Adopt don’t shop

Sam and Benjamin really, really wanted a dog! These five- and seven-year-old brothers had loved dogs ever since they could remember, when their parents would take them on walks around the neighborhood and they would stop to pet and talk with their friends’ dogs. But even though their parents loved dogs too, the family was busy, with small kids, a small apartment, school, and other commitments that made Benjamin and Sam’s parents feel they just weren’t ready to have a dog in the home. But then after a good deal of family discussion, they realized they were finally in a place where they could offer a dog a dependable, loving, and fun home.

Of course, the only thing left to do, then, was get the dog! But it’s almost never that easy, right? One of the biggest questions the family needed to answer, in all the considerations related to bringing a new pet into the family, was whether they should adopt or buy a new pet. They wondered whether it actually mattered which option they chose. Really, what was the difference between adopting and shopping for a dog?

As they began to look into the issue, they learned a lot about how pets are acquired in this country and what the best decision for their family was. First, they learned some statistics about animals in the United States.

For example, they looked on the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals’ (ASPCA) website and discovered that:

  • Around 7.6 million animals enter shelters every year in the United States.
  • Around 2.7 million animals are euthanized every year.
  • Of the animals at shelters, approximately 2.7 million are adopted each year.
  • Dogs are owned by about 37 to 47 percent of U.S. households, and cats are owned by about 10 to 37% of households.

Knowing these facts and others, the family came to see that by adopting an animal rather than buying one from a pet shop, breeder, or other source, they would likely be saving an animal’s life. They understood that many animals in shelters are euthanized each year because there’s simply not room for all the animals who are currently without loving homes. In addition, they would help weaken the demand for pets from “puppy mills” with inhumane conditions.

From their visits to various shelters and other rescue groups, it was obvious to the family that there were a lot of great animals to choose from—so many of them had great personalities and were happy and healthy. And there was so much variety! They saw dogs of all sizes, breeds, and ages. And there were so many different animals in addition to the dogs they were looking at. A knowledgeable insider also let them know that mixed-breed dogs often live longer and have fewer health problems than purebred dogs.

They knew of some friends who had adopted special needs pets, but this family realized their home life and situation at this point were better suited to a healthy, trained dog that was ready to easily integrate into the family’s life. They appreciated that a lot of shelter animals are already trained (at least to some degree!), so they wouldn’t need to spend as much time starting from scratch and teaching their new pup all he would need to know.

On a more practical note, the family came to see that adopting a dog was a much cheaper option than buying one. Some shelters have an adoption fee, while others simply suggest a donation. In any case, most shelter animals are already spayed or neutered, have up-to-date vaccinations, and are often even microchipped!

In addition, the shelter staff gets to know the animals and can share information about not only their health history but behavioral and other individual qualities. The family could see that a shelter can be a stressful environment for an animal, so they really appreciated the information the staff shared about each animal. They were also able to spend some quiet time with several of the dogs they were considering, which really helped them get to know the individual dogs better.

They also realized that the adoption agencies they were working with and other important people in their lives such as family, friends, and their vet were there to help them think through this exciting—and important!—decision and support them as they began the adventure of incorporating a new furry pal into their family. They realized they shouldn’t hesitate to ask questions and ask for help if they needed it. In addition to these important people in their lives, they realized that the Internet offers a plethora of resources for pet owners, and their local library has multiple books, magazines, and other resources that they can consult when they have questions or just want to learn more.

Now that their dog Murphy is part of the family, they love telling other people about their awesome new dog and about the benefits of adopting rather than buying! For example, when their friends Kevin and Lisa were looking for a new cat, Benjamin and Sam were the first to encourage them to check out local shelters, pointing out all the benefits of adopting a new pal. Sam was excited to talk about how he loves going back to the shelter to take old blankets and other supplies to help out the pets that are currently there, and he thinks he may want to work at the shelter when he’s older. Even though he’s only five years old, it’s easy for him to see the love and compassion at work there, and his parents appreciate that he wants to be a part of helping all animals find their forever homes.