EDITORIAL: Why This Washington Post Columnist Needs a Reality Check

The headline was everything a rescue group doesn’t want to see: Why I’d Never Adopt a Shelter Dog Again.

 

It went downhill from there. The writer, Erin Auerbach, had adopted several dogs from shelters over the years, including a Boston Terrier and a pug. They eventually got sick and – stop the presses – over the years (in once case after a decade) all three eventually died. Apparently this was a shocking development to Erin. She came to the conclusion shelter dogs are inherently more prone to illness and to die prematurely. So now she will only get a dog from a breeder.

 

This pure-bred Borzoi found himself in rescue through no fault of his own. We think he's awesome.

This pure-bred Borzoi found himself in rescue through no fault of his own. We think he's awesome.

Good luck with that. While many breeders are conscientious about studying pedigrees and trying to breed healthy, long-lived dogs, that is certainly not always the case. Even with careful breeding, there is no guarantee that just because a dog has papers from a breeder it will live a long life. In many cases the AKC's official "breed standards" contribute to the dogs' health issues. A glaring example are the short-nosed breeds' respiratory issues that are so common now most airlines refuse them passage. Congenital diseases from over-breeding have plagued some of the most popular breeds, like the Golden Retrievers and Great Danes. And everyone in the Sighthound world has seen the devastation that osteosarcoma has caused in Greyhounds.

 

Erin Auerbach also seems to have missed the fact that MANY of the dogs ending up in shelters started life out as a breeder’s success with papers attesting to their lineage and pedigree. They ended in the shelter any way due to the variety of misfortunes that seem too common for even the best-bred dog today. Check out Petfinder. Look at the hundreds – thousands – of wonderful, healthy, beautiful dogs waiting for homes.

 

To recap, just like people dogs will get illnesses, particularly as they age, and you will have to take them to the vet. Because they don’t live as long as humans, you will have to watch them age and eventually pass away. It is the price we pay to enjoy the love of a dog. Pedigree is no insurance policy.

 

We offer Erin our condolences on her losses over the years. And we wish her the best of luck with her new purebred pup . . . but we also hope that what readers take from her story is the companionship she felt for her dogs and the love they shared over the years. When her new pup inevitably gets sick or just old, we hope that Erin will revisit her column. Dogs don't come with guarantees, and neither do people. If Erin gets sick or hurt and can't take care of her new pup he might find himself with a rescue or in a shelter, too. And he'll be just as a great a dog as he is now.

 

The Washington Post is a powerful platform for a writer and with that power comes responsibility. We understand Erin's desire to defend her decision to purchase a dog, but discouraging the public from adoption is not the responsible thing to do.

15 Responses

  1. That is completely ridiculous. I share your sympathy for her, but her experience has nothing to do with where she got her dogs. The only real potential for surprises with a shelter pet is that it’s difficult to judge how old they might be if they ended up in the shelter as adults with no back story.

  2. Juli

    I couldn’t agree more with your assessment. I have been involved with greyhound adoption and retired racing greyhounds for nearly 15 years, getting all of my critters from the GPAHouston rescue group here in Houston. I have owned 4 dogs, all female. The two that have passed on have died of Kidney Failure, they were both 11.5 years. My vet speculated the kidney failure is from all the hormones they were pumped full of when they were racing and I agree. The two I have now are young, 4.5 & 3.5 years and my Vet and myself are already on the watch for any unusual numbers with the blood chems, previous experience breeds cautious oversight. All of my dogs have been pure bred, 100% greyhounds with a long, long lineage of 100% greyhound sire & dams.
    Quite frankly, if one owns a dog, regardless of breed, that is over 10 years old, that person owns a senior dog. One cannot accept going to a shelter and adopting a dog and expect it to live longer than a decade. This sounds harsh, but it is reality. Sometimes animals come into a shelter and their age is unknown. As you know, especially with those lovely critters you bring over from Spain & Qatar, sometimes the age is simply a good guess, sometimes it’s a bad guess and sometimes it’s anybody’s guess.
    You’re completely correct; the Washington Post is an extremely powerful platform and not appropriate for reckless disregard and abandon. I have to wonder if the author really sat down and thought about the possible ramifications the published article could cause, other than getting their name under the byline. There are a lot of first time critter owners that will now think: “Wow, I want a dog, but that gal in the Washington Post said that all rescue dogs are bad”. And then, and this is my huge worry, rather than adopting a perfectly wonderful ball of love from a shelter, they go and buy a ball of love from a Puppy farm, thus propagating another issue that, in my opinion, is even more cruel & heartless than nearly every other option.
    I guess this is my long winded way of saying “Ditto”!

