The Struggle Is Real: Puppies Abound

husky puppy and mom
What steps should you take when you're left with a stray and her puppies?

Here’s an actual email exchange I just had with a young man who went to high school with my son:

Hi Nancy,

First off, sorry for the out-of-nowhere email 🙂 I’m a high school friend of [E, your son] and a close friend of [S, your son’s friend, who adopted a dog from your local shelter with your help about two years ago]. S passed along your email address.

I recently had the good luck of a stray Husky giving birth to puppies in my front yard. They’re 8 weeks along now and ready to find forever homes, but I haven’t had luck in my social network and worry about passing them off to a shelter. I’ve heard you’re well connected in this area – any suggestions on where/how to start? Many thanks in advance!

– T.S.

husky puppy

Hey T,

First, good on you for taking in the mom and raising the babies. How many are there?

I understand your reluctance to consider a shelter for placing the puppies, but from my view, often a shelter is the best place for puppies, because they will be vaccinated and microchipped, but most importantly, receive spay/neuter surgery before getting placed in a home. Most shelters today can get all that done for only about $100- $200 per puppy, whereas, when an individual takes them home and makes their own appointment for the same surgery, they will most likely be told they need to wait 6 months to a year, and then charged anywhere from $200 for a male to be neutered to up to $600 (or more) for females for spay surgery. (The bigger the dog, the more likely the owner will be told to wait before surgery, and the price gets quoted on the dog’s weight). What this often means is that dogs who are given away rarely get spayed or neutered; people who take home a “free” pup balk at that cost, and then, 7 months or a year later, guess what? More “free puppies”!

Most shelters today hire vets (or have one on staff) who can do many more surgeries in a day than a vet in a mixed practice can do, and at a much lower cost. It’s also state law in California that all dogs and cats must be spayed/neutered before adoption, so shelters have to find a way to make that happen.

Shelters also screen their applicants, making sure that people have fenced yards or other basics.

The big problem is, ALL of the west coast shelters are struggling with an overabundance of Huskies and Husky-mixes at the moment. Huskies are notoriously high-energy dogs – there is a reason they are the chosen breed to pull sleds! – and their coats require owners who are committed to living with a lot of loose dog hair floating around their homes and cars. As you now know, they are among the cutest puppies ever, but they grow into very smart dogs who are motivated to MOVE and RUN and CHEW! They work overtime as adolescents to have fun – which often translates into some of the highest rates of “owner-surrenders” back to shelters. Many people can’t handle their energy and struggle to keep them exercised, and they turn into champion escapees, climbing fences, chewing their way through gates, and digging under barriers of all kinds – which is probably how you found the mama on your lawn. But what this means is, you might have trouble finding a shelter that will take them, because they might already have a number of untrained, unruly adolescent and adult Huskies they are trying to find homes for.

On the other hand, shelters know that it’s far better for the community to spay/neuter puppies and get them placed in screened homes than to allow them to be given away and likely not get neutered. And puppies tend to get adopted more quickly than adolescents or adults — so if you can find a shelter that WILL take them, that would be ideal (in my view). However, many shelters are so full right now that they are not taking “owner-surrendered” dogs. (My local shelter is not taking dogs from owners right now; they barely have enough room for all the strays that their officers are picking up.)

Less ideal, from your view, is that if you can find a shelter who will take them, the shelter is likely to charge a fee for “owner-surrendered” dogs; it helps defray the cost of those vaccines, microchips, and spay/neuter surgery, not to mention the highly possible cost of having to keep them for weeks and weeks before they get adopted. (Why “weeks and weeks”? Most shelters have perennial cases of “kennel cough” that puppies are likely to catch upon admittance, which means they will be held back from the public for at least a week and sometimes as much as three weeks while being treated for their runny, snotty noses and deep coughs, which can sometimes turn into a more serious illness, especially in a shelter setting. This is rarely fatal, but the pups will be growing older and larger while waiting to recover from their cough; no one wants to take home a puppy with a scary cough!)

I know they aren’t “your” dogs — so why should you have to pay an “owner-surrender” fee? Well, in your case it’s true – you were being a good Samaritan – but you should know that “we found these puppies” is what 99% of people who bring puppies to shelters for surrendering say. I’ve heard, “I came home from work and heard puppies under my deck, the mom had them under there, and I’ve never seen her before!” and “We found them all dumped by our mailbox! (or “in a ditch by the side of the road”) more times than I can count. And the fact is, the shelter will be spending more on each pup then they get back in adoption fees – that’s why they are constantly fund-raising – and even a fairly stiff owner-surrender fee often barely covers the cost of caring for each pup.

