Adopt - Don't Shop

It's a sad and harsh fact that between 3 and 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in the United States simply because too many people give up their pets, and too few people adopt from shelters. Because there is limited space at most shelters, staff members sometimes need to make very hard decisions to euthanize animals who haven’t been adopted.

When you opt to buy a dog from a Petland, or a "designer"/backyard breeder (not a reputable, registered breeder), you may be supporting puppy mills. Puppy mills are “factory style” dog-breeding facilities that put profit above the welfare of dogs. Most dogs raised in puppy mills are housed in shockingly poor conditions with improper medical care (if any), and the parents of the puppies are kept in cages to be bred over and over for years, without human companionship and with little hope of ever joining a family.

After they’re no longer profitable, breeding dogs are simply discarded. They're either killed extremely brutally and inhumanely, abandoned or sold at auction to research facilities and testing labs. Many dogs I've seen come through rescue were dogs that were dumped off at a shelter after having a litter of puppies, or dogs that were tied to a post and left there to die when they're no longer able to breed. That's where rescue comes in.

It's a common misconception that dogs who are rescued from a shelter are "damaged", "problem dogs", or that they've been so horribly abused that they're "beyond repair". In fact, as a volunteer at a dog rescue, I've heard rescue dogs referred to as "garbage dogs". 

To the contrary, rescue dogs are most often turned in because of people reasons - a divorce, a move, lack of time or financial constraints are among the most common reasons why pets lose their homes. In fact, one of the most common reasons that I've seen people turn in dogs is because a dog is "too old". These dogs want nothing more than human companionship, to be fed a good meal and to sleep in a warm home.

Puppy mills will continue to operate until people stop purchasing their dogs.  Instead of buying a dog, visit your local shelter where you will likely to find dozens of healthy, well-socialized puppies and adult dogs. Also, rescue dogs are vetted and spayed/neutered - which is a huge cost saver, when you consider that your average retail pet outlet sells dogs starting around the $900-1000 price point, which doesn't include vetting and spaying/neutering, which is usually about another $200-300.

Rescues generally ask for a very modest donation along with your adoption, usually along the lines of $200-500. Those fees include the  cost for transporting the dog (usually from a Southern or Midwestern state), for a 2-3 day quarantine before being offered for adoption (as dictated by state laws), and additional vetting once the dog is in its new home state. 

By adopting instead of buying a pet, you can be certain you aren’t supporting cruel puppy mills with your money. Rescue organizations are staffed by extremely dedicated volunteers and foster homes who put their all into making sure the dogs that come through their organization is matched with the best home possible so it can finally live the life it's deserved all along.

So if you, a family member, a friend, a co-worker, etc., are thinking about a dog, please think about rescuing a dog in need. Pets have a way of putting a smile on your face and a spring in your step, and even more so when you rescue a homeless dog.

Save a life - don't shop, adopt.

Kath F February 25, 2014 at 01:35 PM
Mike, very good article. I work in a shelter and there are so many truly wonderful animals looking for a forever home. I have such a hard time when I hear that someone bought an animal from a breeder. They are missing out on the best pets ever!
mg February 25, 2014 at 04:38 PM
Thanks Kath! Just so I'm not misunderstood, I have no qualm with reputable and responsible breeders. Some families do want to raise a dog from when it's a puppy, or they want to start a line of show dogs, or something. I think that's less of a problem, so long as they're doing it responsibly, than the people who use their dogs as a source of income - i.e., the people who are repeatedly breeding their dogs (or cats too) for the sole purpose of selling the offspring and making a quick buck off them, sometimes on Craigslist, or other internet classified ad.


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