Would you buy a baby?: Adopt, Don’t Shop!

December 20th, 2008 11:18 am by Kelly Garbato

The Saturday before x-mas is reportedly “the biggest puppy buying day of the year,” according to In Defense of Animals (IDA). In response, the group has designated today the 1st Annual Nationwide “Adopt, Don’t Shop!” Day:

The Saturday before Christmas is the biggest puppy buying day of the year. This year, In Defense of Animals is teaming up with activists in dozens of cities around the country to educate the public about the horrors of pet factories and encourage people to adopt a homeless animal from a shelter or rescue group instead of buying one from a pet store.

What: December 20th, 12-3 pm
Where: Your local pet shop

Almost all pet stores around the nation are supplied by inhumane commercial breeding facilities (aka pet factories) where the breeding animals are imprisoned for life and used as breeding machines. Meanwhile, it’s estimated that nearly 5 million healthy cats and dogs (many of them purebred) are euthanized in American shelters every year simply because there aren’t enough homes for them. Make a commitment today to take action for the victims of pet factories and companion animal overpopulation today!

Join In Defense of Animals and friends at your local pet store to help end the abuses of pet factories.

You can find a list of events here.

Over at Vegan Soapbox, Elaine has a list of suggestions for online activism, including posting profiles of animals available for adoption on Petfinder and such. Which is a great idea; but first, let’s tackle a few myths about adopting vs. buying animals.

A common misconception about “shelter dogs” is that they’re all damaged mutts.

Let’s deconstruct:

1. You don’t have to go a shelter or pound to adopt an animal. Animal rescue organizations run the gamut, from the more traditional shelters and “pounds” to rescue groups, sanctuaries, foster programs and networks of committed individual animal rescuers. If you’re afraid to visit a pound, you can avoid doing so and still adopt an animal. Go to http://www.petfinder.org or http://www.1-800-save-a-pet.com and search for animals and animal rescue groups in your area.

But I also urge you to think about why the pound icks you out so much: is it because you realize that many of these animals – 50%, at the very least, with some surveys reporting “euthanasia” rates of 56% for dogs and 71% for cats – will die for no reason other than a lack of homes? If so, wouldn’t it make you feel better to be part of the solution (adoption) than part of the problem (breeding and buying)?

2. Even if you have your heart set on a specific breed of cat or dog, you don’t need to buy an animal from a breeder. According to the HSUS, 25% of shelter dogs are purebreds. Furthermore, there are many breed-specific rescue groups. Most breeds – certainly the more common and/or popular ones – have a number of local and national rescue groups dedicated to their rescue. To find breed-specific rescue groups, go to http://www.petfinder.org or http://www.1-800-save-a-pet.com and search for your desired breed; many of these groups will pop up in your search. Or use the Google: search for “dachshund rescue group” or similar.

3. There is an animal rescue group for every (legal-to-own) species of animal. Dogs, cats, mice, pigs, cows, horses, guinea pigs, ferrets, birds: all these and more are available for adoption through shelters and rescue groups. While most shelters focus on the more common domesticated companion animals – i.e., cats and dogs – it’s not unusual to find the occasional mouse, rabbit or hamster at traditional shelters, too. Furthermore, many rescue groups and sanctuaries have popped up in the past few decades to help care for “exotic” and “farmed” animals, as well. For example, here in MO we have Longmeadow Rescue Ranch: “operated by the Humane Society of Missouri, Longmeadow Rescue Ranch is one of the most comprehensive horse and farm animal rehabilitation centers in the United States.”

Whatever type of animal you’re looking for, you can probably find it through an animal rescue group. Again, http://www.petfinder.org, http://www.1-800-save-a-pet.com and the Google are your friends.

4. Rescue animals are not necessarily “damaged goods.”

Oy, where to start with this one?

All dogs have the potential for behavioral and health problems: this holds true whether you adopt or buy an animal.

The “damaged goods” myth rests on the assumption that all shelter dogs have been horribly mistreated in their pasts, and all purchased dogs have been pampered like little darlings by their breeders. While some shelter animals have no doubt suffered abuse, so too are bred animals mistreated; inexperienced and irresponsible breeders exist, as do puppy mills. In fact, your breeder may be associated with a puppy mill without you even knowing it.

Shelter dogs – as well as foster dogs, rescue dogs, dogs from breeders, and puppymill dogs – may have health and/or behavioral problems, yes. But many of these problems can be rectified, with time, patience and/or counseling. Take the “Michael Vick dogs” – nearly half have been successfully rehabilitated and rehomed (the rest will receive lifelong care at Best Friends, a no-kill sanctuary). Should an animal really be sentenced to death because of what a human has done to her?

(Here, I pause to think of my recently departed pit bull girl Shadow, who possibly came to us as a discarded fighting dog, and turned out to be one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever known; and of my newest girls, Miss Kaylee and Jayne, who were found with a third dog in a rental home that had been abandoned two weeks earlier. Sure, Jayne was recovering from heartworm when we adopted her, and Kaylee still pees with separation anxiety when left alone, but I wouldn’t trade either of them for $1500 models any day.)

