Adopt Don’t Shop: The Gray Area

For the last 10-15 years, the “Adopt Don’t Shop” saying has become more and more prevalent in the pet community. The purpose of this slogan (promoting adoption over purchasing pets from breeders in an effort to curb shelter numbers and promote finding homes for abandoned animals) was, in general, a success. And this is fabulous! We love seeing adopted animals happy and thriving in new homes that otherwise may have been left to fend for them or euthanized. However, over the years this one size fits all mentality of adoption = good, breeders = bad has created many problems that highlight why this way of thinking is not as black and white as it may seem.

Clearly, the adopt don’t shop movement came from a place of good intentions: to promote awareness of unethical breeders and provide adoption as an alternative. Unfortunately, unethical breeders will always exist and it is our job as pet owners to recognize the signs (that are not always obvious) and not support them by purchasing from them.

One of the bigger problems that the adopt don’t shop movement has created is the creation of what we now know as “retail rescue.” People have recognized that by marketing animals in a way that portrays them as being “rescued” they can make an easy profit. These dogs are often shipped in inhumane crowded conditions, have forged medical documents and can come with a myriad of health and behavioral issues.

Speaking of behavior and health issues: many well meaning individuals have started rescues with the mission of saving as many animals as possible. While this is a noble endeavor, it is unfortunately not realistic and creates a situation where animals are not being properly medically and/or behaviorally assessed before being placed. This means their new owners are not being properly informed of the animal’s needs and may end up relinquishing or euthanizing the pet because of these issues. If the goal of rescue is to place animals in a permanent home, this practice is not conducive to that.

Finally, ethical breeders are being lumped in with the unethical. It is SO important that people continue to place value on well bred pets for so many reasons. Ethical breeders are the people investing astronomical amounts of time, money and energy into their animals. They make every effort to ensure that the dog or cat you signed up for is healthy and behaviorally sound while ensuring their breeding stock is well cared for and happy themselves.

Acquiring pets has become a buyer beware situation for ALL scenarios now, not just when considering a breeder. In an online world where it can be impossible to decipher between truth and lies, we encourage you to reach out to your veterinary team for opinions and advice on breeders and rescues when considering adding a new pet to your home.