Why Pet Adoption Beats Buying a Pet
The good news about pet adoption: According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), approximately 2.7 million shelter animals (1.4 million dogs and 1.3 million cats) are adopted each year.
The bad news about pet adoption is that every year, the number of shelter animals euthanized continues to escalate because homes cannot be found for them.
More than half of all animals that arrive in U.S. shelters are put to death because there is a lack of space and adopters. That adds up to roughly 2.7 million dead animals every year or five out of every 10 dogs or seven of every 10 cats – a staggering 80,000 animals per week, according to pet homelessness statistics compiled by One Green Planet.
That squares with stats from the ASPCA, which reports that approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, about 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats.
In Los Angeles County alone, 13,975 cats and 6,470 dogs were euthanized in fiscal 2014-2015, according to the County’s Animal Care Control Euthanasia Rates.
What’s most maddening to animal welfare advocates is that the vast majority of these pets were considered healthy or treatable.
Thankfully, for the same period, the Humane Society estimated that the number of cats and dogs adopted from U.S. shelters each year is four million.
No-Kill Movement in Pet Adoption
“It’s been 20 years since San Francisco helped start a revolution: It became the first U.S. community to guarantee a home to every adoptable dog and cat,” Greg Allen reported on the December 21, 2014 broadcast of NPR’s “All Things Considered.”
“Since then, the no-kill movement, as it’s called, has been credited with greatly reducing the number of dogs and cats that are euthanized, from some 20 million down to about three million each year,” Allen said.
Allen also noted that like any movement, this one has had its disagreements – including what the term ‘no-kill’ actually means.
“While some shelters indeed put no animals down, shelters are allowed to euthanize a percentage of their animals and still keep the no-kill designation,” he said.
“And some animal advocates say trying to place every animal in a home isn’t advisable…There are an estimated 14,000 shelters and pet rescue groups in the U.S., taking in nearly eight million animals each year,” Allen said.
Why Are There So Many Pets that Need Adoption?
“Homeless animals outnumber homeless people 5 to 1,” Ethan Smith and Guy Dauncey wrote in their 2007 book, “Building an Ark: 101 Solutions to Animal Suffering” (Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society).
The American Humane Association reports the most common reasons people relinquish or give away their dogs are because their place of residence does not allow pets (29%); they do not have enough time to devote to the animal (10%); they are getting a divorce (10%); or they have experienced behavioral issues. In another 10% of the cases, the pet’s owner died.
The most common reasons for cats being turned over to shelters are that they were not allowed in the person’s residence (21%) or because the owner had an allergic reaction to them (11%).
Adopting a Rescue Vs. Buying from a Pet Store
That there’s such a need to match rescue or shelter animals with loving humans is the best reason to adopt a rescue animal rather than buy one at a pet store,
But there are many more reasons for pet adoption that are just as compelling.
When animals enter shelters, they get complete, thorough health assessments and treatment for any problems that crop up. Most of the time, spaying or neutering will already have been done for you. This means when you take a pet home, you will already know how they’re faring health-wise.
Many shelters provide you some information on the pet’s background and history, which is typically not available when buying a pet at a store. When you adopt a pet, the cost of spay or neuter, first vaccinations, and even microchipping is usually included in the adoption fee. Many shelters also provide veterinarian and pet training resources.
You can check your local shelters’ websites, or visit your vet’s office and check the bulletin boards and read the brochures for information about breeds, care, feeding, exercise and more.
Speak to the staff and volunteers at shelters or rescue organizations. Explain what kind of pet you’re looking for, and how much training you’re willing to invest. You might get lucky and find a pet in a shelter that has already had some basic training and is housebroken.
And, when you adopt, you save an animal and open up shelter space for another creature that might need it.
You’re saving two lives, not just one.
Adoption Sticks it to Puppy Mills
When you adopt a puppy or dog from a local shelter, you’re also depriving a puppy farm or another similar illegal animal trader of a customer.
Puppy mills are factory-style breeding facilities that put profit above the welfare of dogs. Unfortunately, most puppies found in pet stores, on the Internet and through classified ads come from puppy mills.
The moms of these puppies are kept in cages and bred continually for years, with little to no human companionship or hope of ever joining a family. After these dogs are no longer profitable as breeding animals, they are simply discarded – either killed, abandoned or sold at auction.
Breeders and pet stores often charge outrageous amounts of money for their animals, sometimes hundreds or even thousands per animal. One should consider this before encountering vet, insurance, medication, grooming and boarding fees. All of these costs add up over the lifetime of your pet.
Pet adoption is less expensive. If not free, the fee is generally to cover costs, not make a profit. And such a fee is usually minuscule compared to breeders’ prices.
Puppy mill operations will continue until people stop supporting them. By adopting a pet from a nonprofit rescue or a public shelter, you can be certain you aren’t giving puppy mill operators a dime. Adopting a pet allows you to do something proactive to put an end to the illegal animal trade.
Rescue Groups Match Pet to Parent
Sometimes an animal ends up in a shelter just because its owner didn’t do enough research about the animal or breed, and as a result, couldn’t cope with the care it needs.
On the other hand, rescue organizations prefer to avoid this, and take great care in matching the right animal to the right owner, considering the type of animal, its age, breed, size and personality. This means that by adopting from a shelter or a rescue, you will end up with a pet that’s a much better fit for you and your family.
When you buy an animal from a breeder or a pet store, advice usually ends when you walk out the door with your pet. However, if you adopt or rescue an animal from a shelter, you’re likely to also receive a lifetime of advice, support and guidance on how to bring up and care for your pet. If you’re new to pet ownership, this can be invaluable – it will end up helping both you and the animal.
Every dog and cat that is in a shelter has challenges of its own. You should never assume all rescue dogs and cats behave badly. Equally, you shouldn’t expect that just because a dog or cat is older it has also had proper training.
Pet Adoption is Heroic
It goes without saying that doing someone constructive to help an animal in need is an incredibly fulfilling experience. Doing good deeds makes us feel great. When we turn our attention to animals that offer loyalty and unconditional love in return, we are empowered. There is nothing more gratifying than witnessing the progress that our pets make and knowing that you’ve made a significant difference in your pet’s life.
Not only do animals give you unconditional love, they have proven to be beneficial psychologically, emotionally and physically. Caring for a companion animal provides humans a sense of purpose and fulfillment and lessens feelings of loneliness and isolation in all age groups.
Of course, when you choose to add a pet to your family you must be prepared for a long-term commitment and be willing to care for your animal all day, every day, for the rest of its life.
And if you rescue an animal approaching its later years, you will get all the benefits of pet adoption and pet parenthood, plus the fulfillment of helping a senior animal enjoy the last few years of its life.
Some people would argue that rescued animals seem to love their owners even more. More than likely, a pet that has had a difficult start in challenging conditions will appreciate comfort, warmth, good food and love much more than an animal that has spent its entire life in luxury.
Whenever animals have experienced challenges in life (like staring at death in the face or suffering severe injury or illness), adoption provides them with a second chance at life. This is why the term “animal rescue” is apt: By giving an animal the life it deserves, you can be a hero, too.
Marilyn Eisenberg is a nationally exhibited fine artist, award-winning educator, published writer, art/design consultant and public relations/marketing specialist to Fortune 100 companies, nonprofit organizations and private clients. She has been rescuing Labrador Retrievers since the 1980s.