News Treehugger Voices Dogs Are Not Disposable Some people dump pets that are too old, not 'perfect,' or to go on vacation. By Mary Jo DiLonardo Mary Jo DiLonardo LinkedIn Twitter Senior Writer University of Cincinnati Mary Jo DiLonardo has worked in print, online, and broadcast journalism for 25 years and covers nature, health, science, and animals. Learn about our editorial process Updated June 11, 2021 06:00PM EDT Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Blind puppy Gertie weighs just over 2 pounds. Mary Jo DiLonardo Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive This may seem like a no-brainer, but with all the news from overwhelmed shelters and rescues this summer, it’s probably worth saying out loud. Dogs are not disposable. Disreputable breeders toss out puppies that aren’t “perfect.” Some people give up the family pet when they go on vacation so they don’t have to pay for boarding. Others give up an older puppy whose cute behaviors are now obnoxious or a senior dog who may have other health issues. That little mouse you see at the top of the page is one of two special needs puppies I’m fostering right now. She’s actually a 2.1-pound puppy that we were told is an Aussiedoodle. I still think she might be an exotic guinea pig. Gertie was dropped off by a breeder at a vet’s office to be euthanized because she was blind. The vet contacted a rescue instead. I also have a deaf puppy that was given up by a breeder. Many other fosters are also doubling up because the need is so great right now. Probably the biggest reason is that it's the summer and people are traveling for the first time again in more than a year. That means it’s hard to find adopters and it’s hard to find fosters. Everyone wants out of the house. I’ve seen messages and social media posts from rescuer and shelter workers who say they feel helpless because the requests for help right now are so crushing. “My rescue cannot keep up trying to save them,” one wrote. “I'm sickened at the number of rescue and surrender requests we are getting and I am completely heartbroken,” wrote another. “We need a lifeline,” said another rescuer. The Heartbreaking Vacation Situation There are some news stories that claim many pandemic puppies are being returned, but the numbers don't back that up. Instead, it's just a crush of other reasons, many involving summer travel. I think the hardest thing for most loving pet owners to fathom is the idea that some people would drop off their dog at a shelter on their way out of town. There’s just anecdotal evidence and no statistics about how often it happens, but it’s cited very often from disheartened rescuers and shelter workers. The people who surrender their pets say they don’t want to pay for boarding and they’ll just get a new one when they return. Shelter workers say it’s heart-wrenching to hold a dog while they watch their person drive away. Some will stare out the door for hours, thinking for sure their family will return. “Unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise us anymore which is really sad,” says Jen Schwarz, one of the directors of Speak! St. Louis, the special needs rescue I foster for. The rescuers hear the story often from shelter and humane society workers. “They don’t want to pay for boarding or can’t find anybody to take their dog," says Schwarz. "It’s basically being selfish.” And people might think they’re doing their dog a favor by taking it to a shelter, hoping they’ll get adopted by someone else. But typically, if shelters have to euthanize for space, they’ll turn to owner-surrendered pets before strays because they know no one is looking for them. “That’s the sad reality,” Schwarz says. The other thing that happens often is people asking to have the family pet put to sleep because they’re too much hassle. “That happens a lot. The kids are gone, they want to travel, the dog’s too much, and they have it euthanized,” Schwarz says. “That’s worse than dumping it at the shelter.” Rescuers are saving as many as they can and that's why I have one puppy sleeping behind me in my office and one napping in a playpen in the living room. Soon everyone will head outside for a game of tag where I'll make sure everyone gets a chance to win. And the only thing disposable here is an awful lot of very tiny puppy poo. Follow Mary Jo's dog Brodie and his foster puppies on Instagram @brodiebestboy.