You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘adopt don’t shop’ at some point in your life. It’s a stand alone statement that many feel requires no further explanation. The implication is that adopting an animal is clearly a good thing, but shopping for one through a breeder is not good or ethically neutral, but is in fact bad. Is the reasoning behind this clear? I’m not sure it is. I suspect many people are not educated on what the breeding situation looks like in many instances and therefore don’t understand what the big deal is.
If you’re adopting an animal from a breeder, that means you’re not getting it from a shelter or rescue. Roughly 1.5 million animals are euthanized in the United States every year. Many of which could have been a loving pet to someone, but were instead killed because no one wanted them. Overpopulation forces shelters to euthanize animals to make room for more strays off the streets. Does this fact alone make buying from a breeder bad?
The fact is there are larger issues at play than the mere fact that buying from a breeder means not buying from a shelter or rescue.
- Puppy/Cat Mills: These mills are basically a high volume breeding facility. This is where roughly 90-95% of the puppies you see in pet stores come from. They are notorious for cutting corners to maximize profits, although obviously this doesn’t apply to all of them. The quality of life for many of these animals is very poor. While all you see is the cute puppy at the store, what you don’t see is it’s mother confined to a small cage and forced to breed over and over until her body wears out at which point she is discarded in one way or another. She will never get to experience the loving home that her puppies are destined for.
- Irresponsible Breeding Practices: Adorable animals are not always healthy animals. People have become more enamored with certain physical characteristics that are sometimes detrimental to the well-being of the animal. Take the English Bulldog for example. Adorable? Absolutely. However, breeding these dogs with a focus on a flat face and rolls of skin has caused them to be littered with health issues. They are now prone to dental, eye, skin, heart, respiratory, and immune system problems. It’s so serious that many bulldogs require C-sections to give birth because of the impairments to their health. Prioritizing aesthetic often leads to practices like ear cropping and tail docking. A dog’s ears and tail are both important tools they use to communicate with humans and other animals. When they are mutilated in this way not only can it interfere with their ability to communicate, but can cause pain and other health risks. Purebreds also often have health issues due to a lack of genetic diversity.
Even when I worked at the animal shelter I saw this up close and personal. Time and time again I saw people choose a beautiful dog over a well-behaved dog. There was a pit bull named Hercules that had been at the shelter for over a year. When a stray German Shephard came in I had more people ask about that dog in one day than had ever asked about Hercules in the months I worked there. The German Shephard was aggressive. Hercules was not. I can’t tell you how frustrated I was by it all. Thankfully, Hercules has now found a good home, but it took him a long time because of people overlooking him.
So when I say ‘adopt don’t shop’ what I’m saying is you have the power to promote two different ideologies. If you’re willing to buy through a breeder with the way things are, what you’re inevitably telling them is that what they’re doing is okay. They are encouraged to continue breeding animals in inhumane conditions because that’s what’s most cost effective. They’re encouraged to continue breeding animals to look a certain way despite the impact on their health. It’s supply and demand. But if people begin adopting instead, those industries will be forced to breed less. While this doesn’t make it go away all together, it does lessen the suffering. Plus, you could very well save a life by going through a shelter or rescue. Which of these do you want to support?
Full disclosure: I have fantasized about having a pug for roughly 15 years. I don’t know how it started, but I’ve fallen in love with their little faces and always hoped to get one someday. However, after knowing what I know now I would never go to a breeder to get one. Pugs are another victim of bad breeding practices. The fixation with a flat face has caused many of them to have a hard time breathing. Why would we intentionally breed a dog that can barely breath? Because too many people don’t care about that or aren’t aware of it. They only care that it’s cute. If you ever see me with a pug in the future, know that it would be from a shelter or rescue. I would rather go the rest of my life without ever having a pug than support the irresponsible breeding practices that victimize them.
As of right now we have three animals (all were rescued in one way or another):