Today's Veterinary Business

FEB 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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47 February/March 2018 • TODAYSVETERINARYBUSINESS.COM Population Projections, then annu- al demand also grows. Assuming the percentage of dog-owning households remains static at 44 percent, the annual need will be 9,288,316 by 2025 and 10,360,047 in 2050. Mississippi State Mathematics So, how much of the current and future supply can shelters meet? Since no organization knew the annual number of adoptable dogs in shelters, the question was a major challenge. The Pet Leader- ship Council stepped up to provide a grant to the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine and the MSU Center for Social Science Research to do what had never been done: Conduct a national survey of shelters. This was complex, to say the least, but MSU succeeded and produced the following data relied upon by The Washington Post: • 5,532,904 dogs entered shel- ters in 2015. • 2,628,112 dogs were adopted out by shelters in 2015. • 776,970 dogs were euth- anized by shelters in 2015 and about the same number were transferred by shelters to other shelters or rescues. These numbers demonstrate how much progress has been made in reducing annual euthanasia rates from over 12 million to fewer than 800,000. But they also high- light that shelters may be expected to provide only 2.6 million of the annual 8.1 million dogs needed to meet U.S. demand. Humanely Bred Pets The challenge for animal welfare advocates, veterinarians and the pet health care industry is how to safely and consistently fill the gap of 5.5 million dogs, which will only widen as the U.S. population grows. That is a policy decision facing pet health leadership. Actions are being taken that require broader support and engagement, but other choices must be examined as well. The Pet Leadership Coun - cil funded a landmark study by Politics & Policy columnist Mark Cushing, founding partner of the Animal Policy Group, is a political strategist, lobbyist and former litigator. He serves on the Today's Veterinary Business editorial advisory board. DID YOU KNOW? The North American Veteri- nary Community and the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute have launched the Human-Animal Bond Certification Program. Practicing veterinarians, tech- nicians and practice managers can learn more at the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine with the aim of developing a science-based, medically sound set of humane standards to guide the breeding of dogs. This project is near comple- tion and will enable us to bring all parties together on how breeders should conduct their business, much like other sectors that have faced competing issues about best practices. Hopefully this will end political debate, banish puppy mill practitioners to the sidelines and partially meet Americans' demand for healthy, humanely bred pets. This encompasses hobby breeders — a key source of dogs each year — and larger-scale breeders. International Sourcing The remaining challenge is the thornier question of foreign imports. Just as we lacked reliable numbers of annual shelter adop- tions, be assured that we have no reliable numbers about the number of dogs entering the United States. U.S. Customs records suggest that 20,000-plus dogs officially come through the door each year, but no one believes this is close to the total number when one takes into account dogs that enter through less-than-official means. One U.S. Customs study suggests an illegal number of at least 280,000 annu- ally, and many observers put the number much higher. I have talked with Asian ex- perts who believe that this highly profitable trade generates more than 1 million dogs annually from China, Korea, the Philippines and other Asian countries. Latin Amer- ican, Middle Eastern and Eastern European interests ship dogs into the United States as well. The goal isn't to shut down im- ports, simply because we have no chance to meet American demand otherwise. What we need to do is step up engagement, research, dialogue and best-practices edu- cation with key countries, possibly through veterinary, pet pharma- ceutical and pet nutrition channels, and raise the bar to ensure that the United States receives healthy and humanely bred dogs. (Check out the Canine Care Certified program at This is a long, complicated pro- cess, to be sure, but the end result is worth it. My hope is that 2018 is the year in which interested parties across the pet spectrum sit down, share data and map out next steps to ensure that every American fam- ily that wants a dog finds one. Government partners will be critical to success, but the path starts with industry and animal welfare organizations working out the best approach to foreign parties, combining the stick of tougher enforcement with the carrot of a lucrative commercial opportunity done right. What we know about the human-animal bond requires no less. Assuming the percentage of dog-owning households remains static at 44 percent, the annual need will be 9,288,316 by 2025 and 10,360,047 in 2050.

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