Should I Adopt or Buy?

When looking for a pet, you have two main options. You can adopt a rescue pet from a shelter, or you can buy a pet from a store or breeder. But which option is better? Some people have the misconception that rescue pets carry baggage. Pet store pets often come from inhumane puppy mills, and unless you find a reputable breeder, can have a longer history of abuse than their shelter pet counterparts.

An estimated 3.7 million unwanted pets must be euthanized at animal shelters every year.  Of animals that enter a shelter, 56% of dogs and 71% of cats are euthanized. Only 25% of dogs and 24% of cats are adopted. Shelters will vaccinate pets and provide them with health care, so you can find out if your potential pet has any health or behavioral problems. Shelters will also provide support and information about pet care, and are generally cheaper than buying from breeders or pet stores.

If you do decide to buy a pet from a breeder, you need to make sure that they are reputable. Here are some questions you should ask a breeder before buying from them:

  1. Is the puppy raised in a clean home environment?
  2. Are the puppy’s parents on the premises and available for viewing?
  3. How many dogs and puppies does the breeder have?
  4. Have the puppies received vaccinations, worming and a veterinary health exam?
  5. Is the breeder knowledgeable about the breed’s possible genetic disorders?
  6. How old is the dog’s mother and how often does the breeder breed her?
  7. Does the breeder provide high-quality puppy food to the mother and puppies?
  8. Does the breeder sell mixed-breed puppies?
  9. Does the breeder require you to have the puppy spayed or neutered?
  10. What kind of “papers” does the dog have?
  11. Will the breeder take the puppy back if there’s a problem?

There are over 4,000 federally licensed breeding kennels in the U.S. Reputable breeders will only breed one to three litters at a time and usually only deal with one breed. They will not breed a dog until her second heat, and only breed every other heat after that. They will socialize their animals with humans and other animals. They will also provide documentation of all vaccinations and medical treatments.

Puppy mills, on the other hand, will breed a dog during every heat, until they are worn out and can no longer reproduce, at which point they kill them. They keep their animals in cages, often outdoors where the animals are exposed to the elements. Disease and death frequently occurs from lack of medical treatment, injuries sustained in fights or trying to escape their cages.

Certain pets often face a harder time finding a good home. Black dogs and cats are frequently passed over. Adult and senior cats and dogs are adopted less than kittens and puppies. Pitt bulls, terriers and certain other breeds have a harder time, due to a bad reputation that is sometimes unwarranted. Pets with disabilities or special needs also have a particularly difficult time getting adopted.

The bottom line is that it is important to do your research before adopting or buying a pet. They are loving companions that are long term commitments. Many times when you are adopting a pet you are literally saving a life. Take the time to find the pet that is right for you and a loving friend is your reward.

Additional Resources

American Humane Association Buying vs. Adopting:

The Bark Black Dogs Face a Hard Choice at Shelter:

American Humane Association Animal Shelter Euthanasia:

Save Our Homeless Pets Shelter Dog vs. Store Bought Puppy:

Adopting a Less Adoptable Pet:


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