I know that this is going to make some people mad. Some of you read the title of this article and immediately started making excuses or arguing with the statement.
If you're immediate reaction was "but," and you are a casual pet owner--in other words you aren't someone who takes their dog or cat to pet shows or agility competitions or trains dogs for professional work such as guide dogs or police dogs--then really stop and think about the excuses that you are making.
Because as you are formulating those excuses, another animal---a perfectly happy, healthy and well-tempered animal---is losing its life because it couldn't find a home.
Could that home have been yours?
The Truth About The United States And Pet Overpopulation
In the United States, we have a surplus of adoptable dogs and cats. According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are at least 2.7 million adoptable pets that are euthanized every year.
That's a pet being put down every eleven seconds.
These are pets of every type.
Mixed and full bred cats and dogs in shelters often face a higher chance of being euthanized than of being adopted. A lucky few make it into rescue groups and no-kill shelters.
But most of them have a very short window to be adopted before having to be put down for lack of space, money and demand.
Here are some common excuses made by people who purchase pets from breeders and who refuse to acknowledge their part in the pet overpopulation problem.
And they are just that---excuses.
Argument #1: But I Want a Particular Breed of Pet.
And you can have one. You don't even have to look that hard to find a particular breed that is a certain age or has a certain look.
Not only are rescue groups for specific breeds available in almost every state (with transport networks in place) but shelters often receive purebred or mostly purebred dogs.
And if you then answer "Well I want papers" and you are buying this dog or cat as a pet only, then why in the world do you want papers? Pets should not be status symbols. They should be a part of your family.
Besides that, mixed breed dogs and cats who have predominant traits of a particular animal--such as a mixed breed Lab that looks like a Lab or a mixed breed Siamese that looks like Siamese----often exhibit the well-known traits of that breed but have less health problems and longer life expectancy.
Argument #2: Certain Types of Dogs/Cats Will Disappear If We Don't Support Breeders.
First of all; No, no they won't. There will likely always be purebred dogs available. This industry is not hurting.
In some types of breeds there is more breeding than demand--and guess where those unwanted puppies and kittens end up?
The truth is diversity in the domestic pet population is important. It keeps the gene pool fresh and stops the continuation of health problems related to specific breeds and kinds.
Ask yourself what you are really looking for? What are the traits that will work for you and your family? Then go on a search through shelters and rescues to find the perfect match.
Argument #3: I Want To Know Exactly What Kind of Dog or Cat I'm Getting and Their Temperament.
If you want to know what kind of cat or dog you are getting, your best bet is to adopt a one to two year old animal. Personalities are often not fully clear until that age. And this is true with ANY dog or cat whether purebred or a mix.
And often animals change over time. Even some of my more skittish or stand-offish cats over the years have mellowed out, become more affectionate, more vocal or more personable.
I have a fifteen year old chow mix, picked up as a stray, who has none of the chow temperament but does have the beauty.
Shelters and rescues and foster families can also tell you a lot about their foster animal's personalities and help you find a great match for your family's needs.
Argument #4: I'm Not Going to Spay or Neuter My Dog or Cat Because That's Just Cruel.
Many who buy a fullbred cat or dog claim that they don't want to have them fixed because it is cruel---not because they actually plan on breeding them.
Spaying and neutering is not cruel to a pet. They are perfectly happy and functional with or without their reproductive organs.
And they are also calmer, less likely to spray to mark territory and less likely to wander off if they sense another animal around them that they want to mate.
What is cruel is allowing your cat or dog to have kittens or puppies. Even if you find homes for them, you've displaced a potential spot that could go to a shelter animal. And so indirectly, you've taken another chance away for a homeless pet to find a place.
With millions dying every year---millions that don't have any health or temperament problems. Your insistence on continuing to allow your pet to breed is rude, greedy and selfish.
And if you are on a fixed income or don't have enough money, do a little bit of research. Many shelters and rescue groups will help you out and allow your animal to receive the operation at cost or even free.
Argument #5: It's My Money, I Can Do What I Want With It.
And you are right. It is your money. You can do what you want to do with it.
But maybe you should ask yourself why you are purchasing an animal in the first place? Is it because you want to brag to your friends that you spent X amount on a designer dog?
Are they an accessory like a purse or a new couch?
Because if you're spending money because you think it makes you look good, it doesn't. It makes you look selfish.
You don't want a pet, you want a symbol. In that case buy a new pair of shoes or a new car. At least those items don't have feelings and wants and needs.
