Recently, an acquaintance ended up with some “accident puppies,” as they’re so euphemistically called when someone’s dog has puppies because they just haven’t gotten her spayed yet. When I offered to tap my rescue network if he had difficulties finding homes for the puppies, he said, “Oh, they’re part lab. People love labs here, so I’m sure there won’t be any problem finding them homes.”
Sadly, this kind of thinking pervades all corners of the backyard breeder world – a dog breed is popular, so therefore it won’t end up euthanized in a shelter. Black Labrador retrievers are among the dogs most commonly impacted by this thinking. The plight of some breeds is state-specific, such as California’s Chihuahua problem.
Popular breeds in the shelter population
Numerous sources rank black labs as the most popular dog in the United States. Labs and lab mixes are also the most common in virtually every shelter. Because of their huge popularity, a lot of people acquire puppies – or breed them – without any real knowledge of the breed. Backyard breeders allow puppies to be born that aren’t yet spoken for by qualified owners, and often without any parental health checks or prenatal care.
The really tragic part about popular dog breeds in shelters is, many times, the puppy breeders don’t care, because they do find homes for their pups. Then, because there were no home checks or other such screenings for potential owners, a huge number of those pups end up in a shelter somewhere between 9 months and 18 months of age. For a black lab, this is their “teenage stage” of development – they’re no longer cute puppies, and the lack of training and owner expertise really shows. The price tag on the pup doesn’t really seem to make a huge difference. In fact, the shelter population is estimated to be comprised of as much as 25% purebred dogs.
Black dogs and shelter deaths
The black lab’s massive popularity is only one strike against it in shelters. While euthanasia isn’t reported everywhere, the sources that do report state that significantly more black dogs are euthanized than those of any other color, a tendency noted and named “black dog syndrome.” Of these, a disproportionate number are black labs or lab crosses. Black dogs are the least likely to be noticed by adopters, and are often the first on the euthanasia list – active, intelligent dogs that do not do well in shelter kennels, such as black labs, are also high on the list.
Black labs do make amazing pets, but they’re not for everyone. As with most dog breeds, they also shouldn’t be bred unless someone has truly exceptional parents that can improve the breed. Anyone considering adopting a black lab, especially when they’re young and especially challenging, should start with thorough research to make sure it’s a good fit for the family. If you don’t want puppies, then spay or neuter your dog – it’s cheaper in the long run, and can prevent a wide range of potential health problems.