Why Can’t You Keep Your Dog?

Are people surrendering all dogs, large dogs or JUST MOSTLY PYRENEES?

If you check many national humane organizations, they say there is no crisis in animal rescue. According to a May 31 article in the New York Times, “monthly reports from PetPoint, a website that aggregates data from 1,100 animal welfare organizations in the U.S., suggest that while shelters have experienced an increase in pets coming in, their numbers are merely returning to levels reported before the pandemic.”

Whether that is true or, not, the Best Friends organization now says that of July 14 there are 100,000 more dogs and cats in U.S. shelters compared to this time last year. From the numbers we’re seeing, it seems that Pyrenees are especially hard hit by this increase.

Or maybe it’s not just Great Pyrenees. An article in SF Gate in May reports that large dogs in the Bay area are ending up in shelters at a higher rate. Oakland Animal Services (OAS) reports an “unprecedented” number of large dogs and the blame for this has shifted from pandemic returns to the economy. Ann Dunn, Director of OAS services, says “It’s not people going back to work and not [being] able to keep their pets. It’s really people who just financially can’t afford them.”

So if now more large dogs need rescue, is it possible that even more large guardian dogs need rescue? According to Petfinder.com, there are 2800 Great Pyrenees now needing homes across the country. True, there are other breeds who need homes whose numbers are higher—18,000 Labrador Retrievers and 8,000 German Shepherds. But Pyrenees rank nowhere near as high on the AKC’s popularity list of breeds. Labrador Retrievers rank #1 and GSDs #4, while Great Pyrenees come in at #66. With less interest in the breed, adopters are harder to find. A thoughtful post on Facebook from the Carolinas Pyr Rescue addresses the concerns and pressure this large number of dogs puts on breed rescues.

The first problem is overbreeding. It’s being said “We can’t rescue them as fast as you are breeding them.” Sad but true. There are an overwhelming number of puppies, in addition to adults, who need to be rehomed right now and rescues can’t take them all. The second problem is identifying homes suitable for adopting this breed and unfortunately, there aren’t all that many. Capacity is yet another serious issue—rescues can only take in a limited number of dogs. Dogs need to be assessed and cared for and resources are limited. Fewer fosters are stepping up to the plate. Most rescues can’t take on dogs with known behavioral issues. Maybe a behavioral problem is fixable and then again, maybe it isn’t. No rescue wants to euthanize a dog we take in so dogs with behavioral issues are less likely to be accepted into rescue. The bottom line, which many people don’t understand, is this: the owner is the person ultimately responsible for their dog. When we are contacted about dogs needing rescue because of behavioral issues (which is the majority of surrender requests) we direct owners to the best resources we know for managing that behavior. There are now more training resources than ever. We recommend two excellent trainers, familiar with the breed, who work remotely on our nationalpyr.org/training-tips page. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the path that many owners are willing to travel down.

So here we are. The owner surrender forms and the Facebook messages about dogs urgently needing to be surrendered come in every day. Pyrs, because of their size (one big dog can take up the kennel space of two mid-size dogs) and independent attitude, are on the kill list at many shelters. Adoptions are down significantly. We have to wonder: if this is the way things are now and if the economy worsens, how will it be in the future? If there’s less demand, will there be less breeding? Will that level the playing field? Similar to the adoption surge of 2020 that came and went, will this surge in surrenders pass? Pry rescues feel besieged and stretched to our utmost limits. If you can help any rescue by fostering, adopting or donating, that will be greatly appreciated. Otherwise, all we can do now is wait and hope things improve.