I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase:
“Adopt, don’t shop”
People using this phrase apparently don’t fully understand why animal shelters are overrun or why animals are running homeless on the streets. I stood behind this phrase and didn’t understand how people could buy from a breeder when helpless animals lined the halls of animal shelters. Allow me to inform you on what I have learned.
Overpopulated animal shelters pluck at the heartstrings of many. They certainly pluck on mine, and I wish I could take every animal home with me. But have you ever asked yourself why they are overpopulated? Oftentimes, the blame is misplaced on all breeders, but not all breeders are to blame. Backyard breeders, puppy mills, and pet stores are where the blame should lie—not on responsible breeders.
In my opinion, a RESPONSIBLE breeder interviews potential owners to ensure they are a good fit for the specific breed to ensure a good home. They require that new owners return the animal to the breeder if things don’t work out—thus ensuring the animal DOES NOT go to a shelter. IRRESPONSIBLE breeders (1) breed dogs repeatedly regardless of health issues, (2) don’t care about the home the animal is placed in, and (3) don’t take the animal back if the new home doesn’t work out. Responsible breeders will continually take in one of their bred puppies until the right home is found—they don’t end up in animal shelters.
There is a misconception that professional breeders are partially to blame for overcrowded shelters, but the part of the blame should also be placed on the misinformed, irresponsible pet owners.
Being a responsible pet owner means CARING for your pet. In addition to shelter and food, you must provide them with love, exercise, and mental stimulation. A responsible pet owner dedicates a significant amount of time to their pet! Many people only realize the large amount of time required after they purchase a rambunctious puppy. They find themselves unprepared for the energetic puppy’s needs, so they toss them to the animal shelter or stick them in their backyard to live out their days with minimal human interaction.
I purchased my Karelian Bear Dog from a professional breeder after a formal interview process! One requirement was an active lifestyle to fit the needs of a Karelian; another was having adequate free time to spend with a puppy. Because I work from home and hike frequently, I was a great fit to obtain a Karelian puppy. I signed a contract stating that if things did not work out with my puppy, I would return it to the breeder and NOT an animal shelter.
Backyard breeders don’t take these precautions. Instead, they might just breed their golden retriever with the golden down the street and then sell the puppies in the parking lot of Best Buy via Craigslist. This is obviously not responsible and partially driven by the need for a quick dollar.
After purchasing my puppy, I went on to form an ongoing relationship with the breeder, and I find they are a valuable resource. Craigslist Puppy Mills—even the typical pet store—cause the overcrowding problem, not professional breeders. I don’t understand why laws are not in place to protect these animals from such treatment.
A family friend recently purchased a puppy in Utah. They drove down to pick up their puppy and found themselves on a private “puppy farm” standing among hundreds of dogs. They went ahead with the transaction, believing they were actually rescuing that dog. This savior mentality is a double-edged sword, though. While yes, they are providing the puppy with a better life, this purchase will perpetuate this backyard puppy mill industry. If people stop buying from these places, they will stop churning out puppies because there is no demand. The same philosophy applies to pet stores.
My breeder does not breed females to exhaustion, and allows only two or three liters per mother. All of her animals receive around-the-clock care. She had special food flown in from New Zealand for Kintla’s pregnant mom, and she gave her special supplements before, during, and after the pregnancy to safeguard her health. This is the level of professionalism to seek for before you purchase a specific dog breed. Ensure your breeder is reputable and truly cares for the animals. By doing so, you are ensuring the best experience for you, your pet, and other animals to come.
TikTok recently showed a person who let her dog have puppies in her bedroom closet. The irresponsible owner showcased the situation to millions, and joked about luring the mother outside away from her puppies. A viewer asked why the owner was so irresponsible; the owner piped back saying their dog got pregnant by “accident.” Actually, such an “accident” is a direct result of an irresponsible owner. I would go on to bet that some of those closet puppies will end up in a shelter perpetuating the overcrowding problem. Would you agree?
If you choose not to spay or neuter your pet, educate yourself on how to protect them from bad scenarios. In my case, I monitor my female Karelian, Kintla, when she goes into heat. I ensure she is secured on walks and in the yard. Male dogs, within a mile radius, are attracted to her and come to find her. I will keep her isolated until she is spayed. Through direct counsel from wise Karelian sources, I learned it’s best to have her spayed 1.5 months after her second heat. She will develop fully if I allow her to go through these hormonal cycles before spaying her. In all instances, I am doing what is best for Kintla, while keeping her safe.
I hope this sheds some light on the phrase “Adopt, don’t shop.” Educate your fellow pet owners, friends, and family on how to choose a good breeder and be a responsible, caring owner. In so doing, you will help limit pet abandonment, pet overpopulation, and the overcrowding at animal shelters. The heart of the problem boils down to irresponsible, ill-willed people making terrible decisions. Be a good person and strong advocate for our dear animal friends!