Does Disney cause Dalmation Dumping?

We’ve all heard the horror stories - thousands of families, inspired by the 101 Dalmations movie and it’s spawn, go out and buy dalmation puppies, only to find out that they are not particularly good pets, are prone to physical ailments, and so they soon abandon them or turn them in to shelters.

At first glance it seems reasonable, but it also has all the markings of an urban legend - the stories are anecdotal, come from advocates and are largely unsubstantiated.

So is it true? I have no idea. A little help?

Dunno offhand. Here’s a list; count and see how many Dalmatian rescue groups there are.

This link to the Human Society of the United States contains a table detailing the increase in Dalmatian intake at several shelters following the release of 101 Dalmatians. It also contains footnotes citing several articles in various newspapers, from which I gleaned the following quotes:

St. Petersburg Times, Sept. 10, 1997:
" . . . So far this year, [Patti] Dane [of Dalmatian Rescue] has taken in 130 Dalmatians, a number it normally takes about 2 1/2 years to reach. She took in five on Monday alone. And the problem is nationwide:

Shelters in Los Angeles County report an increase in the number of Dalmatians turned in, including one family that brought in a dog and complained it was nothing like the dogs in the movie, according to the county Department of Animal Care and Control.

Throughout the Tampa Bay area, shelter officials said they have seen a jump or at least a steady number of Dalmatians in the nine months since the movie opened. At the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals of Pinellas County, which has taken in one or two a week for more than a year, several were brought in last week alone. On Tuesday, one remained: an 8-month-old named Spot.

Among the most dramatic increases was at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay. Before the movie came out, said shelter supervisor Debbie Taylor, about four to 10 Dalmatians were brought in a year.

‘Now we’ll see between four and six a month,’ Taylor said. ‘That’s way, way, way too many. It was families that weren’t ready for puppyhood.’

The numbers are just as grim at the Humane Society of North Pinellas. In 1996, 27 Dalmatians were brought in; through August, 34 have been brought in. Most have been adopted . . .

. . . Dane blames the problem on unscrupulous breeders who wanted to seize on the demand created by the movie and who didn’t warn prospective owners about the dogs’ temperament. Dalmatians sell for about $300-$800 apiece."
USA Today, Sept. 8, 1997:

" . . . In Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Humane Society reports a 15% increase in Dalmatians since the movie came out. ‘Many of them are exhibiting physical and behavioral problems when they’re surrendered to the shelter,’ says Victoria Wellens, executive director.

Katherine McGowan says the movie caused the number of Dalmatians brought in to The Humane Society of Missouri in St. Louis to jump 30%.

‘They’re bringing them in at six months (of age) when they’ve outgrown the cute puppy stage,’ she says.

The Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley in Knoxville saw a 23% increase in Dalmatians the first six months of this year. ‘Movie theaters were bringing in litters of Dalmatians and sponsoring drives to win a puppy,’ says Vicky Crosetti, executive director.

In some cases, the dogs are being abandoned because the warning campaign worked too well. ‘We’re getting couples who say they want to place their 3- or 4-year-old Dalmatian because they’re having a baby and they read that Dalmatians are bad with children,’ says Sherree Gerzanics, head of Dalmatian Adoption and Referral Service in Waterford, Mich. ‘But Dalmatians can be wonderful family dogs.’"

I’ve heard that Disney, if not actually being sued, is being subjected to demands that they be held accountable for the dalmation problem. Does anyone have that latest on that case?

I mean, what with film companies being sued for making violent movies, do people expect them to do nothing but make movies about puppies? Well now, studios are being sued for making movies about puppies.

Great info, all. I wonder if there exists info that would tell us if there is a substitution effect going on here. In other words, does the total number of abandoned dogs increase, with the increase being attributed to dalmations, or does the total number stay the same, with dalmation abandonments substituting for other dogs?

squeels, the right place for a discussion of “how far will this go” is Great Debates. Go ahead and open a topic – I’m quite sure that David B and Gaudere would be happy to see anything that doesn’t have to do with the election.

