Why Are There So Many Huskies In Animal Shelters?
The number of Huskies in animal shelters and rescues has more than doubled since 2020, and it’s not hard to find the reason why with a little bit of digging. Huskies are a high-energy, independent, and intelligent dog breed, and require a lot of time and patience to keep. Beyond their temperamental and training needs, the Siberian Husky is also a large athletic breed and requires substantial amounts of high-protein dog food to stay happy and healthy. And don’t get us started on their grooming needs!
Beyond Huskies simply being a high-maintenance dog breed, over-breeding, impulsive puppy purchases, and economic strife caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have helped to increase the number of Huskies in shelters.
The average number of Huskies in a large-scale public shelter in 2020 was around 15—today in 2023, there are on average 30–40 Huskies in a given shelter with numbers climbing, sometimes topping 100+.
So, why are these beautiful purebred dogs suddenly being surrendered and abandoned? Let’s get into what’s happening, why it’s happening, and what you can do to help.
How Huskies Become Strays
Unfortunately, a growing number of adoptable Huskies are found as strays. Huskies are extremely capable, strong, and determined dogs, so it’s not exactly a surprise that one or two might slip out of their yard. But, it’s not just one or two Huskies, and the issue is much bigger than dogs simply outsmarting their owners.
1. Huskies Are Escape Artists
Of course, the first thing to consider when looking at Huskies found as strays is their incredible escape skills.
“Huskies are in their own league when it comes to not being confined, [My Husky] once escaped by 1) opening a window, 2) burrowing into the neighbor’s backyard, 3) unlatching their gate, and 4) taking herself for a walk before coming back.”Husky owner, Reddit
Tenacious and stubborn, Huskies won’t just try escaping once or twice and then give up—they will investigate every option over and over until something works! In some smaller rural areas, there are anecdotal stories from humane societies and animal shelter workers who have gotten to know the local Huskies and their owners thanks to their many successful escapes.
These are stories with happy endings, but not all Huskies are lucky enough to be found by someone they know if they escape their yards.
2. Huskies Have High Prey Drive
Even well-trained Huskies can be a flight risk thanks to exceptionally high prey drive. Huskies may take off after small animals like cats, rabbits, rats, etc., or may even become focused on another dog and wander off. For these reasons, walking Huskies off-leash is never advisable, and they may need to have a tether or zip-line leash in the yard to keep them safe and secure.
3. Huskies Require A diet rich in high protein
While many are drawn to the striking appearance and playful nature of Huskies, it’s essential to understand their unique needs fully. One of the often-overlooked aspects of Husky care is their dietary requirements. These athletic dogs require a diet rich in high-protein dog food to maintain their energy levels and overall health. Skimping on their nutrition can lead to health issues and decreased vitality.
4. Huskies Shed, A Lot!
While their thick double coat is undeniably beautiful, it comes with its own set of challenges. Huskies shed heavily, especially during the shedding season, and require regular grooming to keep their coat in top condition. This not only ensures that the dog looks its best but also prevents potential skin issues and helps in temperature regulation.
Increased Rates of Dumping Huskies & Other Dog Breeds
Sadly, some Huskies become strays because their humans dump them. While it’s easy to label a pet owner who abandons their dog cruel and inhumane, it’s important to remember that some people feel they have no other choice.
Increased incidents of pet abandonment—including more dumped and abandoned Huskies—can be attributed to economic issues, high veterinary costs, housing instability, and animal shelter overpopulation. When people can’t even turn to their local shelters to surrender their pets, some may feel forced to abandon them.
Why Are Huskies Surrendered By Their Owners?
The vast majority of Siberian Huskies in shelters are owner surrenders, which is the safest way to rehome your pet if you don’t have a new owner lined up independently. But why would someone purchase a $1,500+ dog only to eventually bring it to a shelter?
Unprepared Husky Owners & Impulsive Puppy Purchases
Believe it or not, popular culture and media may be in part to blame for the uptick in abandoned Huskies. The hit HBO show Game of Thrones featured a breed specifically developed to look like a wolf: the Northern Inuit Dog. Ironically, people mistook these dogs for Huskies, and purchases of Siberian Husky puppies surged. The issue became so dire that Peter Dinklage—famous actor and one of the stars of Game of Thrones—teamed up with PETA to put out a PSA.
“Please, to all of Game of Thrones’ many wonderful fans, we understand that due to the direwolves’ huge popularity, many folks are going out and buying Huskies. Not only does this hurt all the deserving homeless dogs waiting for a chance at a good home in shelters, but shelters are also reporting that many of these Huskies are being abandoned—as often happens when dogs are bought on impulse, without understanding their needs.”Dinklage
Huskies are high-maintenance. They are expensive to feed and keep, can be destructive and loud, and are so independently-minded that they may act more like cats than dogs. Huskies are amazing pets, but an inexperienced and unprepared owner can quickly become overwhelmed with the responsibility of keeping this breed.
Economic Strain & Cost of Husky Ownership
The COVID-19 pandemic left many people without work and strapped for cash as the country began descending into a recession. For many pet owners, big changes had to be made from choosing lower-cost dog foods to giving up doggy daycare, dog walkers, and other enrichment for their pups. Unfortunately, many people were so negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that they were forced to surrender their dogs, many of them Huskies.
Housing Restrictions for Large Dog Owners
Also due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many pet owners were forced to move and find less expensive housing. Unfortunately, many apartment buildings do not allow large dogs or dogs period, again forcing Husky owners to make the unthinkable choice between safe housing and their beloved pets.
With more Huskies being purchased in general, more of the dogs affected by housing insecurity are naturally also Huskies.
Shelter Overcrowding & High Euthanasia Rates Putting Huskies at Risk
Local shelters and private animal rescue groups have long been struggling with overpopulation. Rising rates of pet abandonment and surrender have only made the situation more dire, and many shelters have been forced to euthanize dogs in their care. With more Huskies in shelters, the breed represents many of the dogs on the list for euthanasia. It can be difficult to find qualified adopters for Huskies since they have such specific care requirements, putting them at even more risk of euthanasia.
How To Adopt a Siberian Husky
More than 390,000 dogs are euthanized annually in the United States, but there are lots of ways we can reduce that number.
First and foremost, adopt your dogs from shelters. While ethical breeders do wonderful work to preserve beloved dog breeds for future generations, we are existing in an era where there are simply too many dogs. Overbreeding, dog breed fads—like the Husky obsession created by Game of Thrones—and impulsive puppy purchases are in part to blame, which is why it’s so important to support rescue and adoption efforts rather than breeding programs right now.
If you’re interested in owning a beautiful Siberian Husky, visit your local shelter, or check out one of these Husky-specific rescue resources. There are adoptable Huskies nationwide, so don’t assume you won’t find one at a shelter just because you live somewhere warm. You can be part of the solution no matter where you live!
If you aren’t in a spot to adopt a Husky or another dog, consider donating to your local shelters or one of the resources below.
Husky Adoption Resources:
- Adopt A Husky — Located in Wisconsin, serving Illinois and Wisconsin
- Siberian Husky Club of America Trust — Locations nationwide
- Siberian Husky Rescue/Referral of California — Locations in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Oregon
- Southern Siberian Rescue — Based in North Carolina, serving North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Georgia, and Tennessee
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