I’m not sure what town you’re in, but most of the Bay area shelters are pretty darn reputable, and if you can find one that will agree to take them, that might be your best bet, and ultimately what’s best for them. You can also ask any shelter you call if they know of any rescue groups who might take puppies. Rescue groups generally take on only as many dogs as they can afford to care for and place; they don’t have the burden of having to take in all the strays of municipal shelters.

But if you can’t find one, you’re back at square one: Marketing on social media to friends and family and their friends and family. Your cute pics will help – as will any vaccinations you’ve obtained for them. Make your photo albums shareable, and try to get them placed ASAP, because they rapidly lose their adorableness as they approach 3 and 4 months, and are missing out on puppy socialization and bonding with their new families.

Sorry if this sounds kind of discouraging. You are the second person in two weeks to ask me this same question – and my own local shelter (where I volunteer) is so full, they’ve been waiving all adoption fees, trying to get dogs and puppies placed at a faster rate than more keep coming in. The staff is exhausted! They’ve been DROWNING in puppies – most likely because since COVID, many vets have had long waiting times for appointments, and dogs have been getting pregnant before people knew they COULD get pregnant. And we’re several canine generations into that cycle at this point.

Good luck — and again, thanks for taking this on. I know it’s a burden!



  1. Hi Nancy and your son’s friend: He might try posting the puppies here:
    Siberian Husky Rescue/Referral of California: Main Index

    It’s been around a long time. Those of us associated with Bay Area Siberian Husky (BASH) and NorSled refer owners there to post to try to find homes. The moderator/owner of the website is very helpful to the person posting. I hope that helps!

    Warm regards….Nannette

    • I agree with Scott. I adopted a Rottweiler mix puppy (now 95 pounds) from the Humane Society and was required to neuter him before he came home. Fast forward to two torn ACLs before he was 2 years old and another meniscus repair beyond that. 20k in surgeries and long recoveries. Two different surgeons told me that joint issues are more prevalent with early neuter, especially in large dogs. What if my dog was adopted by someone who couldn’t afford the repairs?

  2. Your reply to this young person is both wise and companionate. But as a volunteer with with a 501-c3 not-profit rescue group I must disagree with a couple of points. It may be true that shelters in your area do vaccines and microchips but not all shelters do. In my area of the Pacific Northwest few of the shelters that ask for our help send the dogs out with the full range of vaccines. Vaccinated for kennel cough — yes, always to keep it from spreading–but rarely any of the others. Alost never vaccinated for rabies.. Also, the vet staffs at shelters are just as stressed and overworked as any other vets and often just as far behind in being able to preform spay/neuters.

  3. I owned a wonderful Husky. At 141/2 she passed away a couple of weeks ago. These dogs need understanding of their temperaments and a high energy owner to keep up. Try the various Northern California Husky rescue shelters. They will help your pups find the right homes. They get the Husky personality and needs.
    People see Huskies as a beautiful “cool” dog. But they are a handful. And sadly one of the most surrendered dogs in shelters. Good luck.

  4. Freyja Grey is 55% husky and some other northern breeds, plus a mixture of other things (12% border collie.) When I adopted her she was “red carded”. While technically California is a no-kill shelter state, they can and do if a dog is un-adoptable or they need to make space for more dogs coming in. Freyja had already been returned twice for destructive behavior, the second time within 24 hours so her days were definitely numbered.

    She is lucky I am both patient and an experienced dog owner. While Diana pawPrints and I were not looking to expand our family, by a series of coincidences I saw her on the website where Diana and her family had been surrendered. She looked like a Keeshond we had when I was growing up and I know they don’t do well left alone for more than a few hours. I suspected that was the problem. Well, turned out it was and she wasn’t. But huskies same thing. There was an initial adjustment period where I had to lock the lids on the trash cans and I lost a blouse and a scarf. But eventually she settled and she has been a joy ever since. I’m retired so she is rarely alone for more than a few hours and she has Diana to keep her company. She has bonded with my parent’s dog, Dolly and the two are such a joy to watch, grooming each other or playing together.

    She doesn’t really have the high energy of a pure husky but she does blow her coat every few hours. Well, not that often but she is always the culprit when there is dog hair around. But I’m OK with that. I may have gotten the breed wrong but I still knew what I was getting into when I drove Diana three hours for a meet and greet and came back with her. I haven’t regretted it and I’m glad I did. Every time I look at her happy face I think of how she might not have had the opportunity to become her true self if we hadn’t driven to get her. Thankfully the shelter didn’t have problem adopting her out of the county. I guess they were just happy anyone would take her. A life saved. She has no clue but I think on some level she remembers some of her previous life and is so happy to have the one she has now.

    Hopefully T.S. will never regret that he took the mother in and supported her and her puppies until they were old enough for adoption. I’m sure someone is going to be thankful that he did and thus they ended up with the greatest dog in the world.