And even designer pets get old or use the bathroom on the floor or get sick. If your impulse at that point is to not deal with it then you should reconsider your purchase in the first place when they are a cute and wriggling baby.
Argument #6: They're Just Animals. Aren't There More Important Things To Worry About?
First of all, if that is your attitude, please do us all a favor and don't get a pet. Anytime you justify actions or disregard any living thing with a "just," I have a problem with it.
They actually are living and sentient beings. Dogs and cats have high intelligence, emotions and empathetic ability. They are important, how they are treated matters and your attitude toward them as another living being matters.
The above argument is a red herring fallacy anyway. You don't have to give up belief in animal rights, belief in spaying and neutering and belief in adopting a rescue in order to also support other causes.
Argument #7: All Shelter Animals Are Sickly
As I pointed out in the beginning of the article, I am speaking of the United States and can't speak about other country's systems for handling stray animals and pets.
In the United States, reputable shelters and rescue groups will NOT adopt out sickly animals. Animals that are adopted out are expected to be tested, vaccinated and have medical records showing that they have a clean bill of health.
You are actually more likely to get a sickly dog from an unlicensed breeder or puppy mill for purebreds than you are from a shelter.
The 2.7 million dogs and cats that are put down every year are HEALTHY animals that have years of life left in them.
If you truly want an animal with the likelihood of fewer health problems then adopt a mixed breed dog or cat.
Find Any Type of Breed of Pet
- Pet adoption: Want a dog or cat? Adopt a pet on Petfinder
The place for pet adoption. Petfinder is the number one website for adoptable pets. Search over 350,000 adoptable pets from nearly 14,000 adoption groups.
How To Adopt A Rescue Cat or Dog
It's relatively easy to adopt a dog or cat that is right for your family. You can find many dogs and cat at your local shelter, through rescue groups and even online.
Try petfinder.com, especially if you are looking for a particular breed of cat or dog.
When you find the pet of your dreams, contact the group or shelter and let them know you would like to meet with the cat or dog.
Remember that there are likely fees associated with the adoption. But unlike that money you would pay a breeder, these fees usually cover the vaccinations, neutering and microchip costs of your new pet. It is often cheaper than if you had to pay for all these services yourself.
If This Makes You Mad Or Uncomfortable, Ask Yourself Why?
I know that the opinions expressed here will make some uncomfortable, some angry and cause some to just shrug and say "whatever, what my family does will not really change things one way or another."
If that's your feeling, I leave you with this:
There is an oft quoted story, attributed to Loren Eiseley's essay "The Star Thrower." It tells about a young man who, in taking a morning walk on the beach notices that hundreds of starfish have washed up on the beach and are now beginning to die in the early rays of the sun. The man begins picking them up and throwing them back into the ocean, one by one.
Another frustrated beach walker comes up to him and asks what he's doing. He tells him and the second man points out the ridiculousness of what he's doing. He points to all the starfish and notes that there's no way the young man can save them all. What difference does it make if someone saves these few when so many others will die?
The young man picks one of the starfish up and shows it to the man. As he throws it back into the ocean he notes that while it may be true, it sure does make a difference to this one.
Imagine if all of us had that attitude.
What do you think? Leave your comments here. Note: Foul Language or Promotional Links Will Not Be Shown.
Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on May 02, 2016:
Very interesting hub. Your arguments are good and reasonable. It is really a matter of concern. People should be humane and wise in their perceptions.
Congratulations for the HOTD award.
L C David (author) from Florida on May 02, 2016:
As an update to this, I did find another beautiful flame point Siamese mix that I adopted from the shelter after my other Siamese passed away. Two years later he is doing well.
I also adopted a cockapoo from the shelter after my chow chow passed away. She's a wonderful dog and I'm so glad we got to give her a second chance.
Please don't shop, adopt!
Camille Harris from SF Bay Area on March 03, 2014:
Another to add to the list: Mutts/crosses often live longer. Obviously there are exceptions (my friend's purebred Airedale lived to be 16), but for the most part, crossbreed dogs and cats are healthier and live longer. We've adopted all of our pets from shelters and have never had a single bad experience. Our most recent addition is a 13-year old pit bull/greyhound/husky cross (picture a pit bull head + greyhound body + husky coat & tail) and he couldn't be sweeter. I highly recommend giving shelter pets a chance, and I highly recommend this Hub!