Furthermore, rescue groups and breeders largely work from different perspectives: rescue groups want to rehome their animals with nice, loving families, ensuring that they’re not relinquished a second (or third, fourth, fifth) time, whereas breeders are primarily looking to make some money. Rescue groups have a greater interest, then, in making love and lifestyle matches between animals and guardians. Part of this process involves honesty about an animal’s health and behavioral issues.

While it’s true that pounds and shelters don’t have enough time with their charges to do a full behavioral assessment, many rescue groups do; so if you’re a newbie companion animal guardian, worried about biting off more than you can chew, start with a rescue group, particularly one that fosters the animals in-house before adopting them out.

With a little research and patience, you can find the animal that’s perfect for you, your family and your lifestyle.

And did I mention that older and/or “shelter” dogs oftentimes arrive with basic house- and obedience training?

5. Ethics and morality.

Animals are not ours to exploit for our own purposes – plain and simple. Purchasing animals from breeders, as though they’re the newest designer jeans or the latest model iPhone, is just plain wrong. They are not items. They are living, breathing, feeling, sentient beings, with their own interests and rights. Breeding and buying while rescued animals are dying – that’s a pretty blatant violation of their rights, and of basic human morality (i.e., unnecessary suffering is bad).

Let’s face it – a breeder makes money by exploiting her animals’ reproductive systems and treating them like commodities to be bought and sold. No matter how “responsible,” “kind,” or “loving” a particular breeder seems, the fact remains: she is in the business (or “hobby”) of creating more dogs (cats) when millions are put to death annually. A person who truly “loves” the breed can demonstrate this love and devotion by volunteering with a rescue group – rather than sentencing 12-20 dogs (or 12-24 cats) to death per year.

Think of it this way: would you buy a baby? Of course not! – People who sell black market babies are sick, right? Nor should babies be “gifted” as though they’re televisions or Wiis. Aside from species membership, how are puppies and kittens any different?

If, for some unfathomable reason, you absolutely cannot find a rare Black Russian Terrier through adoption networks, perhaps you should stop and consider whether you truly need a Black Russian Terrier. Wanting and needing are different things, you see. Needing involves survival; wanting involves luxury and convenience. Is it acceptable to sentence a rescue dog to death for your own convenience?

Sure, maybe it’ll be a bit disappointing, at first, to forgo a Black Russian Terrier for a Rat Terrier; but you’ll fall in love with that terrier just the same. And if you don’t, well, maybe you’re not a “dog person” after all. Maybe you should go buy a Wii and care for a virtual dog instead.

6. Animals make terrible gifts.

OK, so this last point isn’t specific to “shelter dogs,” but it’s relevant to the campaign as a whole. While encouraging animal adoption vs. breeding is a laudable goal, I would like to make an addendum to IDA’s campaign: animals make terrible gifts. They’re not objects; you can’t stash them in the closet when you’re sick of them. Unless you know – for certain – that the recipient wants and expects a cat, dog, etc. for x-mas, gifting an animal is completely inappropriate, and not at all in the animal’s best interests.

If an animal “gift” is welcome and agreed upon, you should let the recipient choose the animal. Adopting an animal is a lifelong commitment – so who better to choose the match than the animal’s new guardian?

With all this in mind, let’s look at a few animals available for adoption across the United States.

Brigid is a dachshund puppy from Dachshund Rescue North America (DRNA) – a nation-wide breed-specific rescue group dedicated to dachshunds. We adopted Ralphie from DRNA in 2001.

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Brigid is as cute as a button! She loves to play w/ her brothers, Brik #06452 & Brok #06454, but if one gets a little rough, she lets them know! She loves playing in the outdoors & running & running about—chasing whatever is there (a leaf!). Brigid gets along w/ the resident dachshunds in her foster home, who are all ‘adults’. She is very affectionate & loves to give sweet kisses to any & everyone she meets! Puppy play toys are the ultimate for her, so she will wants lots! She is crate-trained & rides well in the car. Harness/halter leash walking will need ‘refining’ when adopted!! :-) Brigid is still working on the housetraining, but doing really great w/ it! Brigid & her 2 brothers have never been separated, so another young dog would be a companion for the little girl. Brigid is fostered in eastern NC.

Capulina is a young, female Border Collie/German Shepherd mix currently staying with Stray from the Heart in New York City:

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If you ever had a Border Collie mix you understand why its so hard to ever change breeds. They are intelligent, incredibly loyal and are able to read your mind before you say a word. As far as leash walking goes, Capulina is the easiest dog to walk as she never pulls and leaves your side.

At 45 pounds she is the perfect size for a city apt, but she would be great in a home outside the city as well. The most important thing to Capulina is not where she lives but whom she lives with; she is so ready to bond with that special someone. She actually searches the faces of the people she meets with the hopes of finding her forever mother or father (or both) and make them the center of her universe although she is not needy or high maintenance. Even though in the past she lived peacefully with many other dogs, it’s been her dream since she has been a little girl to be an only child.

