puppy running towards camera

Shelter Messaging and Policies – Ethical Dog Replacement Options for Communities

STAGE THREE: Actively Encourage a Humane Community Dog Breeding Plan, to Meet the Need

Evaluate & understand:

  • It’s time to start actively supporting the humane production of dogs for your community, if you aren’t already.
  • For most communities, the only source that can humanely fill the total replacement need will be for families to produce litters of proven family dogs at home. If your community finds a different way and is sustainable in the long term – please share your community evaluation and solutions with us!

Messaging, Policy & Programming Considerations:


  • Reinforce the importance of providing local dogs, locally. Change messaging to actively encourage and support “breed local/buy local”.
  • Actively message your community that “good family dogs having some puppies” is how we ensure that people can have dogs from an ethical source
  • Shift your messaging from “your dog having babies is irresponsible” to “your successful family dog having babies is a neighborly service to ensure that your friends and family can find good dogs”.
  • Include specific outreach to private practice veterinarians in your community in your messaging.

Educational Programming

  • Help your community understand the ideal pet that should have a litter before being spayed or neutered (what to look for, which dogs should not be breeding due to behavior or medical issues). A small percentage of community female dogs need to reproduce annually to meet the need. Help people identify which ones should and which shouldn’t.
  • Help your community understand how to provide great care for dogs having litters, pre-breeding; during pregnancy; and until rehoming age.
  • Can your organization work with people breeding in your community (not just ‘breeders’, but all whose dogs are breeding) to help provide support? Some examples may be:
  • Routine vaccinations & parasite control for breeding animals & litters
  • Classes on best practices for breeding and raising litters
  • Socialization: if they don’t have kids at home, people in wheelchairs, men with beards: you might provide this under the expertise of your behavior department
  • If you find that an owner cannot manage the care and raising of a litter, can your organization offer temporary foster care until the puppies are weaned, then mom goes back to her family?
  • Offer for the shelter to place the puppies in homes or consider coaching on best practices to the mom’s owner in making placements.

Spay Neuter Programming

  • Encourage people with healthy, behaviorally sound dogs to have a litter or two before bringing the dog in for spay/neuter.
    • Consider, for your public (in-house or voucher) Spay/Neuter programs:
  • Not offering pediatric sterilization for large breed dogs, or for all dogs
  • Not offering pregnant spays, unless specific circumstances require it
  • Actively counsel people asking about scheduling a spay or neuter with your organization about whether their dog should be passing on their great genes and having a litter or two before surgery! Where’s the bar for who should be reproducing? At a minimum, animals who have been successfully living with a family, are demonstrating good behavior as a family pet, and not experiencing known health issues. Preference is a pre-breeding exam to better evaluate.
  • Create a screening process, so that dogs who are not appropriate breeders can still access spay/neuter options quickly. (Screening can be done with an online tool to save staff time, ensure consistency of responses, and address DEI concerns.)
  • Continue to offer spay/neuter where the client is uninterested or unable to support breeding their dog, and where that’s just not a good idea.

More, when applicable:

  • Look into Canine Care Certified, developed by Purdue University, and focused on helping kennel- based breeders meet standards for the dogs they breed, raise and place. Are there any certified breeders in your area or ones you could encourage to complete the certification?
  • Consider getting involved with the Functional Dog Collaborative to seek and network with humane breeders in your area.
  • Are there ways you and local breeders can mutually support each other?
  • Is there an opportunity to partner with local veterinarians, 4-H or other organizations, to offer continuing education and mentoring on humane breeding?

We recognize that communities around the US experience different levels of overpopulation. On the following pages,we have outlined a series of questions to examine in your own community, along with recommendations for messaging and programmatic changes around ethical dog replacement options. Your organization can use any of this information from any stage, at any time! These stages are just suggestions.

Go Back to Previous Stages

dog on leash looking happyCreate your Community’s Humane Dog Breeding Plan

Lead Author: Karina King, Director of Operations, Dakin Humane Society Volunteer, the Functional Dog Collaborative. 

Supporting the ethical breeding of healthy, behaviorally sound dogs.

Visit Functionalbreeding.org for our position statements related to Support for Adopting Shelter dogs, and Shelters and Dog breeding.  Enjoy over 25 podcasts, and consider joining our very active facebook page.