L C David (author) from Florida on March 03, 2014:
I'm obviously not going to convince you as your mind seems pretty set. However, if the shelter is doing what you say it is then it is not ethical and should be investigated. Your experience is an outlier and your are exception to the rule. For MOST people the opposite is true.
The other thing is that some purebreds are plagued with health problems and though you can sometimes get one that does well, for many it is expensive to take care of a purebred.
Not for you....again you are very clear that your mind is set....but for others---Adopt a mix breed that has the predominant traits you are looking for. Check out the reputation of the shelter or rescue. You can find out if they are good to their animals or not.
Here in Florida, our city shelter and our no-kill shelter are excellent. They will not adopt out a sick animal but they will let you foster it while they work to get it better. They work to find homes for all their animals and they are healthy and happy. The ones who are euthanized are usually put down because of health reasons.
Any animal can get sick. Things happen. Cancer or other diseases happen.
But your experience is not the norm and I would definitely suggest trying a different avenue for adoption rather than that particular shelter which seems to be operating unethically if your experience is the norm. If yours is not the norm then you might try to figure out if there are other circumstances in play.
For all the others reading these comments: Adopt a shelter animal or rescue. They will give you a lifetime of love and a lifetime of gratefulness.
Healing Herbalist from The Hamlet of Effingham on March 03, 2014:
I am in the US, and # 7 is not always true. These shelters are in it to make money. One of the dogs I adopted had a serious heart murmur. Easily detected by a stethoscope. The shelter knew this, and did not disclose it. I brought him to the vet the next day, and that is how I found out. When I contacted the shelter to see if I could trade him for another, they told me no. It would have counted as a surrender and go against me. I am glad I kept him, as he turned out to be awesome. I do believe it was the shelter's responsibility to have told me that he was sick. He was 5 when I adopted him, 7 when he died. The other 3 dogs I got from the shelter, all died as well.
The shelter I "bought" from continues to sell animals that are sickly. They take animals from the South, bring them North, and then sell them. I say sell, because when you have to pay $300 for a dog, just because they say it's a "purebred" (no papers of course), then they are selling dogs. When I was growing up, a shelter was a "local" place where you could either take a dog, or adopt a dog.
You say that they are checked, which is true, but the shelter will not divulge if the are "sickly" because then they you won't adopt them. This means they won't make money.
The dog I had from a breeder died at the ripe old age of 16.
Ronald E Franklin from Mechanicsburg, PA on March 02, 2014:
This is a great point many people might not think about. I wonder if people who go to a pet shop for a puppy have made a conscious decision to do so in preference to getting a rescue animal, or if it simply didn't occur to them. Great hub!
Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on March 01, 2014:
When I read your response to my comments, it made me remember something I've always found amusing. 20 years ago, a mixed breed was a Heinz 57. And I totally agree with Katelyn, they are usually healthier. Now, the dogs are called designer dogs and they charge you out the kazoo for them. Answer: shelter or rescue.
Katelyn Weel from Ontario, Canada on March 01, 2014:
Purebreds definitely seem to have more health problems. I once had a bengal cat and a shelter cat at the same time. I easily spent 3x the amount on vet bills for the bengal than the shelter cat. He was a wonderful cat, and was generally healthy, active, and loving, but definitely was not as strong as the shelter cat when it came to health. He had food allergies and needed special food, and I had to take him to the emergency vet clinic on two separate occasions because he was having some kind of problems in the litter box. There was one incident where the bengal got a respiratory infection that nearly killed him and cost me a fortune in medication, and while the illness did spread to my other cat, he got away with just a runny nose. I definitely believe mixed breeds are the way to go.
Hady Chahine from Manhattan Beach on March 01, 2014:
Informative hub! Until now I never realized the rate at which pets are euthanized in the U.S., which according to your research is one “every eleven seconds.” That is truly shameful.
L C David (author) from Florida on February 28, 2014:
While I realize that what I have to say makes people uncomfortable---very often the very breed they are buying is available in a shelter. And if they are not, such as ragdoll cat you really should think about WHY you are buying a ragdoll cat. They are cute. But so are many shelter animals.
And guess what---after a few years people people abandon those designer pets. Just do a quick search of ragdoll rescue and you'll see that they are out there. Adopting a ragdoll that is one to two years old still gives you a full life with that cat. And you save a life.
The purebreeds won't go without a home. I guarantee it. There are always those with the attitude that by-golly they will buy exactly what they want and they don't "want" one of those mutts from the shelter. (I realize this is not you Ann1Az2 as you have already noted that you have adopted and loved many strays and rescues---and good for you!)
