Puppy mill dogs as the Sad Story Dog

puppy mills 1This past week I read a really great piece that was posted on Facebook by 4Paws University. It was a powerful message and one that seemed to resonate with people (it had over 900 shares, 930+ “Likes,” and so many comments I had to quit counting. You can read the actual posting here:  BONE TO PICK: THE RUSH TO ADOPT THE SAD STORY DOG.)

The post has to do with America’s penchant for the “sad story dog.” You know the dogs I am talking about, the ones that come from a sad situation, get shared in the media, and generate a mass swelling of people who want to adopt the dog and “save” them. It happens time and time again.

You and I have both seen those individual stories of that one dog who was abused and saved, or the dog who ended up in a serious, life-threatening situation and suddenly needed a home. But the most common situation you and I see is the one where there is a mass rush to adopt a dog after it has been rescued during a puppy mill raid.  Stories like these make the local (and sometimes national) news. The pictures and video are usually heart-rending. People follow the story closely. When the dogs are ready to be adopted, there is usually a big media campaign to let people know about them and to encourage them to adopt.

None of this by itself is bad, but what gets missed is that some of the people wanting to “save” the dogs involved in the sad dog story are not always the “right person” for the dog and his/her needs. People who are drawn to a hard-luck story may be motivated by different reasons, and not all of them are motivated by the right reasons.

Oh yeah, that is the spot. #maggie #SheltieWhen foster Maggie and her fellow puppy mill friends were rescued, there was a lot of media attention around the raid and the care of the dogs. The facility that cared for them was flooded with adoption requests. I could not help but wonder the motivations of those who wanted to adopt a puppy mill dog. It wasn’t like this facility didn’t have dogs available for adoption before the raid, or that they ran out of dogs after the raid. So what motivated the people to adopt when they had not done so before? Was it the hard luck story? Did they see themselves as the hero in that story (rushing in to “save” the dog)? Or, did they want a certain breed that was rescued in the raid? Were they already looking for a dog and this just happened to be the right moment? Or, did they just act on impulse and get a dog with a story?

All too often we are motivated by the sad story dog without knowing a lot about what a commitment it is or whether the dog is a good fit for our family or lifestyle. Too many of these dogs are getting swooped up by emotion and being left behind by reality. Some of Maggie’s fellow puppy mill survivors have been re-homed, lost or discarded because the people adopting them did not know what they were getting into. They did not understand that the sad story dog they were getting was one that required work, time, patience and in many cases, another dog, to help them to start to live a normal life.

As adopters, we need to take more time to do our research. It’s great that people are excited and want to help by adopting a sad story dog, but we need to understand our motivations for adopting and recognize if it is a good fit. As rescuers, we need to be more diligent about who adopts a sad story dog. Rescuing a dog from a sad situation is not enough. We need to make sure that where they land is the safe landing we want for them too.

Sad story dogs will continue to come along. We just need to be prepared to ask the questions that will ensure it lands in the right home.

  1. fredrieka
    March 24, 2015 at 7:46 AM

    Momwithoutpaws knows this all too well, how hard it is to train, nurture a dog, puppy mill dogs all to often even have more issues. BonBon being a senior pup of 10 and spent 2 years in a shelter is taking longer than I did. She sometimes acts as if she is a feral dog, pulling away head down tail between her legs. Does not take much for her to feel uncomfortable even though she has been with us for 5 months. It is hard work for Momwithoutpaws satisfying work, she loves the little things that happens which shows there is progress.

  2. March 24, 2015 at 8:38 AM

    I just love our Oakville & Milton Humane Society (where Ray was staying before he adopted us). They assess the potential “parents” and will decline an adoption request if they are not comfortable with the match. I really admire them for that because the adoption fee is a significant part of their income! I have witnessed a young couple being declined because the “cute little Husky pup” was expected to live in a hi-rise apartment. Another decline was a man who worked 12hr days and was away at weekends! It is sad that it takes a 3rd party to break through the “such an adorable puppy” syndrome and put things into a humane perspective for the potential dog owners.

