Graphing the Effects of Mass Marketing On Dalmatians

by Terri Haase, Founder and Former President

Back in 1984, Dalmatian individual and litter registration rankings were hovering in the thirties. The animated version of Disney's "101 Dalmatians" was re-released in 1985 and registrations began a slow climb. The Disney film was again re-released in 1991, with a much more dramatic increase in registrations in the years following 1991. Registrations were just beginning to decline in 1995 and then Disney released the new live-action version of "101 Dalmatians" in November of 1996. It was anticipated that another increase in registrations would take place following the movie, however this does not seem to have occurred. This does not mean that fewer Dalmatians are being bred, but would seem to indicate that responsible breeders as well as puppy mills are not producing as many puppies, since these are the two main groups that register puppies and dogs with the American Kennel Club. Backyard breeders almost never register the puppies they produce and have been primarily responsible for the huge overpopulation of Dalmatians that are now flooding the shelters in the United States of America and in Canada.

As the numbers of individual Dalmatian registrations declined, the Dalmatians rank in registrations as compared to other breed registrations has also fallen. Since too much popularity can ruin a breed, the decline in registrations and rank are good indicators of less puppy mill involvement. Hopefully now the responsible, reputable breeders will be able to serve the public's needs for Dalmatians that are healthier, BAER tested for deafness and of sound temperaments, provided they can educate the public not to purchase Dalmatian puppies from pet stores and backyard breeders.

The massive marketing efforts of Disney and other companies to promote sales of their spotted merchandise certainly must have influenced backyard breeders into thinking they could make money selling real Dalmatian puppies. The constant flood of cute-spotted-puppy images into the public consciousness also encouraged many families to purchase Dalmatian puppies from pet stores and backyard breeders without any thought given to whether this was an appropriate breed of dog for their lifestyle.

Is all this publicity bad? It has had and currently is having tragic results when uninformed buyers purchase Dalmatian puppies from backyard breeders, unethical breeders or pet stores. Tragic for the Dalmatians, that is, who have been abandoned or euthanized once they grew up and were no longer cute little puppies. For the 1996 release of the "101 Dalmatians" movie, the Dalmatian-owning community in conjunction with a very cooperative press, made a heroic effort to disseminate information to the public about Dalmatians in an effort to reduce impulse buying and indiscriminate breeding of Dalmatians. Despite these efforts, the news from rescue groups and humane societies has been that large numbers of Dalmatians are coming in to them.

Three things need to happen to improve this situation. First, the public must be educated about the Dalmatian breed and its needs and to purchase Dalmatians only from reputable breeders or rescue organizations. Second, backyard breeders must be put out of business, whether by regulations or by lack of business. The backyard breeders are the true villains in the Dalmatian tragedy, even worse than Cruella DeVil because they are literally responsible for the deaths of thousands upon thousands of Dalmatians. Third, more inducements to spay and neuter pets are needed to permanently remove the temptation to breed a pet. Reputable breeders should sell their pet quality puppies already spayed or neutered and no pet store should be permitted to sell intact puppies or kittens. If shelters and rescues are required to spay/neuter all animals before placement, why should pet stores, who are fronts for puppy mills, be permitted to sell intact animals?

The Dalmatian overpopulation problem is going to be around for a few years more, unfortunately. Rescue organizations everywhere in North America are overwhelmed by the massive numbers of Dalmatians that need assistance. Please contact your nearest Dalmatian rescue and volunteer so that more Dalmatians can be saved. Even though we can't save them all, it will make a difference to those we can save.

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