But if I can make one person think twice about buying rather than rescuing then, like the starfish, I've at least made a difference to one.
Finally, your adoption vs. having a baby is a false equivalency at best; in either process you are acquiring an animal as a pet. If you want certain traits in a pet you can find that in a rescue or a shelter animal.
And all my pets are rescues or strays. I do practice what I preach. My dog is 15-16 (age not quite known) and four of my cats are senior citizens with three being 15 or older. And one of mine is a Siamese rescue and has been the love of my life for 16 years and I will adopt another Siamese but I certainly won't perpetuate the problem by playing an inflated price from a breeder.
Ann1Az2 from Orange, Texas on February 28, 2014:
I admire your passion and I definitely see your point. All of my cats have been strays. The 4 I have now were strays or rescued from someone who didn't take care of them. I also rescued a German Shepherd puppy years ago from someone giving them away in a grocery store parking lot (he lived to be 15 years old). The think is, telling someone to rescue an animal instead of buying a certain breed they want is kind of like telling someone to adopt a baby instead of having one of their own. Generally, people who buy a breed often have them picked out when they aren't even ready to separate from their mother yet. They put a deposit down and wait until the puppy is 6 weeks old.
I know some people who sell ragdoll kittens - they are sold out before the litter is even born. There is something about choosing a breed of cat or dog that is just different from adopting one from a rescue. It's true that for every breed you buy, there is probably a Heinz 57 in a shelter or rescue that will lose it's life, but what about the breeds, then? Is it any more fair for them to go without a home?
The solution is one that you listed - neutering and spaying. Strays and rescued animals do not need to be breeding. There are too many already!
L C David (author) from Florida on February 28, 2014:
bravewarrior--Flame Points are gorgeous. My own flamepoint siamese mix is in his final days due to cancer and I have been actively searching the rescue group for a young siamese to adopt. I haven't found the right one yet but I know it is out there.
Glad you had them all fixed!
L C David (author) from Florida on February 28, 2014:
Cloverleaffarm---if I assume your location is correct then you are not in the United States. As stated in my article, I am only talking about the United States population. Here, you are much more likely to get an unhealthy animal from a breeder, puppy mill, or pet store than from a rescue group or shelter. The animals that are put down every year are healthy. You did inspire me to add your argument to my list though.
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 28, 2014:
Now I feel bad. Two of my 3 cats are rescues, however I did purchase a Flame Point Himalayan from a breeder. And I had all 3 fixed.
Healing Herbalist from The Hamlet of Effingham on February 28, 2014:
I can only speak for myself, but every shelter dog I rescued was sick and wound up dying. They knew they were sickly, and didn't tell us. I spent over $6000 trying to save them, and in the end, I lost 3 within one year. I will never get another shelter animal. I now prefer to get my "rescues" from people who are moving, or from people who are getting up in years, and can no longer take care of their dog. They know they are going to a good home, and I know the dog has been taken care of.
L C David (author) from Florida on February 28, 2014:
I think it's great that you at least tried that first.
Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on February 28, 2014:
Well when I first started to look for my first newf I went that route myself and searched for one via all the shelters in my area and rescue site. There were none to be found at the time. If I were to ever get another I would do the same search first and if I didn't find one I'd buy one from a breeder.
L C David (author) from Florida on February 28, 2014:
Stray kittens will often climb up into small places like wheel wells and engines looking for warmth. My father once found a kitten (thanks to my dog) in the spare tire of his truck. The kitten had ridden for about 20 miles that way and it was really lucky he didn't fall out.
He ended up being a Hemingway cat and ten years later my parents still have him!
Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on February 28, 2014:
I never even wanted a pet. Especially a cat. But when we found a beat up kitten in the wheelwell of a car on a dark and stormy night, we had ourselves a cat. How could a little kitten be outside in such horrible weather. The poor little thing was about 5 weeks old. Who would just throw such a tender baby away. The kitten had no fear of people. But I always wondered where he came from and what happened to his siblings.
L C David (author) from Florida on February 27, 2014:
I can only speak for the USA and their current homeless pet/homeless full bred pet problem. I have no idea about other countries' laws or pet population. However, anyone in the USA looking for a Newfoundland dog to rescue simply needs to type Newfoundland dog, the word rescue and the city or state into a search engine box to locate reputable rescue groups. I just checked and they are out there.
Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on February 27, 2014:
Guess I should have come to the USA then when I bought both of my Newfoundland dogs here in Canada from a breeder. Wow!