Anyone who has a pet knows that the best part of the day is coming home and opening the door to your pets. There's nothing that puts a bigger smile on your face after a long day than getting kisses upon kisses from your beloved dogs, having your cat brush up against your legs or cuddling with one of your small pets. Simply put: Pets make this world slightly more bearable for us.

However, in the past couple of years, there has been an increasing amount of controversy surrounding the ways in which an owner can acquire their pet. Some of you might be familiar with the phrase "Adopt Don't Shop," which supports the movement in which one should "adopt" a pet from a shelter or SPCA rather than "shop" for a pet in a pet store or from a breeder. This phrase has recently become extremely popular, finding it's way onto shirts, bumper stickers and signs all over the place.

Certainly this phrase presents a great idea: Adopt a pet in need rather than pay a seemingly absurd amount of money for a pet in a pet store that most likely came from a breeder, puppy mill or mass producer. How could I be against adopting an animal from a shelter? After all, my dog, Benji, was adopted from a kill shelter, scheduled to be euthanized the day I rescued him. However, I also have a dog that we bought from a breeder, and I have three dogs that were bought from a pet store.

So, "Adopt Don't Shop" presents a great idea... in theory. While shelter pets and pets from places like the SPCA absolutely deserve to be adopted into a wanting and loving home, pets from breeders and pet stores do too. The bottom line, when it comes down to it, they're all just animals who want a home. Whether they ended up in a shelter or were born from a breeder and shipped to a pet store, none of those animals chose to be there.

In a shelter or a store, all of those animals most likely came from unfavorable living conditions and were caused some sort of emotional strain by either coming from an abusive household, being held in tight living quarters without sufficient diet and exercise, being separated from a parent or sibling, the list goes on. It's not fair to put shelter animals before other animals just because of where they come from.

While I do agree that "shopping" for a pet from a pet store allows for the puppy mills and breeders and mass producers to stay in business, which is wrong, NOT buying those animals will hurt only the animal, not the place where it came from.

Unfortunately, these mass producers, breeders and puppy mills will always find another place to send those animals. And if not to a pet store for people to buy, then it could be to places that utilize these animals for things such as dogs fighting or will slaughter and eat the animals. We need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture here; the animals' lives. They are what matter here. We should be doing what we can to protect them, no matter where they come from.

Some people may think that animals in pet stores live in perfect conditions compared to animals from shelters. Well, from someone who volunteers at an animal shelter and has bought animals from pet stores, I can debunk that myth right now.

One of our chihuahuas, Consuela, was adopted from the Pet-Go-Round store in the Lynnhaven Mall. She wasn't in any of the display cases out front for people to see, or even in sight for that matter. She was kept in a cage in the back because she was attacked and bitten by another dog there, and employees put her in the back because they didn't think anyone would want to adopt a wounded dog. It was the most sad thing I had heard in a while. And as soon as my mother heard that, it was the deciding factor that made her WANT to adopt Consuela. The dogs in that store don't get their own cage, toys or even food bowl. They don't get walks or special treatment or attention besides the people that come in and gawk at how cute they are everyday.

However, in the Virginia Beach SPCA, these animals are showered with treats, toys, love, playtime, walks and grooming by volunteers and staff. Most of the time they get their own cage, complete with a food bowl and water pale, and are only trained with POSITIVE reinforcement. Sometimes, the SPCA is a step up compared to where these animals used to live.

So don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating for the "Shop Don't Adopt" movement, I just want to say that it is OK to choose to shop OR adopt an animal, you don't just have to stand by one.

Look at my family, for example. We are a perfect example about "Shopping And Adopting" and how it has created the most loving bunch of dog-o siblings that I wouldn't trade for the world. At the end of the day, any animal, in any place, most likely just wants to be loved. All animal lives matter.