A fellow dog influencer and good friend of ours recently brought home the cutest mini American Shepherd puppy that I have ever seen. I have been watching her Instagram stories adamantly ever since. Seeing this puppy’s first interactions with her new family took me back to when Moose first met Koda. It was such a happy and exciting time in our lives. I remember wanting to document every second of it.
It absolutely broke my heart when the “adopt don’t shop” advocates took this otherwise heartwarming and life-changing experience and destroyed it by slamming this influencer’s name all over social media.
I generally try to avoid opinions pieces like this, but this topic hit far too close to home for me not to speak my piece. So here is why I refuse to say “Adopt don’t Shop”.
I want to preface this article by stating that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with adopting a dog from a shelter. I applaud anyone who is willing and able to take in a dog who would otherwise be homeless, and give it a loving — forever home.
With that being said, I don’t believe in shaming people who choose to get their dog from a breeder either. For many families, adoption isn’t an option, and they shouldn’t be criticized for it. I believe that dog ownership, in any capacity (adoption or not), should be celebrated — and it shouldn’t be crushed by those who shove a misguided phrase onto others.
The Adoption Process Isn’t For Everyone
“Adopt don’t shop” stems from a theory that if every single person who purchased a dog from a breeder, instead rescued a shelter dog, that the shelters would no longer be inundated with dogs — thus saving thousands of pets from being euthanized each year. It’s a novel idea, but there is one problem…
Not everyone is a candidate for adoption.
Matter of fact, I couldn’t adopt . My husband and I applied to several corgi rescues in California and we were denied by every single one of them. The instability of the Air Force was the cause of nearly all of our rejection letters.
Rescues often have extremely high standards/requirements for potential adopters. Rescues can ask for in-home visits, tax returns/pay stubs, and may even ask for a written recommendation letter from your veterinarian — all in an effort to match their animals with the best homes and families possible. The application process can take months before you know whether or not you have been approved.
The long and grueling process to be approved can be taxing. The dog you originally “had your eye on” from the rescue is likely long gone by the time you are given the green light, leaving you waiting for another potential dog to come along. Should you be denied, you are back at square one again.
The entire process of adopting a dog can be emotionally draining. It isn’t for everyone — not every home is suitable for a rescue dog.
Different Breeds for Difference Needs
This brings me to my next point: There is nothing wrong with wanting to be knowledgeable about a breed: their temperament, their grooming requirements, etc. In fact, It is imperative that you know that specific information before diving in head-first into dog ownership. The 10+ year commitment of owning a dog should not be taken lightly. The more you know about your future dog, the more you are able to make an educated decision on whether or not dog ownership is right for you.
One thing that many dog owners fail to realize, is that “You cannot out-train genetic instincts”. In other words, if you don’t want a dog with prey drive, don’t get a breed of dog that was bred to go after prey.
Adopting a dog from a shelter is often a roll of the dice because of the combination of genetics at play in a single dog. A dog’s temperament is often a combination of upbringing/exposure and genetics.
Will this 2-year-old German Shepherd/Labrador mix have the temperament of a Shepherd or of a Lab? Moreover, what has he been exposed to in the last 2 years of his life?
Sometimes shelter dogs work out great, and other times they get returned to the shelter for one reason or another. It is often not the fault of the dog nor the returnee, it simply wasn’t “a match”. It is not uncommon for a dog to get adopted and returned to a shelter 2 or 3 times before they finally find a permanent home. Adopting a dog from a shelter is often comparable to blind dating, it requires patience before you find “the one”.
The Underlying Causes Overpopulation
I will be the first person to admit that we have a HUGE overpopulation problem in our shelters. It’s becoming a nationwide epidemic and it needs to be addressed immediately — but it’s not going to be fixed by “adopt don’t shop” because it doesn’t target the root cause of overpopulated shelters: irresponsible dog owners, backyard breeders, and puppy mills.
