Did you know that in the United States alone approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter the shelter system each year (ASPCA Pet Statistics)? Of that 7.6 million, each year 2.7 million are euthanized. 1.2 million of those euthanized are dogs. The majority of them are euthanized not because they are bad or ill-tempered, but because in our overburdened shelter system, there simply isn’t enough space for them all. These dogs live out the last months, weeks, days and hours of their lives on a cold cement floor with no one to tell them, “I have loved you…” as they close their eyes for the last time.
And while that scenario above is happening everyday, with thousands of loving dogs being euthanized, at the same time new dogs are being brought into existence by breeders and puppy mills everyday. You see the problem there? There are already millions of dogs just waiting to be your best friend and companion. But they stand no chance when new purebred dogs are being brought into existence and marketed as some way superior to the dogs in shelters.
I have been an animal shelter volunteer and foster mom the past two plus years. The dogs featured in the photos in this post are just some of the hundreds of dogs I’ve gotten to know through volunteering. Animal rescue is something I am deeply passionate about because now I know these dogs. I know how amazing they are. I know that nothing makes a dog from a breeder a better companion than a dog from a shelter.
I also know that a huge part of the problem here is that people just don’t know. They aren’t aware of what shelter dogs are really like. And I know this because before my family and I became involved in animal rescue, we bought our dog from a breeder. And he was wonderful and we loved him to pieces. But the only reason we got him from a breeder was because we ourselves were unaware. We didn’t know how many animal lives are lost each year because people choose to buy from breeders instead of adopting, we didn’t know the gravity of the situation, and we didn’t know how amazing, loving and wonderful shelter pets can be.
The purpose of this post is to share the information that I only wish I knew from day one. Of course I would never want to change having had Cody. And if you have a dog from a breeder or pet shop, I’m sure you feel the same way. So this post isn’t about beating ourselves up for the choices we’ve made in the past, it’s about the future. It’s about moving forward and making more informed choices. If you have a dog from a breeder right now, love them to pieces. But in the future, I hope you’ll consider adoption.
Please keep in mind that this post focuses on dogs, but cats, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, pigs, fish, etc. end up in shelters too and they could all make great companions. And note that for the purpose of this post I’m using the term “breeder” to cover breeders in the traditional sense and pet shops, as pet shop puppies come from puppy mills, which are large scale breeders.
Here are my 8 reasons to adopt a shelter dog, instead of getting one from a breeder.
1. You know what you’re getting.
I’m not sure why people think they know what they’re getting more with a purebred dog than a shelter dog. It’s one of those long held beliefs that I hear all the time. But dogs, like people, develop their own unique personalities. When you get a dog from a traditional breeder, almost always you’re putting down a down payment before the dog is even born. Breed stereotypes are just that – stereotypes. And thinking your dog will be well-behaved or easy to take care of because they are a certain breed is just plain wrong. When you get a dog from a shelter, whether it’s a puppy or an adult dog, staff and volunteers actually know that dog! And if your dog is in foster, then that dog has actually lived with another person who can literally tell you everything you could possibly want to know about how the dog acts.
I remember once a passerby came onto the adoption van I was volunteering on and excitedly told the other volunteers and I that his family was getting a puppy from a breeder in a couple weeks and followed it with, “You know, because shelter dogs are unpredictable.” I was filled with so much anger and sadness. Here he was, saying this surrounded by ten amazing, loving, wonderful and very “predictable” dogs. I could have told him all about the dogs there. Exactly what they like, if they’re good with kids or dogs or cats. If they need lots of exercise or if they’re more of a lap dog. I could tell him all of that right then and there because I had been volunteering with those dogs for weeks, some months, on end. Now, what could he truly tell me about his unborn puppy’s personality? Not one thing.
2. Raising a puppy is a ton of work. At a shelter you can adopt an adult dog whose puppy phase is already behind them.
I have fostered eleven dogs and had one of my own. I’ve fostered everything from six week old puppies to senior dogs. Adult dogs are way more mature and chill than puppies. They won’t gnaw on you constantly (puppy teething), they won’t chew up everything in your house, and more often than not they are either housetrained or housetraining them is pretty easy. Plus, puppies always get adopted. They are in high demand. It’s the adult dogs (meaning 1 year plus) that get overlooked. So if you still want a puppy, there are always puppies in shelters looking for their forever homes, but know that adult dogs and senior dogs make wonderful companions too.
3. If you really have your heart set on a particular breed you can still adopt. Every type of breed can end up in shelters/rescues.
Once you really get to know lots of different types of dogs, you realize breed doesn’t really matter. That said, if you still have your heart set on a specific breed, you can find it in a shelter or rescue group. Even purebred dogs end up in shelters. At just the small shelter I volunteer at in NYC I’ve seen it all – purebred dalmations, labradors, labradoodles, cocker spaniels, golden retrievers, dachshunds, yorkies, pomeranians, pekingese (remember my foster Day-Day, pictured above), shit-zus, pugs, etc.
And there are rescue groups for every type of breed too. If you’ve got your heart set on a certain breed, head to google and search for the breed type (example: dachshund) and search “dachshund rescues”. You’ll be surprised by all the rescues you’ll find. Petfinder.com is another great resource where you can search massive rescue databases by different criteria, including breed, to find the very breed you want in need of rescue. And if you don’t find one right away, have patience. You will!
4. Adopting is more affordable.
Breeders and pet stores often charge hundreds to thousands of dollars for their puppies. Adoption fees at shelters/rescue groups are generally in the low hundreds and that fee covers spay/neuter surgery, microchip, vaccines and any other veterinary care the animal receives while in the shelter. When you buy from a breeder the spay/neuter surgery, microchip, vaccines and veterinary care will all be things you will be taking care of yourself and paying for out of your own pocket. Purebred dogs are more expensive because breeding is for-profit, whereas shelters are nonprofit.
5. Purebred dogs tend to have more health issues.
I remember someone told me this once when I was a kid and I ignorantly told them they were wrong. This one especially applies to dogs from pet shops and online breeders. The puppies in pet shops come from puppy mills. Puppy mills excessively breed dogs over and over again to make the most money. Because of that there is a great deal of inbreeding which can lead to serious life-long health problems.
6. Puppy mills are horrible, cruel places. Do you really want your money to support that?
The level of cruelty that happens in puppy mills is truly horrific. Often the mother dogs used to breed are bred over and over again until their bodies physically can no longer handle it. And when her body reaches that point, she’s either killed or dumped somewhere, half-alive, like trash. But, if the parent dog is lucky enough, they get rescued. At the shelter I volunteer at we have rescued many of these mother and father dogs used for breeding at puppy mills. The level of neglect and abuse they have suffered is truly heartbreaking. They’re often left in a cage their whole lives, not given enough food or water and they never see the light of day. That’s what these dogs go through. And want to know what? If they survive the years of neglect they have been through, once they get to the shelter and realize they are safe, they become the most loving and kind companions.
7. Shelter dogs will love you in a very special way.
All dogs have the potential to be amazing, loving companions. But there is something extra special about a dog that comes from a shelter. These dogs know you rescued them. They have a sense of loyalty and appreciation that you would only see from a dog that goes from having no one, to having someone.
8. When you adopt you’re not just saving one life. You’re saving two.
The wonderful thing about adoption is that when you adopt not only do you save the life of your new companion, but in return you save the life of the one you just made space for in the shelter.
If you have any questions about adoption feel free to comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always happy to help in any way I can!