Let's face it: when you look at the "Adopt don't shop" campaign, both sides can get a little... feisty. While those who buy from breeders often argue that you rarely know the pet's history when you adopt them, the adopters are quick to point out that there are too many shelter animals being euthanized for us to encourage the breeding of even more animals.
Regardless of your personal opinions, the pro-adopters do have a point there; annually, 6.5 million animals are placed in adoption centers in the United States and 1.5 million of those are euthanized. Though these are declining numbers, 34% of dogs in shelters were originally purchased from breeders—and this is a big issue for the pro-adoption side.
That being said, adoption isn't for everyone. With working animals such as service dogs and mine sniffing rats, having their family history can be absolutely vital to ensure that they're going to be healthy and effective workers for as long as possible. But when you're looking for a companion animal, don't forget these ten things about rescue pets.
1. Your older dog's personality probably won't change too much
Just like children, puppies' personalities tend to grow and evolve into adulthood. When you adopt an older dog, their personalities are more likely to remain the same.
2. Your new dog or cat may already have their basic health needs taken care of
Some shelters will take care of an animal's basic health needs at little to no cost to you. Over 30 states require that shelters spay and neuter the dogs and cats that leave their care, and many shelters will even vaccinate, microchip, and do general medical evaluations to ensure that your future pet is healthy and ready to go home.
3. Just like animals from breeders, they won't hesitate to jump into action
We've all heard the stories of animals saving lives, but often times these aren't purebred animals with papers and the perfect lineage. When Amy Jung had a diabetic seizure, her recently adopted cat woke her and got her life-saving help; Roman the dog grabbed hold of his 13-year-old owner's shirt as she was trying to commit suicide and delayed her actions long enough for emergency services to reach her; and even my old pair, Wolfie the dog and Sassy the cat, alerted me to any major changes in my health. Just because they're not purebred doesn't mean they don't care just as much.
4. Certain major health conditions are more common in purebred dogs than mixed breeds
While one major health condition, ruptured cranial cruciate ligaments, is more common in mixed breeds, 10 genetic disorders including epilepsy, bloat, and elbow dysplasia are found more commonly in purebred dogs. For those unable to pay for major vet bills, a rescue mutt may be a better option.
5. You may walk in looking for one type of animal, but walk out with something completely different
Sometimes you're absolutely convinced that you want a specific breed of dog or cat, but you end up in the same situation as my mother. She walked in looking for a senior rottweiler or Labrador, but she walked out with a six month old, three pound Pomeranian puppy rescued from a puppy mill. Over a decade later, she still knows that she made the right decision with Ranger. That being said, I still remember the scramble that night to find bowls that he could actually eat and drink out of...
6. You wanted a puppy? You can still get that puppy
Not every rescue pet is a senior. Using this site, you can find puppies near you; using this site, you can find kittens near you; and by contacting your local shelters, you can ask about any parrot chicks, foals, or rat pups they may have.
7. You'll be saving a life...literally
Remember those 1.5 million animals euthanized annually? Not only will you save one from being euthanized, you make space for another animal to be helped and hopefully find their forever home. The more people adopt, the fewer animals that are euthanized and the more that can be helped!
8. You'll be helping in the fight against puppy mills
I mentioned puppy mills earlier, but what exactly are they? Well, for once everyone can agree with PETA's definition of puppy mills—even filthy, meat-eating, leather-wearing heathens like myself. Both PETA and the ASPCA agree that puppy mills place profit over the well-being of the dogs being bred, and female dogs are bred as often as possible. Dogs are often dirty, ill, and not properly cared for, with female breeders killed once they can no longer give birth and puppies often having various mental and physical health problems. As for Ranger, my mother's Pomeranian, he was malnourished, had muscle atrophy in almost every muscle in his body (including his heart), had an unexplained broken leg that healed incorrectly, was likely only a few weeks old when separated from his mother, and has skin and fur problems such as alopecia X.
By opting to go to the shelter rather than a pet shop, puppy mills will have fewer buyers and will hopefully go out of business altogether.
9. An unexpected friend can change the way you look at an entire species—and possibly even others
Lisa Hurtado, a family friend, explained her experience with Silver the rat:
"We got Silver from an unfortunate breeder situation. Someone saved him, hoping we would be able to adopt him. Silver was an unlikely friend and he taught us how to love and care for something we would've never considered loving before. He was constantly surprising me with his intelligence and personality. He was a great little rat and changed the way we looked at [them]."
By opening her home to an animal in need, both she and her family were able to grow to love what many people don't.
10. Yes, you'll likely have to work through a lot with them, but...
If you can put in the time and energy to show your new friend that they're safe, you'll have a sweet, loyal friend for the rest of your life. They'll be there for you, just like you were there for them.
Remember though: as long as you don't rule out shelter animals, getting your new furry friend from a breeder isn't a bad thing. As another family friend, Bri Anna Marshall, said about her dog Riley, "I was planning to rescue, and was talking about it while in the salon chair. [My ex-hairdresser] was saying her dog had [a puppy] and wanted me to consider her so she could guarantee she was going to a good home where she could see her again [rather than] putting her on Craigslist to go with strangers. I originally told her no [...] She made a deal with me to at least bring the kids to come to meet her before I said no, and then decide. We did, and we left there knowing that Riley was our girl."
Give the shelter dogs a chance. You'll never know who you'll find until you look.