Britney is an adult, female British Shorthair cat – and a former breeder – staying in Los Angeles with Foreverhome Pet Rescue:

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Britney is a purebred Silver Shaded British Shorthair from a situation where the breeder could no longer take care of her cats. Britney was a breeder cat – so she is shy, but sometimes she will purr and rub up against you. She is used to being around a lot of other cats. Britney needs a quiet home with no children or dogs – and she needs someone who understands that it is not likely that she will ever be a lap cat.

This kitty was a baby machine all her life – she is now 4 years old and spayed and just needs a place to hang out. Oh – and please don’t take her picture! She hates the camera!

ShereKhan and Abbi are a pair of male/female Domestic Short Hair-white Tiger kitteh mixes from Washington, DC. Alliance for Stray Animals and People rescued them from “euthanasia” at the local pound:

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Both of these guys were pulled from the local county shelter when their time was up. While in foster care they have bonded, so we decided to do what’s best for this pair and keep them together.

ShereKhan is the 3 yr. old tabby/white male. He is very outgoing and sweet. A kitty that loves attention from it’s humans and is not shy about asking for it. ShereKhan is blind in one eye but that does not affect him at all.

Abbi is a beautiful tortoiseshell. She is small in size. She is a little more reserved than ShereKhan but has followed his example and comes up to us for cuddle time now.

Abbi and ShereKhan are both spayed/neutered, up to date with shots, Feline Leukemia/FIV negative and micro chipped.

Walter is a young male rabbit who is being cared for by the Seattle Animal Shelter in Seattle, WA:

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Poor Walter came back to the shelter after things didn’t work out in his adoptive home. This handsome one year old Californian was adopted a few months ago after living in horribly filthy conditions with several other rabbits, and now he’s in foster care. Walter is an active rabbit with a sweet, intense personality. He’d do best in a rabbit-savvy home, possibly as a companion for another gentle rabbit. Walter has good box habits, and enjoys being petted. Like a lot of rabbits, Walter needs to feel secure in his surroundings or will avoid being picked up. He is perfectly content to hop on his person’s lap to snuggle…this rabbit likes his feet as close to the ground as possible. Is your home worthy of Walter’s love?

Lucy Lu is a baby pot bellied pig; you can meet her in Pardeeville, WI, through the Midwest Animal and Potbellied Pig Association and Rescue:

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I’m Lucy Lu. I am a sweet loving young shy black and white female potbellied pig baby. I am about 10 weeks, maybe more but I am skinny cuz I wasn’t taken care of properly. But I love food and to eat and to potty outside, and I know now I will be gaining the weight I should be in no time. Right now, you can still feel my ribs. the volunteers feel sorry for my past life i had, but i am nothing but positive about my future in finding a forever loving home. If you are educated on the care and needs of potbellied pigs. You might be my next family.I want an indoor home that I can have access to go outside to do my potty business and graze on fresh grass a little every day. Kinda like what dogs have access to. I need lots of love and attention. I need you to give me fresh food, water, and proper vet care and please be smarter than me, so I don’t have to tell you what to do for whats best for me.

Pudge is a Quaker Parrot (Monk Parakeet), who hails from Delware, Ohio and is staying with Central Ohio Friends of a Feather:

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Pudge, a 5 yr old Quaker came to us because his owner died suddenly. He is the most handsome of all the Quakers that I have personally seen with a stunning and sweet personality. He prefers to be out of his cage and more preferably with you. So far he has no fear of other birds, dogs or people. He LOVES fresh nanna’s and semi-dried figs. He is a seed eater. He has been vetted and given a clean bill of health except for he’s 3 grams overweight and some fat was found in his bloodwork. This is from too many sunflower seeds so he is beginning a conversion to pellets. He must stay on the pellet mix otherwise he is more likely to get fatty liver disease. Pudge came with two cages. One is without a stand…and not really suitable for a Quaker. The other is a brass cage again not the best type for a Quaker but will work for a temporary cage. He does need a sturdy cage as Quakers do like to chew. He LOVES to be near you and has given kisses already and likes a good head scratch. He does say “Chop Chop!” and “Michael” as Michael was his previous owner. His owner’s mother has asked for our assistance in finding Pudge the best possible home. He seems to have been taken care of real well and really needs someone who will continue to provide him the loving care his owner gave to him.

These eight fur- and feather-babies represent a minuscule fraction of the millions of animals which pass through the animal adoption system each and every year. 12 million have been adopted through Petfinder alone!

Please, if you’re looking to obtain an animal – no matter its species, breed, age, sex, special needs or temperament – please consider adoption.

Be a hero. Save a life.

(Crossposted from.)

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2 Responses to “Would you buy a baby?: Adopt, Don’t Shop!”

  1. Elaine Vigneault Says:

    I just took a look at the puppies for sale at my local pet store and I can tell you for certain they are already “damaged goods.” Those poor dogs display serious behavior problems – circling, pacing, excessive whining, defecating on themselves, etc. That caged environment is NOT healthy for them. They are isolated, confused, scared…

    it’s just so sad people can’t see that.

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