By Dr. Becker
It’s National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day, and I recently read about a really cute and creative way one shelter in California is increasing dog adoptions.
About a quarter of the dogs housed at any given time at the Peninsula Humane Society and SPCA in Burlingame, CA are some version of Chihuahua. I’ve written about California’s Chihuahua overpopulation problem in the past. Five or six years ago, it was pit bull mixes, but Chihuahuas have taken them over.
With so many Chis and Chi mixes at the shelter, as you can imagine, it’s quite a challenge to make each one stand out from the crowd to increase his or her chances for adoption.
Who’s Your Daddy?
Scott Delucci, the shelter’s senior vice president, came up with a plan: DNA testing. He began offering free DNA tests, and launched the shelter’s “Who’s Your Daddy?” campaign to increase adoptions of Chihuahua-esque dogs.
The $50 test gives prospective and new adoptive families a little background on the breeds contained in their tiny new pet, and what traits they might expect to see. As an added bonus, the tests also provide inspiration to shelter employees to come up with clever “designer” breed names that as it turns out, really help increase adoption rates. In fact, the DNA-tested dogs are being placed with new forever families twice as fast as they were before the testing program began.
A few examples:
- A Chihuahua-Australian Shepherd-Jack Russell Terrier-Collie mix became a “Kiwi Collier”
- A Yorkie-Beagle mix became a “Yorkle”
- A Golden Retriever-Miniature Pinscher-Chihuahua mix became a “Golden Chinscher”
- A Chihuahua-American Eskimo-Miniature Schnauzer mix became an “Alaskan Chowzer”
DNA-Tested Dogs Are Quickly Finding New Families to Love
In February, the shelter DNA-tested a dozen dogs that looked very much alike. Eleven of the 12 (one test was inconclusive) were combinations of breeds the facility had never seen before. All 11 tested dogs were in new homes within two weeks, which was twice as fast as any 11 untested small brown dogs had been placed in previous months.
So the shelter DNA tested another dozen dogs, and as soon as those are placed, 24 more will undergo testing, which involves just a simple cheek swab.
In the first two sets of tests, only 10 of the 23 dogs had no discernible Chihuahua in them.
The Number of Homeless Small Dogs in California Is Alarming
The Who’s Your Daddy promotion has helped an impressive number of little dogs, but Delucchi believes it will take more than that to reduce the disturbing number of Chihuahua and Chi mixes entering the shelter. He believes a low-cost or free spay-neuter program out in the community needs to be implemented as well.
Also, the Peninsula shelter and others in California continue to work with shelters in states like Florida and New York that have a shortage of small dogs available for adoption.
Delucchi plans to continue his Who’s Your Daddy promotion until funds run out.
12 Great Reasons to Adopt Your Next Pet from a Shelter
- Every dog or cat not purchased from a pet store or backyard breeder improves the pet overpopulation problem created by irresponsibility and greed.
- Adopting a dog or cat from a no-kill shelter can free up space for older or special needs pets that may not find new homes before the end of their natural lives.
- There are plenty of animals to choose from at most shelters. They come in every age, shape, size, coat color, and breed mix, and you can find purebreds at shelters as well. In fact, many breeds have their own rescue organizations, so if you're looking for a purebred, make sure to check both your local shelter and breed rescue organization.
- Compared to the cost of purchasing a pet, adopting one from an animal shelter is relatively inexpensive. And if you get a slightly older dog or cat, there's a good chance he is already fully vaccinated and neutered.
- Adopting an older pet allows you to skip over the time consuming, often frustrating puppy or kitten stage of development.
- Adopting a mature dog or cat also takes the guesswork out of determining what your pet will look like as an adult – what size she'll grow to, the thickness and color of her coat and her basic temperament, for example.
- Depending on his background, your older pet may already be housebroken or litter box trained and know basic obedience commands like come, sit, stay, and down.
- Most shelters and rescue organizations do assessments on every new pet taken in, to determine things like temperament, whether the pet has any aversion to other pets or people, whether he is housebroken, has had obedience training, etc. Many of these organizations also have resources to help pets with lack of training or behavioral issues. So when you adopt a pet from one of these organizations, you have a pretty good idea what to expect from your new dog or cat when you bring him home.
- Many shelters and rescues also provide lots of new owner support in the form of materials about training, common behavior problems, nutrition, basic grooming, and general care. In some cases there are even free hotlines you can call for questions on behavior, training, and other concerns.
- If you have kids, and especially if the new pet will belong to a child, adopting a shelter animal can open a young person's eyes to the plight of homeless pets. It can also help him learn compassion and responsibility, as well as how wonderful it feels to provide a forever home to a pet that might otherwise live life in a cage, or be euthanized.
- An older adoptive pet can be the perfect companion for an older person. Many middle-aged and senior dogs and cats require less physical exertion and attention than younger animals.
- An adopted pet can enrich your life in ways both big and small. The unconditional love and loyalty of a dog or cat can lift depression, ease loneliness, lower blood pressure, and give you a reason to get up in the morning. A kitty asleep in your lap feels warm and comforting. A dog that loves to walk or run outdoors can be just the incentive you need to start exercising regularly.
There are countless benefits to pet ownership, and when you know you saved your furry companion from an unpleasant fate, it makes the bond you share that much more meaningful.