When welcoming a new pet into the family, the first step taken in choosing your companion is figuring out exactly where you’ll go to find them. This is where the known catch-phrase “Adopt, Don’t Shop” comes in. The phrase has come to be used by a lot of people, but especially by animal rights activists due to its original intention and meaning. It comes loaded with a serious and clear implication that there’s one answer that best resolves the question of where to find your new pet.
What is that answer?
Shelters and rescue groups.
“Adopt, Don’t Shop” is a campaign slogan that was started by Last Chance for Animals (LCA), a Los Angeles based “national, non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating animal exploitation…” Staying true to their slogan and mission, LCA is an avid believer that people should adopt their pets from shelters and rescue groups as opposed to buying them from pet stores or online websites.
They recognized that most dogs sold in stores originate from puppy mills. Puppy mills are facilities where female dogs are forced to breed and pump out litter after litter, often with not enough time to recover or rest in between. They’re usually kept in small cages and are not permitted to set paw outside until they’re unable to reproduce and are then killed. As if that wasn’t horrific enough, the dogs are kept in terrible living conditions. These conditions include living in filth and having access to inadequate food, water, veterinary care, and socialization. Puppy mill dogs often develop illnesses and defects as a result.
“Adopt, Don’t Shop” is a slogan meant to raise awareness and discourage the unethical practices used by breeders at puppy mills, and even kitten mills, whose one and only goal is to make a profit at the expense of their animals’ safety and health.
However, the slogan has at times been controversial and frowned upon by others, who believe that buying a dog or cat is the better option for them. While the phrase is meant to discourage any form of support for puppy mills, it is not saying that there is no such thing as trustworthy breeders. There are indeed licensed breeders that go about their job in an ethical, humane way. Those that care for their animals’ health, safety, and ultimate destination do exist. Many of those people support adoption, too.
And it’s not without cause, as the benefits of adoption are worth it. “Adopt, Don’t Shop” points to the many reasons why adoption can positively change your life.
First and foremost, you are literally saving a life. Many dogs are euthanized due to not being adopted within a specific amount of time designated by the shelter. You are preventing this from happening by giving the rescue dog a home and family - a chance at living a life full of love, care, and support. And in turn you are giving yet another pooch a chance to be rescued, as each adopted animal allows for a new rescue to be saved and taken in.
Secondly, most dogs in shelters are taken in at about just 18 months of age. So you are able to meet an animal with an already developed (or developing) personality, characters, and traits. The rescue group and shelter will often already have information about the animal’s tendencies, such as any quirks, energy and activity level, behavior around people, etc. You can choose from a huge variety of ages, breeds (mixed and purebred), sizes, and personalities. Many of them are even fully trained. It becomes easier to find a companion that will best suit your preferences and your lifestyle’s demands, as well as easier to see how the rescue will specifically need to be loved and cared for.
Thirdly, it’s easier on your pockets. Adoption fees can be as low as $50 in some cases, whereas breeders can charge you up to $1,000. In addition, rescue dogs will already have their vaccinations and are possibly spayed or neutered already, saving you from those fees.
LCA’s “Adopt, Don’t Shop” campaign would be doing its job if its mission to raise awareness about puppy mills and the benefits of adoption have touched your heart in any way so far.
So what’s the next step to take if you’ve decided to adopt?
Know that it’s commendable if you’re seriously looking into adoption. However, the shelter or rescue does have to thoroughly check to see if you’re a suitable candidate, as they want to ensure that the pups are going to a safe, healthy, and happy home. The end goal is to help the dog find a family that will happily accept their new companion’s personality and tend to their needs so they don’t end back up in the shelter. This means you’ll likely need to fill out an application, then go through an interview with one of the shelter’s counselors. The questions may be a bit personal, such as asking about your family situation, job, housing, etc, but they’re so the counselor can determine whether or not your lifestyle will allow for you to properly care for a new pet. If they find you to be a good candidate, they’ll allow you to go out and actually meet the potential pets, unless you have already selected one beforehand (such as through a pet adoption website - there are tons). Once you’ve selected the match for you, you may be required to pay an adoption fee along with signing a contract. Afterwards, take the time to prepare your home for the family addition, and they’ll arrange a day for you to take your new companion home!
Once all is done and settled … Congrats! You’ve saved a life by adopting a dog. Get ready to change their life while they change yours.