Breeder vs Shelter

Why we should choose to adopt an animal rather than purchase one

Animal lovers everywhere are not immune to the pictures of loveable puppies and kittens that parade TV adverts, the internet and social media and pull at our heartstrings. This has been especially true during recent times with the Covid pandemic subjecting us humans to long periods of time in isolation. With loneliness creeping in it’s no wonder that there has been an explosion of animal acquisition from breeders and shelters.

But have we really thought about the ins-and-outs of the responsibility of becoming an animal carer?

Have we thought through the consequences of being an animal parent for the longer term when we get back to whatever is a “normal life” once again?

We live in an increasingly image obsessed society. So when it comes to accessorising our lives with a live-in furry companion, many people are keen to find the perfect friend to fit with their image of themselves, their lifestyle, family and work schedule.

Unfortunately, because almost every aspect of our lives can be picked off a shelf, finding a dog or cat which has been bred to look and behave a certain way is sometimes the natural response. As we know, it’s really not that simple – we aren’t purchasing a new bag, we are dealing with a living, breathing creature. There is, of course a moral implication. So let’s look at the arguments for and against buying from a breeder.




Purchasing from a breeder implies that they care about the mother and the babies and they will spend a lot of time socialising, caring for and observing the babies once born until they are around 12 weeks old. When you go to visit, they’ll show you where the litter lives, plays, and mum’s living space. Ethical breeders should also screen new homes to make sure the small furry one is going to the right person and house.

Where this can go wrong is when the breeder is actually a puppy mill masquerading as a reputable breeder. In these cases the seller of the puppy will bring the mother and puppy into a home making it appear as if they are being well cared for at the point of sale. Even going to the lengths to forge vaccination and pedigree paperwork. The polar opposite is unfortunately true. Puppy mills are inhumane, high-volume dog breeding facilities that churn out puppies for profit. Dogs bred in puppy mills are often sick, unsocialised, and kept in small cages until they’re sold, often through the internet or to a pet store (this is where the term ‘adopt don’t shop’ originated). The parents of these dogs are little more than breeding machines and carelessly mistreated and discarded once their “use” is over.

People argue that when they buy a puppy, they know exactly what they are getting. They understand what the dog’s size will inevitably be, the temperament and appearance. When looking at their living situation this gives them the idea that the outcome is predictable and that the cost involved to buy that animal is worth it. So why then, should this approach be challenged? Does a breeder really have the best interests of an animal at heart, when bitches are bred again and again (not by their choice) in order to put cash into the pockets of the breeder? Does that animal really want to produce litter after litter of puppies/ kittens to have them taken away every time? Perhaps this is something we should consider. Where is the animal’s welfare in this scenario?

There are millions of animals languishing in shelters, from strays to animals that were rescued from cruel or abusive situations, to owner surrender animals – people who could not afford to look after their companion any more, or simply didn’t want them. With that in mind, is it morally responsible to continue to buy an animal when there are literally thousands waiting to be adopted, sometimes for years?



Why Adopt from a Shelter or Rescue Organisation?

So why adopt an animal companion? Because shelter and rescue animals are worth it – they will be your best friend and appreciate ever modicum of attention you show them! Here are some reasons to consider adopting a shelter or to rescue an animal:

  • You may be saving a life. It’s a sad fact that animals that are left in shelters for long periods of time, or seen as unadoptable, old or untrained can be euthanised, purely because there were not enough people willing to take on and socialise an animal or because they prefer a younger, “cuter” animal.


  • Adopting from a shelter saves more than one life. It saves three. Adopting your companion from a shelter not only saves their life, but it saves the life of the next animal the shelter can rescue. You have already saved two lives by choosing a shelter animal, but many shelter adopters would argue the third life you save will be yours.


  • Shelter animals love unconditionally, and studies have shown that caring for an animal unconditionally has an incredibly beneficial effect on your own psychological, emotional and physical well-being.


  •  You may be giving an animal a second chance. Many rescue animals came from abusive homes. While they may require some TLC to get over their previous trauma, they’ll also be grateful for the new lease on life.


  •  You can save money. Shelters have vets on staff, so most treat an animal’s minor health conditions. All shelters, and most rescue organisations, will also spay or neuter the animals before their adoption so you don’t have to foot the bill. There will usually be a nominal fee to the shelter to enable them to continue their work and a house check to ensure they are going into the right environment, but the costs involved are massively lower than buying from a breeder.


  •  You may not have to train. Many shelter and rescue animals once lived with another family and have already been house-trained and understand other commands. Even if a rescue wasn’t properly trained, the volunteer or foster family may do this before you adopt.


  • Purebred superiority is a myth, but let’s not forget that roughly 25% of animals in shelters are “purebred,” which means that even the most discerning of animal carer need not spend thousands at a breeder.

So the choice is clear. Rescuing an animal makes you a hero. Your decision will not only change the
world for whichever animal is lucky enough to receive your love, but will change your world too.
Instead of contributing to an industry paved in profit and contributing to overbreeding, inbreeding,
suffering and built on an outward attachment to appearance, you will be literally saving lives. There
can surely be no greater gift!

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