  3. Cindy

    It’s shocking that WP would publish such an article. Where’s their editorial board?

  4. Vicki Stone

    I hope you write a letter to the editor as well as other rescue groups. What you said is very well written and should be published

  5. Mark Stephenson

    So True

  6. Bonnie Mayo

    I do hope you wrote all of this in a letter to the Editor at the Washington Post! It is actually an irresponsible stance the columnist has taken – dooming the dogs from future adoption – if people buy into her nonsense…

  7. Paul Kelly

    I sometimes wounder about people. We are born live and then die is THE basic fact of living in all plants and animals. To suggest that a purebred is likely to live longer than any other dog from anywhere is of course nonsense. That is assuming the animal has not been badly mistreated and hence damaged in some way. I have been breeding pure bred dogs for sixty years and I also have taken rescues during that time there is no apparent difference except that genetic faults in pure bred dogs are now unfortunately all to common. Again it is a fact that F1 hybrids are in general stronger and indeed healthier than pure bred is a biological fact but there is no hard and fast rule. Big dogs tend not to live as long as smaller ones. Border Collies seem to live for ever! I have had them at 18/20 years old. It is wrong to suggest that shelter dogs are in any way inferior to any other they are not it is just like us life style, genetics and the luck of the draw.

  8. Sallie

    Well said and beautifully and carefully written. Appreciate your getting the point across without being hateful , hope you send this in to the paper in response.

  9. David

    Maybe when Erin is too old to care for herself, and in diapers, her family will put her in a senior housing facility, the human equivalent of an animal shelter.

  10. Well said and well written! It seems to me that this person gave no thought to the impact of their article, which was, at best, ill-conceived… What a ridiculous thing for them to say! Your response certainly needs to be published and made available far and wide…

  11. Calm down folks…this “chick” works for the Washington Post! They only hire Obama voters and other low information , morons. Why on earth would you expect her article to make any sense.’So a bunch of people , near DC who BELIEVE the Post will not adopt your dogs…Thank God, if they listened to her , they are idiots and should not have a dog. So, in actuality, this is probably a good thing.
    I really promote Greyhound Adoption and I feel better knowing they are safe from Erin Auerbach!

  12. Julie

    This is frustrating for me as I an Obama Voter as well as a scientist and a greyhound supporter.

    I understand the point, just wish it wasn’t done at my own expense. It’s like I just opened this wonderfully wrapped gift only to find out it contains horse poo or anthrax.

  13. M

    That’s funny Patti had to make it political. No blogs go without political comments somehow! I do agree with everyone else though. Love my not-sick rescued dog.

  14. Cheryl Rosa

    Check out Ms. Auerbach’s previous publication: http://www.salon.com/2012/10/02/i_hope_my_dogs_die_soon/
    Lovely. SHUG: Thanks for the above– it is great and expresses your point in a very professional manner.

    If the Washington Post is using articles like Ms Auerbach’s as “click bait” they should be ashamed of themselves. Lower than low.

  15. Michelle

    I disagree with this statement: “Erin Auerbach also seems to have missed the fact that MANY of the dogs ending up in shelters started life out as a breeder’s success with papers attesting to their lineage and pedigree.” -They did not come from responsible breeders. The vast majority of purebreds in shelters do not come from the kind of breeders like the one the author got her dog from. RESPONSIBLE breeders sell their dogs on contracts that require their return. Mixed breeds outnumber purebreds in shelters. I breed a very rare breed and aside from doing so responsibly, I also run their national rescue program to make sure anytime that breed ends up in a shelter, we can work with the shelter to get it into one of our foster homes so there is no risk of the dog being adopted to a poorly screened home or euthanized. Shelters are more than happy to turn their purebreds over to groups like mine because it means they have more room for intake. They have to euthanize less. That means there are EVEN FEWER purebreds in shelters than there already were. I support rescue 100%. I also support responsible breeders.

Leave a comment