Why Adopt a Pet from a Shelter?

Adoption saves lives.

Family at an animal shelter
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With millions of cats and dogs killed in shelters in the United States every year, adopting a pet instead of buying or breeding saves at least one animal's life.

The Problem

According to the Humane Society of the US, approximately 6-8 million animals are brought into shelters in the US every year, and about half are killed. The vast majority of animals killed are adoptable, meaning they are not too sick,injured or vicious to be adopted as pets.

They are killed because no one adopted them, and the shelters decided they could not keep them.

What's Wrong with Buying and Breeding Pets?

Buying a pet from a breeder gives money to the pet breeding industry - pet shops, puppy mills and breeders - and encourages further breeding when there are already too many unwanted pets. As Rae Sikora said at the Vegetarian Summerfest, each time you buy something, you are saying, "Do that again." Buying from a breeder or pet store tells them to breed more animals.

If you are breeding your own dog or cat, you may plan to do it only once, but all of those kittens and puppies will need homes. You may plan to keep one or all of the kittens and puppies, but if you have room in your home to add one or more animals, that space could go to a shelter animal. The people who you might give kittens and puppies to could have adopted from the shelter. Instead of saving 4, 5, or 6 animals from the shelter, breeding creates new animals who will need homes.

What if I buy from a responsible breeder?

To some people, "responsible breeder" is a breeder who makes sure their animals are going to good homes and generally takes good care of their cats or dogs. They are different from puppy mills, which sell to pet stores, have no idea where the animals are going to end up, treat the animals as disposable, and often keep the animals in crowded, filthy conditions.

However, to many animal advocates, "responsible breeder" is an oxymoron. No matter how well the animals are cared for, there are too many animals for too few homes, and there is no responsible way to intentionally increase the number of cats and dogs right now.

Does the U.S. Have a Pet Overpopulation Problem?

With three million cats and dogs killed every year, many shelters and animal advocates would say yes, but there's another way to look at the problem. There would be plenty of homes if people stopped treating their pets as disposable; adopted animals from shelters; and spayed and neutered their cats, dogs and rabbits. The No Kill Advocacy Center says:

We do not have a "pet overpopulation" problem; we have a market share challenge. When shelters compete for the market share of homes and keep animals alive long enough to find those homes, shelter animals are saved rather than killed.

It's not that cats and dogs are breeding out of our control - we have a great deal of control over the situation. As with other animal "problems," the problem is with people, not the animals. Shelters and communities can work together to greatly reduce, and perhaps eliminate, shelter killings. Adopting from a shelter is one part of the solution.

To learn more, check out the No Kill Advocacy Center's website.

Adopting from a Shelter

Adopting from a shelter frees up space in a shelter that may be full or overfull. It allows them to take in new animals, or keep a current animal a little longer. Adoption saves not only the animal you adopt, but also the new animal the shelter can take in. Combined with not breeding or buying, adopting from a shelter helps both ends of the problem: fewer animals will be bred, and more animals who are already here right now will go to a good home.

Keep in mind that cats and dogs are not the only animals available. I've seen rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds, and lizards at local shelters. If you don't find the type of animal you want at your shelter, try Petfinder, which lists animals available for adoption from shelters and rescue groups all over the United States.

Pets and Animal Rights

Even animal rights advocates who don't believe in keeping companion animals, will adopt from a shelter because it alleviates the problem and saves a life. Adopting from a shelter advances and is consistent with animal rights because we should stop buying and breeding, while providing good homes for the animals who are already here.