Irresponsible Dog Owners – Surrenders make up a large percentage of animals found in shelters and rescues. Irresponsible owners fail to make a lifelong commitment to their pet for one reason or another. Pets are often surrendered due to behavior problems or changes in their owner’s lives such as: divorce, birth of a child, or moving.
Backyard Breeders – People that intentionally (or unintentionally) allow their pets to reproduce. Backyard breeders are not knowledgeable on how to breed responsibly, such as screening for genetic defects. Very little thought goes into these litters. Owners simply put two dogs together allow them to do as nature intended. Backyard breeders often don’t research buyers that are interested in their puppies — This results in them often selling their puppies to irresponsible dog owners.
Puppy Mills – Puppy mills are commercial breeding facilities that mass-produce dogs for profit. Dogs are often kept in cages most of their lives until they are no longer able to reproduce, at which time they are discarded. Puppies from these mills can suffer from health defects due to poor genetics or lack of veterinary care.
Instead of scrambling to find homes for millions of homeless dogs (and shaming people who don’t adopt them), we need to start targeting those individuals who put those dogs in that position to begin with. We need to stop backyard breeders and puppy mills from producing dogs in the first place. Moreover, we need to start educating future dog owners about responsible dog ownership.
Dogs should not be an impulsive decision made overnight, but rather a thoughtful decision made after months of research and deliberation. Future dog owners should understand and be prepared for a 10+ year committed (and anything and everything that comes with it).
We need to educate future dog owners so when it comes time for them to bring home a dog, they are ready. It is imparative that they know where they should and shouldn’t purchase a dog from.
We need to set future dog owners up for success.
Reputable Breeders Aren’t The Problem
Despite common misconception, reputable breeders do not contribute to the shelter population. They are incredibly passionate about the puppies they bring into the world, and they feel morally responsibly for every single one of them. They produce puppies thoughtfully, responsibly, and ethically and most importantly, they do NOT allow their dogs to end up in shelters EVER.
Koda’s story is an example of what happens when irresponsible dog owners purchase puppies from a reputable breeder:
Lance and I brought home Moose in July of 2017. Needless to say, we instantly fell in love with him and I reached out to our breeder to discuss the possibility of getting a second red and white male. Her waitlist is roughly a year long, so I expected to bring home our second corgi puppy in July of 2018.
About 2 weeks after I reached out, our breeder called us. “I know you wanted another red and white male, but I just had a dog returned to me and I think she would be the perfect fit for your family. I have had a lot of interest in her from people on my waitlist, but I want her to go to a home that already has a corgi from me — one that I know will keep her forever. I have talked with a lot of families about the possibility of sending her home with them, but I don’t think there is a better match for her than you and Lance. Are you interested?”
She could have sent Koda with the next family in line on her waitlist and washed her hands of the situation, but she instead sent Koda to a place that she knew would be a successful home for her. A forever home.
Shop Responsibly — Adopt Responsibly
All of that to say, adoption certainly isn’t for everyone. The decision of “adopt OR shop” needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Using blanketed terms like “adopt don’t shop” for every single person that wants a dog isn’t realistic.
Moreover, people that choose to purchase their dog from a breeder are not morally inferior to those that choose to adopt. Owning a dog is an increible gift, no matter how you acquired them.
We need to stop rejecting breeders and start promoting responsible dog ownership.
Responsible Dog Ownership:
- Research the breed of dog they are interested in
- Buy responsibly from an ethical breeder/Adopt Responsibly
- Alter their pets/Don’t allow their pet to reproduce
- Ensure they only live in a pet friendly home
- Seek our expert advice when behavior issues arise
- Plan for unexpected medical costs/emergencies
- Take time out of their day for 1-on-1 time with their dog
Irresponsible Dog Owners:
- Buy a dog based on appearance
- Buy their dog from a puppy mill or backyard breeder
- Fail to have their dog altered / Allow their pet to reproduce
- Move into a home that’s not “dog friendly”
- Give up because their pet has “behavior problems”
- Are overwhelmed by the cost/ Don’t plan for health costs
- Don’t set time aside every day to care for their dog