I’d say that dog food causes dalmations to dump.


Thanks for posting those stories, pldennison.

Our Spot is a Dalmatian/Pointer mix, about 2.5 years old. We suspect that he may be the offspring of one of those Dals that was purchased in the wake of the first movie. We have no evidence for this, just a suspicion. He was taken in as a stray and spent 5 months at the shelter before we adopted him at about 1 year of age. The folks at that shelter reported that they started getting a lot of unwanted Dals and Dal mixes within a year of the release of the first movie.

When people hear I have a Dal mix, they usually say “oh, I hear Dalmatians are just awful dogs to have.” (Of course when they meet him, they are bowled over by his extreme good looks and winning personality. :))

He is definitely a high-needs pup–very high-energy, needs lots of excercise, demands attention, and whines and barks an awful lot. He suits us just fine, but I can see how he wouldn’t be a good match with a more sedentary family, or a family who wants a dog that will sit quietly in a corner. (At the moment, Spot is laying quietly on the futon behind me, but that is a rare pose for him! Oh, now he is licking his unmentionable. Told ya he can’t stay still for long.)

The movies cause very high demand for Dals. Kids are crazy for Spot. They scream “Dalmatian!!!” out car windows as we walk by. No doubt they beg their parents for a spotted pup. This high demand has 2 effects: the dogs get over-bred and the dogs get purchased by families who are a bad match for the dogs. They are not “bad pets,” they just aren’t for everybody.

Anyway, I would say that yes, Disney causes Dalmatian dumping.

(In fact, I have long struggled with my desire to see the movies. I would like nothing better than to see 2 hours of spotty dogs, but I don’t want to contribute to the popularity of these movies.)

Disney causes Dalmatian dumping?
Well, then Easter causes Bunny dumping.


“…Those cute baby Easter bunnies soon grow large and reach adolescence. If left unspayed/unneutered they are likely to chew, spray or exhibit other generally unappreciated behaviors. Many end up neglected or abandoned. The result? Humane organizations such as House Rabbit Society see a huge increase in the number of abandoned rabbits that continues through the end of summer.”

I have worked with our local shelter and the period after Easter is always a rabbit nightmare. The Disney movie will go away. Easter probably will not.
Anyway, carry on with your Dalmation thread.

You can’t completley blame Disney, although it’s a good start. Stupid people are the main cause. You should research on animals before buying one, which most people do not do. My parents are examples of this. When I was younger we had two dogs (at different time) eventually taken to the pounds because my parents didn’t know how to handle it. It happend to one of my friends, too. She had a little puppy named Sparkles who whould bite everything and bark all the time. Well no shit, it’s a puppy. With a little time and training they could get it under control. Well, they didn’t do that. They had the puppy for a week and a half and took it to the pound without being able to let my friend say goodbye to it.



 It seems clear that there is a relationship here, but the numbers reported range from (in the USA today story) 15% - 23% - 30%, which equates to 1 to 3 dogs a month, (based on 10 per month before the movie), to 48% - 200% - 250% (or more) in the Florida paper story. This equates to 5 to 25 more abandoned dogs per month!

Now, the counting skills of Floridians are well documented, but this is the kind of stuff that makes me wonder if there is some bogus reporting going on. If this is attributed to a single cause (the movie), then shouldn’t it be expected that the results be relatively consistent across the country? Or are there just more stupid and cruel parents in Fla.?

I think that there is a real problem here, but it is being played up by some overzealous activists, abetted by an opportunistic press corps. If in a city the size of St. Louis or Milwaukee (1-2 million people) you have 2-3 more dogs abandoned in a month, then the ammount of press attention it receives is well out of proportion.

Either way, it sucks. We are stuck with a certain population of stupid, easily influenced people in this country, and if it weren’t dalmations, it’d be something else.