There is a lot of discussion on the Internet and TV about adopting pets from a shelter versus buying a pet from a breeder. According to the ASPCA Pet Statistics page, approximately 2.7 million animals a year are euthanized. The good news is that according to the same source, just as many are adopted each year.
Shelter animals have a reputation for being second class to buying a pet from a breeder. Arguments against shelter pets include: the pet has pre-existing behaviors, most people want a puppy or kitten, and pure breeds are generally not available.
There are even more arguments for adopting a shelter animal or from a rescue. Let’s take a look at the pros of adopting from a shelter vs. purchasing from a breeder or pet store.
When purchasing a pet from a breeder, the pet will generally only have their first set of shots and that is it. When adopting from a shelter or rescue, you get so much more. Depending on the age of the animal, all shots have been given, the animal has received a veterinarian check prior to being listed as available, and the pet has been spayed or neutered.
Pure breed animals almost always cost more than shelter or rescue animals. Some pure breeds range from $200 into the thousands of dollars. You are paying for the breed, the bloodline, and sometimes the animal is registered with a nationally known registry. However, shelter or rescue animals, depending on age, range from $25-150. Some rescues also charge an additional adoption fee that is put back into the rescue for the care of more animals. Remember, with shelter or rescue animals, the initial veterinarian care is included in that cost.
According to The Humane Society of the United States, 25% of animals in shelters are pure breeds. Also, there are pure breed related rescues to check out if you want a purebred animal. Some people are really specific as to what they want. However, before setting your mind on a breed, be sure that the breed is for you. While breeders are filled with information about the specific breed they sell, most shelters and rescues are well versed in a variety of breeds. They will be able to help you choose an animal that is a fit for your family, home, and lifestyle.
Mixed breeds often have less health problems than purebred animals due to a mixture of genetics within breeds. Unless you are very careful with adopting from a breeder, chances are likely that your animal will have a genetic condition passed down the line of breeding.
There is a common misconception about shelter and rescue animals that they are ‘damaged goods,’ and this is the reason they are in the shelter. Chances are, they are in the shelter for reasons other than behavior. A good number of shelter and rescue animals were strays. Also, if a pet is surrendered by the owner, it often has nothing to do with the animal but a change in the owner’s circumstances. Reputable shelters and rescues will do behavior testing. Also, if a pet is an owner surrender, they most likely come with information – do they get along with other animals, are they hard to keep in a fence, etc. Whenever looking at a shelter or rescue animal, ask about the history of the animal, along with any known behavior issues, likes, dislikes, etc.
Some people are looking for a puppy and there are plenty of those at shelters and rescues. The breeds may be mixed but chances are you will be able to find one that is a good fit for you. Another option is adopting an adolescent or even an adult dog. Many times, you will find that these dogs are already house trained, they know basic commands, and are calmer than puppies. Elderly dogs are especially hard to adopt out so don’t overlook these great options as well.
When buying from a breeder, you may only receive a small amount of food. However, shelters and rescues often provide a ‘puppy kit’ or ‘adoption kit.’ These kits are worked into the cost of the adoption. Depending on the size and/or age of the animal, they provide a couple days of food, a small bed, and a guide for taking care of your new pet. Also, many rescues and shelters sell toys, blankets, beds, and other animal needs. The proceeds of these items go back into the shelter to help other animals.
Most people search for a purpose in their lives. Pets can bring meaning, unconditional love, and joy to a person’s life. This is especially true when adopting a shy or timid animal. Watching the animal come out of its shell as it begins to be comfortable in its new surroundings can give a person an amazing feeling of accomplishment. It’s a win-win situation.
Perhaps the most important of all the reasons to adopt a shelter pet is you are saving a life. Depending on the shelter, some animals are euthanized due to overcrowding. Rescues generally do not euthanize except in extreme cases of abuse or behavior issues. Even in the case of behavior issues, rescues take every step they can to not euthanize. Whether it is the life of the animal you are adopting or the lives of animals that the rescue can continue to save, you are contributing to saving lives. Many people also say that shelter and rescue pets seem to be more grateful than pets adopted from breeders. While there is no scientific way to determine this, it still makes you feel good.
Like most everything, breeding has a time and place. In another article, we will discuss the positives of adopting from a breeder and how to choose a breeder. For now, just remember, "Adopt, don’t shop!"