The National Dog Show: A Reminder that 5,500 Dogs Die in U.S. Shelters Every Day

News stories are pouring in about the National Dog Show, an American Kennel Club-sanctioned and Purina-sponsored event. It’s set to air on NBC tomorrow afternoon on Thanksgiving.

One source proclaims that the show reaffirms that dogs “are the best pets ever,” while another post cited actor, author, and show commentator John O’Hurley saying that its full of “unadulterated fun.”

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According to the NY Daily News, 20 million Americans tune in for the broadcast every year, and the show’s televised spot is strategically placed for optimal audience engagement. It comes right before T-Day football games and right after Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (which has its own dose of controversy with SeaWorld’s float and Joan Jett’s boot off South Dakota’s float).

“There is no other day or time that the show would have more success,” said Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network, to the New York Post. “It’s the perfect day to celebrate the family being together, and dogs are family members.”

While Thanksgiving is a “perfect day” to celebrate all family members, even our four-legged ones, the types of family members that the National Dog Show is advertising are purebred dogs – no mixed breed dogs are allowed to perform in the show.

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And what so many stories are sorely missing is this piece of the puzzle – that by promoting the idea of the “purebred dog,” the National Dog Show is doing a grand disservice to the millions of animals that enter the shelter system every year — thousands of which (5,500 dogs, to be exact) die each day in the U.S.

Even though not every household can take in a dog, a good portion of U.S. families still choose to purchase a pooch instead of adopting one from a local rescue or shelter. As a result, many dogs who are healthy and adoptable lose out on the chance of sharing their lives with loving families.

Puppy mills do play a large role in perpetuating the cycle of high shelter intakes and euthanasia rates, and they are easy to speak out against because of their clearly inhumane conditions, but they are not the only problem.

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National Dog Show pooches might not come from filthy puppy mill operations, but they do come from American Kennel Club registered breeders – many of whom are considered “responsible” and take good care of their dogs. The show dog guardians themselves are usually great big animals lovers too and would never do anything to hurt their companions.

But the underlying question remains: why are we breeding dogs when so many live and die in shelters every year?

There are certainly plenty of answers to this question, all of which will most likely highlight this basic idea in some form: that there is still a demand for purebred dogs, so it has to be met somehow, and if it can be met humanely, why not?

Yet this mentality (perhaps, unintentionally) shelves dogs as commodities, products that we can produce (or in this case, reproduce) simply because we “want” a particular kind – fluffy, hairless, tall, or small.

However, this demand is not sustainable, and if we don’t lessen it, millions more shelter dogs will continue to die needlessly in the years to come. So, let’s be a part of the solution – adopt, don’t shop — your rescued pooch will thank you.

Image source: Srinayan Puppala / Wikipedia Commons