Al Roth, the Nobel Prize winner and market design guru who’s worked on everything from organ exchanges to school matching, posts a reader email about Wagaroo, a new matching market for dog buyers and responsible breeders. Christine Exley, an Economics grad student at Stanford, writes:
It is estimated that 23.5 million people plan to acquire a pet every year. Of this, 1.5 million intend to buy their pet from a breeder, 5 million are committed to adopting their pet, and 17 million are undecided about the source for their new pet. At the same time, 3 million dogs and cats are killed every year in shelters because they cannot find a home. When you account for people acquiring dogs from shelters, rescue groups, the street (i.e., strays), friends, family members and purebred breeders, there are still over 6 million people acquiring dogs and cats from “other” sources. These other sources (as well as some of the listed sources) are likely puppy mills – places that mass-produce dogs for profit in horrid conditions.
Why do people get dogs from puppy mills and hence increase the demand for this inhumane practice in the face of so many adoptable dogs being killed in shelters? There are two leading answers. First, separately identifying puppy mills from responsible breeders is challenging. Both puppy mills and responsible breeders sell purebreds for upwards of $1,000, and puppy mills are quick to imitate responsible breeders by falsely advertising that their dogs are bred and cared for in good conditions. Second, the search costs of acquiring dogs from responsible sources are incredibly high since no unified market exists. While you may need to search dozens of responsible organizations before you find an available Black Labrador puppy, a quick Google search is guaranteed to show an available Black Labrador puppy from a puppy mill. Wagaroo will change this through an online listing of dogs from all responsible sources – shelters, rescue groups, responsible breeders and owners needing to re-home their dogs.
Exley writes that they’re currently seeking “ideas on how to perfectly separate puppy mills from responsible breeders.” Readers, any thoughts?