Adopting versus Buying your Pet

Is adoption or rescuing a dog or cat right for you?

by Megan Patterson

There are many reasons a person might decide to buy their pet rather than adopt one, ranging from everything for the desire for a specific breed to just plain convenience. Adopting a pet is obviously ideal, but buying a pet from a responsible breeder is not as bad as some make it out to believe either. Deciding whether to buy or adopt is a very personal choice, and it’s easy to figure out which is right for you if you keep these things in mind.

photo by Megan Patterson 2012

Why Adopt?
Over 4 million pets are euthanized every year in the United States, but the amount in Canada is unknown because no one is keeping track. Adoption is ideal to save so many animals from this fate. This could be the right choice for you if these things are important to you:

  • A rescue organization or shelter owner will be more honest about what kind of pet you’re getting–their temperament, whether or not they’re good with children or other pets, and any health problems the animal might have.
  • Rescues usually come housebroken (so you don’t have to go out every two hours or less) and they are out of the puppy teething phase A puppy is a lot of work and most rescues are over a year old, so they are trained to some degree and have mellowed out a bit.
  • They come with all their vaccinations and are usually neutered as well. Puppies need a lot of vaccinations, and neutering and spaying can be quite expensive. Expect to pay upwards of $500 on vet bills in the first year, as long as there are no emergencies. Adopting or rescuing a dog means most of these things are taken care of.
  • A shelter will help match you with the perfect dog.

If you’re looking for a cat, I always encourage adopting. There are a lot more cats in the shelter system because for some reason people are less responsible about spaying or neutering their feline friends. Cats are much less maintenance than dogs as well–they don’t really require any training, can be left on their own longer, and don’t need to be walked. Cats are also much cheaper than dogs! At the Toronto Humane Society, cats are $50-$100 while dogs are $75-$150.

Why Buy?
Buying from a breeder could also be a good fit as well. There are a lot of reasons you may choose a breeder–you genuinely do want a puppy, you’re looking for a specific breed, or you want to know the health history of the pet you’re buying. Shelters and rescue organizations can also be too picky about where they’re placing dogs (less so with cats), and won’t place a dog with you if you rent. This, coupled with the face I wanted of a hard-to-find breed, is what led me to choose a breeder (well a farmer who sometimes had corgi litters) when I got my dog five years ago, and it’s not a decision I regret. But there are some things to be aware of when choosing a breeder:

  • Go to the premises if you can to make sure it’s not a puppy mill in disguise.
  • Make sure their shots are up to date and get documentation for this.
  • Meet the puppies beforehand and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. In particular, watch the pups to see which are the more dominant or aggressive, which are shyer, which are friendlier, which seem to have more energy, in order to pick one with the temperament you’re looking for.
  • Research your breed! The breed you want might not be compatible with your lifestyle. A great resource for learning about breed traits is Breed Retriever. It tells you everything you need to know about every breed out there. If you want a cross-breed, look at the characteristics of each of the breeds to get an idea of what kind of dog you’ll get.
  • Keep in mind that those hypoallergenic crossbreeds (anything with a “poo” in the name) are not regulated the same way that purebred dogs are, so be extra careful when looking for a breeder.

You’ll notice that in relation to buying a pet, I have recommended buying directly from a breeder, and not a pet store. There is a reason for this. You have no idea whether or not the animals in a pet store have come from a puppy mill (and they often do), whether they have had their first shots and been dewormed, or even if they’re free of fleas. They also have not usually been socialized very well, spending their days in a tiny box with people tapping at their windows, which is very stressful for them and might make them aggressors in the future. It’s more work too, but adopting a dog or buying from a breeder is always the more responsible option.

Adoption and Rescue Resources

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