About 75 percent of the dogs found in a shelter on any given day are mixed breeds, according to ASPCA statistics. Somewhere out there, right now, a mother dog is giving birth to a litter of mixed breed puppies, puppies that will most likely end up in a shelter, in need of a loving home.
A large number of those puppies and dogs will be euthanized due to both the lack of adopters, and the lack of shelter funding to care for them.
Humans have a tendency to prefer predictability. Many people shy away from the unknown, finding comfort in the things that offer a known outcome. Which is to say, humans tend to prefer purebred dogs; dogs they can match to their own personalities. Of course, those in the pet industry will tell you that purebreds can also defy expectations, especially when they are the product of bad breeding practices. Purebreds are selected by humans for breeding, and it is unfortunately common for them to be chosen for appearance; health background and temperament are not always taken into account.
On the other hand, nature has a way of weeding out the undesirable traits of a species when allowed to proceed naturally. The challenge for shelters is not just in convincing people that mixed breeds are healthier — the traditional selling point for mixed breed preference — but in convincing them that mixed breed dogs are uniquely special. This may be a special point of consideration for those people who are not content with bragging about their “rescue dog,” or who do not like the idea of saying that their dog is a mutt.
Territorio de Zaguates (Territory of Street Dogs), a dog rescue shelter in Costa Rica, may have hit upon the most brilliant solution yet. The dog rescue, a mountainous enclave not far from the capital of San Jose, takes in and cares for hundreds of the country’s unwanted street dogs. Utilizing the field of canine genetic testing, canine experts Dr. Oscar Robert and Dr. Norma Escalante have been giving unique breed names to their “mutts.” This has effectively created a whole new class of dog breeds, in which each dog is celebrated as a unique individual in its own right.
Besides the exalted feeling of having a dog that is unique, there is also the added benefit of knowing which breeds went into the “creation” of the dog, so that people who are concerned with predictability can better choose for temperament and lifestyle, and can prepare for potential breed specific health issues.
Since implementing this new breed naming program, Territorio de Zaguates has seen an appreciable increase in adoptions, and perhaps most importantly, 100 percent of the shelter’s expenses are now covered by financial support through sponsor brands, so that they can continue the challenging, but ultimately rewarding work of saving dogs.
You can find Territorio de Zaguates on Facebook, and you can learn more about the Territorio de Zaguates dog ranch from blog author Travel Mother, who visited and hiked with the dogs in the hills of Costa Rica.
Want to learn more about mixed breeds and genetic testing? Read more: