Apr 1, 2015 - Animal Policy    4 Comments

Placing Dangerous Dogs Undermines Everybody

From an alarming article by the Albuquerque Journal:

In more than 100 cases last year, the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department has allowed [aggressive] dogs to be adopted by families or returned to their owners even though they flunked nationally recognized standardized tests that showed the animals had dangerous tendencies.

One dog was so aggressive he couldn’t be tested, but was still adopted out. Some volatile dogs were even taken to the Lucky Paws adoption site in Coronado Center.

These are among the explosive allegations in a complaint filed with the city’s Office of Inspector General by the Animal Welfare Department’s second-in-command and its behavior specialist, who said Monday she has resigned out of frustration and alarm for the community.

Go ahead and read the entire article then come back. It’s important. We’ll still be here.



We have written about mission creep in dog rescue and sheltering before, and its unintended consequences (disease, dog bites, how it actually enables irresponsible breeding practices, etc.), and this is as prime an example as any.

These allegations are simply stomach churning. When ideology trumps duty like this, it undermines everybody: the public, responsible rescues and shelters, behaviorists and others who work to rehabilitate dogs (done responsibly, many dogs with behavioral problems can be rehabilitated and placed with appropriate owners), and of course the dogs themselves. In the end, it always comes back to the dogs. If we had a dollar for every time good intentions untethered from knowledge (or basic reality) ended up hurting the dogs they were meant to save, we’d have more funding than HSUS…

So just how on earth is the public going to trust an Animal Welfare/Animal Services/Animal Control department if it has a record of adopting out vicious dogs that lunge after children or kill other pets? Dogs that were too aggressive to even take behavioral tests? Who, exactly, are they looking out for by allowing these dogs to be adopted? Certainly not the people whose communities they are being trusted with!

But they are also doing an incredible disservice to dogs and the rescue community, as well. Shelters and rescues have done a great job over the last few decades of marketing themselves as the place to get your next pet. Numbers from one of our recent surveys show that respondents believe the healthiest, best-tempered dogs come from rescues or shelters, and list them as first choice among people expecting to acquire dogs in the next 5 years. Do you think these people would be so quick to choose rescues and shelters as their top choice if the first thought that pops into their mind isn’t “saving the life of a great dog” but rather “will the dog we find be safe for the family?” Is it so hard to see how adopting out just a few aggressive dogs in order to “save them all,” or improve euthanasia numbers can hurt the prospects of all dogs in need of a home?

Anybody who adopts out an aggressive dog is abdicating their responsibility to public safety and undermining literally decades of hard work improving the image of and outcomes for shelter dogs.

  • Kate Riviello

    I believe the answer is to adopt from a rescue. The dog is not able to receive a fair evaluation at the kill pound due to the stressful environment. So please do not sign their death warrant by these baseless evaluations that are performed at the kill pound. The RESCUE should have the responsibility of decompressing that dog from all the stress they endured and THEN evaluate the dog. If the dog fails the evaluation in any way, that problem should then be worked upon until resolved. True No Kill indicates that six months of evaluation and rehab before the last resort is even considered, that of euth. To kill a dog for issues like “food reactiveness” or “other dog reactiveness” is murder and we will seek to prosecute those that kill dogs for lame reasons as these. So again, please support your local rescue who pulls from your local death row and check that they subscribe to these types of True No Kill parameters. nokill-newyork.org

    • Lana

      Just an FYI there is no such thing as “No Kill”. Are you going to sit there and tell me that if a no kill shelter recieves a dog in deplorable health conditions and in the best interest of a vet it is decided that its best to humanely euthanize rather than allow theanimal to suffer??? Oh, but this is a different situation isn’t it??? I work as an animal control officer and I have seen horrible situation with animals, its any wonder that I still have a little bit of compassion for people with what I have endured. Yes, we are a kill shelter. But, do to the demand of the bleeding hearts le t me educate you on what happens behind the scenes. We have dropped our amount of euthanasia by working with tons of rescues, we even trap and release feral cats. I believe in due time the trap and release program wiuld be good. However, we have a responsibility to protect the public from aggression and disease. This is why we are law enforcement. So, we trap a cat, fix it and vaccinate it for a year and let it go. How does that protect the public from rabies after a year??? We have no way of tracking these cats. Then our problem dogs, be it fear or food aggression or even health issues they sit and wait for a rescue to come pick them out. Sometimes for months in a cage all the while the stress effects them worse and worse. Now, you tell me how this is fair for any animal??? Of course, in a perfect world we would all love to be able to save them all. But, we can’t. It’s just not possible and first and foremost our responsibility is to the public. I have seen children get their face ripped off and I have seen women so viciously attacked you’d think someone was murdered in the house and the husband had to shoot his own dog to save his wife’s life. Are these the kind of animals worth saving?????

  • Leslie Gibson

    Makes perfect sense to me!!! These poor animals are in a high stressed environment and isn’t a fair judgement of their temperament… Needs to be changed!!!!!

  • SK

    “Nationally recognized standard tests” are mostly worthless. Shelters and esp kill shelters are the very last place dogs should be evaluated. High stress environments and plastic hands do not give an accurate assessment of any dog’s temperament. Neither does snatching food from a staving dog, then labeling it aggressive if it wants the food. We can’t save every dog, but we can save far more than we do.