January 5, 2023

Why “Adopt, Don’t Shop” Actually Matters to Dog Lovers.

I thought I had found my tribe.

For 13 years and counting, I’ve been looking for like-minded, resonant hearts to connect with around the plight of rescue dogs. Before I see my final sunset, I want to know that I did the best I could to help dogs who are already on this planet to live, and live well.

So, it came as a shock when a member of a small rescue-oriented group I’d aligned with wrote about how to locate “high quality” breeders for dogs.

My disappointment aligned with frustration, for after decades of living in a materialistic world, I had been excited to think I’d found resonant hearts wanting to save dogs alongside me. The group had held itself out as a loose group of disrupters looking to change the systems. It was supposed to have been an agglomeration of experienced, talented, dog experts and professionals interested in making change for animals.

It was, supposedly, the disenfranchised working on behalf of the disenfranchised.

But, wait.

Where in that messaging would “finding high quality breeders for purebreds” fit in? Purebred breeders are part of the problem in pet overpopulation, as are backyard breeders. The intentional act of breeding, by its very nature, brings more dogs into an already saturated canine world, where too many dogs are already struggling to live, much less live well.

Are there accidents, special incidents, a moment where a Woopsie, Mutt and Bitsy got together when my back was turned?

Of course, there are.

Are there special circumstances, like wanting an Irish Wolfhound for his placid disposition that your physiology demands after the rescued Anatolian Shepherd succumbed to severe infection from his broken leg and you tried desperately in vain to save him?

Indeed, yes.

But mostly, it can be argued that people breed dogs for one thing—money.

It’s a cruelty to the animals themselves, as anyone following the puppy mill industry already understands—animals suffer loss of freedom, and lack veterinary care, socialization, training, exercise—never mind love—all in the name of profit.

Then there are those additional types of breeders. Some will say they are part of a completely ethically bereft outlook, while others may say they are backyard breeders.

Ultimately, both ways work themselves to the same simple end: It’s always the action of bringing in dogs when there aren’t enough homes for the ones already here.

Flooding an already saturated dog market.

The act of breeding is cruel to the ones already here, the ones who are losing their lives by the hundreds of thousands, still, to the pain and anguish of those loving upon them until their last dying breath.

The shelter industry, replete with all the mosaic complications of human weaknesses and foibles, struggles mightily to care for already-homeless dogs.

And they are still dying, on every single hell-come-to-earth day.

Some, as in my former group, try to differentiate between “high quality breeders” and others. That perspective is itself a problem—promoting the idea that breeding can be acceptable, if you can merely find just the “right” breeder, doing it just the “right” way.

The single act of intentionally bringing more dogs into existence, created from an arbitrarily generated list of preferred physical qualities, is a cruelty to the dogs already here. It’s also elitism.

And it’s devaluing to loving dogs who are right now in real need of a home:

Yes, I know you’re already here but this one that I have on my mind—who is on order with the breeder—this one has something that excites me, something that you just don’t. So, I am going to let the beleaguered shelter worker take your young, precious, healthy life away, and instead I am buying this custom-made dog, who has been created just for me.

It is, in this analysis, not about the dogs at all, purebred or otherwise. It is about the people who think of the dogs as objects of desire, to be bought and traded and shown off to friends as status symbols.

To my broken and ever-more-so animal-loving heart, I will never in my life buy a dog. I will always adopt. I believe there are millions who now feel the same way. To those loving, vulnerable, beautiful mosaic mutts offering up the best of all breeds, or even, as we live in a complicated world, to the sadly abandoned purebreds all waiting in shelters and on the couches of foster-based rescues in the hope that some enlightened, compassionate, dog-loving human will step up, I say:

I choose you to be my forever dog.

Adopt, never shop.

Enlightened people rescue.

Take care of the life already here.



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