Pet Food Institute Backs Puppy Breeding Program to Keep Supply of New Customers Growing

While reading this month’s Pet Business magazine, I came across an article called (prophetically), Dying in the Lap of Luxury. What the article explained, was that there would be shortage of puppies if the industry didn’t pull together and support the work of puppy breeding programs. One program in particular was mentioned, Purdue’s Dog-Breeding Standards Program, sponsored by, among others, the Pet Food Institute.

Incredibly, the author suggests, that unless something is done, America will “run out” of puppies in 10 years.


Run out? I was astonished. I wondered, had they been to an animal shelter lately? How many millions of puppies are killed every year for lack of people to adopt them?

My mind wandered back to the day I witness dozens of euthanized dogs and cats being picked up by a dump truck at an animal shelter I worked at in Santa Rosa, California. The image was forever burned in my memory. Their stiff corpses, their tails now frozen, that once used to wag with delight upon seeing me.

They told me not to look, and as soon as I did, I knew there had to be a reason for witnessing such a horror.


When the author warns that,“the U.S. does not have the politics or infrastructure in place to meet the demand for puppies over the next 10 years, and given our current course, we are three to five years away from a shortage of puppies,” I wanted to scream.

A shortage of puppies? A shortage?

The author describes a “doomsday scenario” where there will be a “catastrophe in the pet population,” unless breeders get cracking and start pumping out more puppies to meet consumer demand. They predict that with 88.5 million pet dogs in the U.S. with an average canine lifespan of 11 years, “we would need nearly eight million new dogs each year just to keep the pet population at its current level.” And that based on the expected rate of growth, “we will need an additional seven million dogs by 2025.”


I was stunned. The author never suggests looking at the vast surplus of pets already in animal shelters across the U.S., where more than 5,000 shelter dogs are killed every day in the United States. Millions have to be euthanized every years for lack of adoptive pet parents. To me, that is catastrophic.

Every animal that waits in vain for a new home, will inevitably experience their day of their doom when it comes at the end of a needle. The doomsday scenario the author is fearful of, the lack of a healthy supply of puppies for their stores, pales in comparison to the tragedy of beautiful living creatures put to death because of human carelessness.


According to the estimates, approximately 7.6 million dogs and cats are dumped at animal shelters nationwide every year. And each year, because there aren’t enough people willing to adopt instead of buy a pet approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized. Of the dogs entering shelters, approximately 35% are adopted, 31% are euthanized.

By my calculation, if the specialty pet retailers claim they will need an additional seven million dogs by 2025, that could easily met in those nine years, because during that time approximately 10.8 million dogs will be euthanized.


“It all adds up to an expectation that we will need 87 million new dogs to keep up with demand,” the pet industry analyst points out, “the industry is woefully underprepared to meet it.”

He complains this is largely due to American’s abhorrence of cruelty inherent in puppy mill breeding operations: “That is due in no small part to the political climate surrounding the commercial breeding and sale of dogs.” Is it any wonder considering the pictures sent rescuers at puppy mill farms, where frightened dogs shiver in the cold with matted fur, peering from cages encrusted with filth.


Anyone who has seen the fear in the eyes of a dog in one of those horrible places, can ever forget them. Those images have raised America’s consciousness, putting an end any semblance of respectability of dog breeders. They have burned an indelible image into the minds of consumers who now understand what buying a puppy from a store can mean: That they could unwittingly be supporting an unspeakably cruel and unethical trade.

Consider, that with the purchase of a single puppy means that somewhere in America a homeless puppy in a shelter will not be adopted. And it will have to die, because someone preferred to buy a puppy from a breeder instead of adopt one of the millions of dogs already waiting for a forever home.


“An increasing number of local pet sale bans and a steady decline in the number of commercial breeders have undoubtedly decreased the supply of healthy, well-bred puppies available in the marketplace, and without some intervention, the trend shows no sign of slowing…”

The author suggests that pet specialty retailers consider “supporting some of the industry organizations that are actively trying to help increase the supply of healthy, well-bred puppies from responsible, accountable sources.”

“For example, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, Pet Food Institute and World Pet Association are currently funding an initiative at Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science to develop a uniform set of standards for commercial breeders.”


Hopefully,  the author points out, that “projects like this will go a long way in stopping what could ultimately be a disaster for the entire industry.”

A disaster?

The disaster – or rather the tragedy is – that there are people who’s thoughtless and thoroughly selfish need for the status is so desperate that they feel it can only be satisfied by the possession of a pure bred puppy. I wonder, if owning a pure bred dog gives them the same smug sense of pride they feel when they drive past the less fortunate in a brand new car.


Breeding is an abhorrent practice as long as millions of dogs languish in shelters, on cold cement floors, waiting for a home, a caress, a kindness, that for most, will never come. They will be euthanized and thrown away like trash, while their lifeless bodies stuffed in garbage bags lie frozen waiting to be picked up. A dump truck will come for them and they’ll be hauled off like garbage, to renderers who swear they don’t end up in pet food. Instead, the renderers say their cooked remains will feed fish half a world away.


Is this how the pet food industry honors the animals they claim to love? By supporting breeding programs?

With their support they are sanctioning and contributing to pet overpopulation. What happens with the surplus of pets? The puppies that grow up, the ones that never got picked?

An animal welfare association estimates that, “Of the 3 million cats and dogs euthanized in shelters each year, approximately 2.4 million (80%) are healthy and treatable and could have been adopted into new homes. Percentage of purebred dogs in shelters: 25%. Number cats and dogs adopted from shelters each year: 4 million.”

“If just one of every five Americans wanting to add a cat or dog to their family in the next year adopted from a shelter or rescue, not one single healthy, treatable cat or dog would lose his or her life in a shelter.”

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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, the author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and consumer advisor. Help support her work by making a donation today.

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