Why It's Not As Simple As 'Adopt Don't Shop'
Updated: Oct 8, 2020
I hear the phrase 'Adopt Don't Shop' on a regular basis both in person and on social media (usually a hashtag). There are thousands of dogs sitting in rescue shelters waiting for their forever home and I absolutely agree that they deserve to find it. The intention behind the phrase is a good one: why breed more dogs when there are so many homeless ones? However, it really isn't that simple.
Let's look at the 'Adopt' part of the phrase first. I've heard so many tales, both first hand and online, about why people who I would deem perfectly suitable to have a dog, have been classed as unfit by a rescue. It isn't just a case of rocking up to the RSPCA or Battersea, saying I want to adopt a dog and taking one home (a rather extreme exaggeration I know), there is a long and necessary process involved. However, I am aware that a lot of rescues require all other pets in the home to be neutered (including your guinea pig - yes that's a true story) in order to be considered for rehoming one of their dogs which will also be neutered. Now, if you have an entire bitch (or guinea pig for that matter!), and take on a neutered dog, where is the risk? I am also aware that a lot of shelters have a limit on how long you can leave the dog alone. This is understandable in some cases as rescues may easily have separation issues, but if you have a reasonably well-balanced rescue, where is the issue with a reliable dog walker or doggy daycare? There is obviously a need for a screening process when it comes to rehoming a dog but these two issues alone cut out a huge number of potential adopters.
Perhaps the potential owner has a young child who they want to have the experience of growing up with a dog. A lot of rescues have a limit on the child's age when they consider a new home and so this family would be unable to adopt. On the other side of the fence, as a parent to a nearly 3 year old, adopting a dog, although evaluated as much as possible by the rescue before rehoming, is a risk that I personally would not be willing to take as you cannot possibly know its complete history. I've had all three of my dogs from puppies and my toddler loves them to bits. He can be rough with them still so supervision is a must, however, I know their entire history and that there are no bad experiences in there that could put either them or my son at any unknown risk. Someone may also have an older dog who they think may not take well to a fully grown dog entering their territory, and so a puppy who poses very little threat is a better option for them. Obviously you can find puppies in rescues but these don't hang around for long.
Then there's the 'Don't Shop' part of the phrase. This should really say 'Don't Shop From Irresponsible Breeders' but that's nowhere near as catchy. Unfortunately, a blanket 'Don't Shop' statement alienates anyone who has bought a dog from supporting the cause, and also makes those unable to adopt, as mentioned above, feel even worse. There is nothing wrong with doing your research and buying a well-bred, health tested, KC registered puppy. You know it's history, you've met its parents, you've seen where they live, you've been grilled by the breeder and grilled them back, you're happy to wait for an available litter and you may even have spoken to other people who have pups from the same breeder.
There is a problem with thinking to yourself, 'I want a dog, that breed is pretty, let's go online and find the closest/cheapest/rarest colour around and buy it'. These are the dogs that end up in rescues. If nobody did this, the rescue numbers would reduce dramatically. There is also a problem with the irresponsible breeders (aka backyard breeders and puppy farmers) who will sell to anyone without a second thought as to their circumstances. As a race, humans love to anthropomorphise animals. The amount of posts I've seen online from people looking for a stud dog because their 'sweet little Poppy' would love to have a litter before she is spayed makes me want to cry. Let's be blunt here, the dog really couldn't care less, and the owner normally advertises the puppies on a first come first served basis: if you have the money you can have a puppy, which shows they don't really care either...
I know I'm repeating myself here but, these dogs have not been health tested, they have no breed history behind them, there is no consideration towards conformation faults of either the bitch or the sire, let alone further back down the line, it's just to feed a need for cuteness. And money, which is acutely obvious in the current times. Those cute little pups, because all pups are cute, are at risk of really quite horrendous health and behaviour issues and, once those vets bills start to mount up, or yet another pair of slippers is chewed to bits, where is the next stop? You guessed it, the rescue shelter. You might be lucky buying from one of these breeders, I know I have been in the past before I knew better, but then again, you might not.
I'm aware that I have generalised quite largely in this post. There are fab owners of every type of dog from every type of background, and there are owners whose circumstances genuinely change for the worse leaving them unable to keep their dog. But if you have bought a puppy from a responsible breeder you should never have to surrender it to a shelter, as your breeder will take it back and either keep it or find it a new home themselves, whether it is 8 months old or 8 years old. As I said at the start of this post, I agree in part with the sentiment of 'Adopt Don't Shop', but it really should read, 'Adopt or Shop Responsibly'. It's a pipe dream but, if everyone did that, in an ideal world, there would be no need for rescue organisations.
Have you gone down the adoption route? Successful or not we would love to hear about your experiences in the comments.