in S. Texas or many other areas of this country where there are way too many abandoned and stray dogs. Your article doesn't help the situation!

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Q: can dogs get vasectomies or tubes tied?

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Minor quibble - instead of feral (which isn't entirely inaccurate) a better term might be 'free roaming'. That would include the ferals, the owned-but-not-contained, and the various points between. Might also be important to point out that dogs fill more roles than just 'pet/companion.'

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The places you mention with “responsible dog owners” still have shortages of puppies and dogs, though. I know two people who live in Sweden and adopted rescue dogs from other countries (Russia and Spain). It seems like you are insinuating that since they are responsible owners and don’t spay or neuter they don’t have the same problems but they still do!

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If saving the environment and nature necessitates rescuing pets from the hands of people who dont care about dog testicles and the rights of pets, so be it. It's essentially the same people anyway. There is a vast, psychopathic, careless, brutal human mindset about life and nature which is utterly warped and which sadly many people have, one which sees everything around them as a means to an end and which sees everything not created by them in their image as something to be beaten down and leveled and sterilized and processed into one cosmology of beige and green. I know this kind of person quite well. They only respect nature when it is convenient for them and beneficial for them to do so. If it is inconvenient for them, they destroy it without a second thought. Many live vicariously through their pets as a substitute for the children they are afraid to raise because they know they wouldn't be able to control them. Such people shouldnt be allowed to obtain or own pets either, it constitutes abuse.

Mutilating an animal is never morally acceptable. The reasons given for mutilating animals are essentially just a continuation to the reasoning that is used to justify all the other cruel and senseless acts these same people do. It would be just as effective to give the dogs vasectomies and similar surgury that drastically reduces the potential for inconvenient reproduction, without taking away the satisfaction of sex, and the possibility of one day reproducing. And if the animal is a threat, mutilating it is not the answer. Put the animal down. It is the most empathic option.

The life satisfaction of a dog, which serves and loves unconditionally, is more valuable than that of a human being. I hope one day all humans are forced to recognize that.

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