Adopt, Don’t Shop! Saving the lives of shelter pets

National campaign battles inhumane commercial breeding

Though the motto “Adopt, Don’t Shop!” can oversimplify a complex issue, at the root it is meant to encourage potential pet owners to do their research. True, not all breeders are evil or inhumane. Yet, choosing to buy a pet has a cost, both financially and morally.

Many owners who choose to purchase their pets from breeders have a number of justifications. Some argue that reputable breeders will market “superior” quality dogs. Some seek “hypoallergenic” animal breeds because of a pet-allergic person in the household. Others simply prefer a specific breed of dog or cat and do not know where else to get one.

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America destroys the myth of “hypoallergenic dogs.” Even poodles — the breed most often labeled so — have the same pet dander, saliva and urine cells that invoke allergic reactions.

“A truly non-allergic dog or cat does not exist,” the Foundation reports. “People with dog allergies may be more sensitive to some breeds of dogs than others. Some people may be allergic to all dogs.”

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Instead of pursuing a designer “hypoallergenic” dog, the Foundation advises pet owners to use HEPA air filters, remove carpet, keep the animal out of the bedroom and most importantly, frequently clean all surfaces.

As for finding a specific breed, keep an eye on local shelters and pet searchers will inevitably find their ideal pet.

“You can go to the Shelter Pet Project to find pets near you, of every size, color, temperament and breed,” the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) asserts. “Purebred and mixed breed animals alike are waiting for their forever homes!”

Photo Credit:
Balint Radu via Adobe Stock

As for purebred animals being “superior” to mutts, a 2013 study by Bellumori, et. al., examined University of California Davis veterinary clinic medical records. According to the Institute of Canine Biology, the study found that of 24 common genetic disorders in dogs, only one was more common in mixed-breeds.

“This study found that purebred dogs have a significantly greater risk of developing many of the hereditary disorders examined in this study,” reports the Institute. “No, mixed breed dogs are not always healthier than purebreds; and also, purebreds are not ‘as healthy’ as mixed breed dogs.”

These results are theorized to result from the historical inbreeding of purebred dogs. Especially in past eras when breeders selected physical traits but were oblivious to other genetic flaws, inbreeding was rampant. It still continues today, in the infamous puppy mills that cause animal activists to shudder.

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Puppy mills are the most frequently cited reason to “adopt, don’t shop!” Your local pet stores are notorious for buying pups from these mills, which often raise animals in hideous conditions without proper hygiene or socialization.

“Puppy mills are factory-style breeding facilities that put profit above the welfare of dogs,” the HSUS said. “Animals from puppy mills are housed in shockingly poor conditions with improper medical care, and are often very sick and behaviorally troubled as a result…Puppy mills will continue to operate until people stop supporting them. By adopting a pet, you can be certain you aren’t giving them a dime.”

Even if a potential pet parent goes to a breeder with a good reputation, there is no guarantee that the person is truly treating the animals well. The New York Times reported a scandal leading up to the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) world-renowned annual dog show in New York. The scandal involved one of the AKC’s prize judges, a breeder of award-winning Chihuahuas.

“An A.K.C. inspector said that the 34 Great Danes and mastiffs under the Williamses’ care were in ‘acceptable’ conditions,” Times writers Mary Pilon and Susanne Craig reported. “Three months later, Wilson County officials seized 28 of the Williamses’ dogs…A veterinarian told the court that the rescued dogs had ailments that ranged “from serious to severe” and that “most of the injuries appeared to be chronic, having been in existence for a substantial period of time.’”

The evidence suggests that it takes a lot of research — and luck — to find a perfect pet. Those who intone “adopt, don’t shop!” want everyone to look into these facts, and to choose a pet carefully through the less expensive, more humane public shelters where millions of homeless animals find refuge every year.

“By adopting an animal, you’re making room for others,” HSUS suggests. “Not only are you giving more animals a second chance, but the cost of your adoption goes directly towards helping those shelters better care for the animals they take in!”

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