  3. March 24, 2015 at 9:07 AM

    You have been so wonderful with Maggie. I would hope all rescuers would do the same, but they probably don’t.

  4. Kim M
    March 24, 2015 at 10:23 AM

    I think some places do not do enough whwn adopting. Usually places like the Humane Society do not really do anything about adopting to ensure people adopting know what they are getting into. Sometimes people need help in finding what dog is a good match for them. I do not think just turning away people is a good idea either. If people took the time to help people find a good match for them that is better. I also in my search for my pug puppy say some rescues that were a little crazy on their side for looking for a home. There needs to be a more happy medium in my opinion. I know a acquaintance was looking for a dog and had one in mind but after talking with the rescue they helped him find another breed that was more suitable to him and once he learned more he understood and is now has a new doggie that fits his lifestyle better but if the first rescue he went too just told him NO he may not have looked at this other breed. Peolle sometimes just need more education to help find the best fit for them.

  5. Earth Whisperer Conservation
    March 24, 2015 at 11:04 AM

    This is an accurate depiction of what is routine, emotional action. There should be a mandatory waiting period, a cooling off , between the time one fills out the paper work and picks up their newly adopted dog. Great post!

  6. March 24, 2015 at 11:44 PM

    Those puppy mill rescues are so heart wrenching and i know I always wish I could adopt one or more of those poor little dogs. But I know that they may require a lot more training and socialization that I have time for, so I haven’t ever adopted one. I have donated to help with their expenses though. I do think that the adoptive parents of puppy mill dogs should be checked extra carefully and a cooling off or waiting period is probably a really good idea. I did adopt a rescue dog, but he was 11 and had been in the same home all his life.

  7. March 25, 2015 at 12:08 AM

    I always worry about the same thing!

  8. March 25, 2015 at 6:14 AM

    Good point well made

  9. March 25, 2015 at 8:27 AM

    Well stated.

  10. March 25, 2015 at 9:27 AM

    Awesome article Mel and so spot on. This makes me think of the all the attention that the dog Shaggy is getting. I bet they are super flooded with requests for him to be adopted but it seems like the place that has him now is very aware that he has a long road of rehabilitation ahead of him so hopefully that will weed out the ones who just want to be a hero and SAVE the dog that is getting headlines right now.

    • March 25, 2015 at 9:35 AM

      The “aura” around rescued dogs is interesting. People comment favorably re us rescuing Ray but we have to tell them that we simply adopted him. It was our local Humane Society that rescued him. So many people seem to miss out on that basic piece of logic i.e. he had already been rescued long before we met him.

  11. March 25, 2015 at 2:13 PM

    This is such a good post on a topic that is not addressed often. I think the temptation to “save” and “fix” a dog is really strong and the disillusionment a year later when people realize that they have a dog that will require a lifetime of sacrifice and management is equally strong. Just this week I talked to 2 separate people who had adopted dogs with behavioral issues that went far beyond their ability to handle, because the dog was on a list to be euthanized and they couldn’t bear it… It is especially sad because on any given day it would be easy to find a dog in need who really fit their home perfectly and was a good match. I really appreciate rescues who are very particular about their adoption guidelines. I know it makes people upset, but bottom line is that experienced foster coordinators usually know what they are doing when they so “no” and they have learned the hard way what happens when they send a dog to a home that they aren’t sure is a good match.

  12. March 26, 2015 at 3:25 PM

    Rescues are often criticized for being overly picky about their potential adopters, but the average person just doesn’t realize what a true rescue dog has been through, and what it might take to rehabilitate it. I have two rescues – a reactive border jack pulled from a high-kill shelter and a former street dog from the Bahamas. They both have their sad stories, but through love and patience and a commitment to them that some might label “crazy dog lady,” we are our own happy story now. Thanks for such a great post – I linked back to it in my own about rescue today: http://myrubicondays.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-meaning-of-rescue.html

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