Oct 12, 2015 - Shelter & Rescue    6 Comments

Big Business: More Dog Trafficking in the News

Humane relocation, dog trafficking, the “Puppy Pipeline” — whatever you call it, the practice is still relatively unknown outside of the organized animal community and to a lesser extent, law enforcement and media circles. In case you are scratching your head wondering what we are talking about, here’s a handy definition from the NAIA Shelter Project Glossary:

Humane relocation: Humane relocation refers to the practice of transporting un-owned pets in need of adoption (primarily dogs and cats) from areas with a surplus of homeless pets to areas with a higher demand for pets and more shelter and rescue space. When done responsibly, it is a cooperative, common-sense method of finding homes for pets that might otherwise be euthanized. When done without care, it does nothing to solve the problem of pet overpopulation at its source, and in some cases even encourages it. Worse, it can turn participating rescues and shelters into unregulated pet stores that deal in animals of unknown backgrounds – animals that may have serious behavioral problems or may be infected with parasites and diseases not endemic to a particular region (e.g. whip worm, heart worm, or rabies).

But it is appearing in the news with increasing frequency as sales of these dogs increase:

Dog sellers present the canines with heart-tugging tales of Southern kill shelters. They also describe residents of the South as uninterested in preventing unwanted puppies through regular spaying and neutering.

This is big money: at $300 per dog, a rescue operation that does not give the animals proper medical attention or humane transport conditions can make $420,000 a year for 1,400 dogs, said Raymond Connors, an animal control officer for the state.

“It’s a multimillion-dollar industry,” he said.

Industry indeed — and it’s not just dogs moving from the south to the northeast, as is most often reported, it is a multimillion-dollar national industry. Using Colorado as an example, the number of dogs imported into Colorado shelters nearly doubled between 2012 and 2014, to more than 24,000 dogs per year!


Given the unknown background, and behavioral issues of so many of these dogs and the way they are shipped, the issues of health, humane treatment, and consumer protection should be clear. The potential for this practice to impact the image of ethical rescue and pet ownership in general (e.g. avoiding rescues out of fear of health or behavioral issues, or deciding not to have pets at all) should not be discounted either.

As always, NAIA urges you to consider the source when picking your next pet: do your homework, support practices that create positive outcomes for pets and pet owners, and make an informed, ethical decision!

  • Arnold L. Goldman DVM, MPH

    Interstate relocation of southern shelter dogs is an industry screaming for stronger oversight by government, for all the reasons this article touches on and more. Transported animal’s health, consumer protection, origin state social policy, destination state fiscal responsibility, the integrity of the 501(c)3 not-for-profit structure that exists to promote and benefit legitimate charitable organizations and causes, and yes, the debate-able but unmistakable degree of profiteering of individuals and organizations involved in this national mess. “We don’t make a dime, we’re just saving lives” is no longer an un-challengable or legitimate argument, absent proof that this is so. Charitable organizations may not lie to the public, and for interstate relocation there should be full transparency. Own and take pride in that transparency. Prove you make no profit. Prove your dogs do not come from foreign countries and add to our national burden. Prove what you claim in your ads and websites. Comply with every state and local laws and stop delivering dogs on weekends, in parking lots, intentionally away from the eyes and reach of the law. Only then can the public be expected to believe you are not in it for you.

    • Lawrence

      I strongly agree with the issues you present to NAIA. Why are Amish Farmers still providing puppies that are brought into this earth in an inhumane fashion and selling them to so-called rescue agencies listed under NAIA. The horrible conditions under which the Amish produce these puppies is too much for me to write about at this time. NAIA certainly is aware of what is going on with their “so-called” rescue agencies purchasing puppies from the Amish as low as $5 a piece and then selling them — just as you described, i.e., “delivering dogs on weekends, in parking lots, etc.” along with using major pet food stores to use their space for conducting transactions. They promote the sale of full-breed puppies — which is the mission Patti Strand on the NAIA Board — promotes. Her words are on the internet if you investigate further. Stop the horrible, inhumane conditions dogs are going through to produce puppies! The Amish have a technique to quiet the dogs producing the litters over and over again until they are useless. They jam instruments down the throats of dogs to damage their vocal cords. When will this stop!! Quit the cycle of purchasing full-breed pups from Amish and other inhumane sites. NAIA has to be reading and seeing everything we see on the internet. NAIA has made it public that they want full-breeds back in society. They need to be more concerned about getting good dogs — whether they be old, young, mixed, etc. that are in need of homes into homes. Yes, prove you are a non-profit to the public. We need to bring these issues up to our State Representatives. We need them to listen to our voices that don’t warm the horrendous harm that is currently being done to dogs that breed to continue.
      STOP!! and, yes, of course, if you stop — the financials will suddenly dip to $0 from the billions produced in the animal industry.

      • Arnold L. Goldman DVM, MPH

        Accusations without facts. Activist organization dogma regurgitated. Please, do not insult me by claiming you actually believe the “internet” is an accurate reference that closes all debate. Further, generalizing and demonizing a minority ethnic group is racist and has no place in civil discourse. What’s your point? That dogs should be raised humanely? Well of course they should. Yet that doesn’t alter the facts. Less than 5% of shelter dogs are demonstrably purebred, which means it isn’t intentional breeders, even bad intentional breeders, that lead to the majority of shelter euthanasia. It’s instead human irresponsibility on an individual basis. Conflating purebred breeding with shelter population issues is no longer acceptable. People have a right to own a dog breed that they choose, and to raise it from puppyhood rather than be forced to adopt a young adult. Blaming all purebred breeders, or a small minority group with no public voice, for today’s animal welfare problems is easy to do, but plain wrong. The problematic industry today is not intentional breeding but its competitor, the one which operates under the veil of not-for-profit tax laws but transports and sells young adult dogs of unknown provenance, while claiming they are “just saving lives”, “making no profit” and “obey all laws”, when many recent news stories prove otherwise. State laws to control this activity would not have been necessary had this new industry been fully aboveboard. Well past time to stop blaming those who provide animals to families transparently and according to law, and claiming those who operating opaquely and above or beyond the law are the animal welfare heroes. The reverse is much closer to the truth.

        • Sarah Banning

          I think that bringing dogs from places with over population to places with a high demand for pets is a great thing.. These dogs would either be euthanized or tortured and killed (in places like TN) if it wasn’t for this.. As long as they are going to reputable shelters or rescues it should be fine.. As long as they are being fixed, vaccinated and cleared for health or behavioural problems first I think it’s amazing that they get a chance at a good home with love, happiness and proper care.. And no I don’t run a rescue or am an activist

          • Hannahoneybee

            There’s no need for the trafficking. Every state has shelters full of dogs.

  • Angela

    Transport of dogs into states with so called “low inventory”
    i.e. Oregon has given shelters even less incentive to help public/Open Door
    (take all regardless of health, age, temperament) dogs in need. Understandably a private shelter prefers to
    transport in a load of small dogs or puppies they can quickly turn. Unfortunately this results in full kennels at
    country shelters and no where for them to turn.
    Furthermore, transporting dogs offers states like California, Texas and
    Hawaii an improved save rate but nothing to promote long term change. In my opinion the funds used to transport
    dogs could be better used in spay/neuter education, low cost/no cost clinics,
    behavior consults etc. that would keep pets in their home and create a long
    term reduction in unwanted puppies/kittens.