I am totally on board with #AdoptDontShop. Adopting a pet is almost always the most responsible choice, considering that overcrowding in shelters and pet overpopulation are serious problems in America. The issue is pretty black-and-white. Puppy mills are bad; spaying and neutering are good. But where, exactly, does that leave responsible dog breeders?
First, let's define "irresponsible." Irresponsible dog breeding, aka puppy mills, leads to health problems, behavior problems and ultimately more dogs in shelters, according to the Humane Society. Responsible breeders, on the other hand, are dog breeders who take the health of their chosen breed seriously and put the necessary time and money into their litters.
These breeders test their dogs for hereditary conditions and try to breed out major health problems from their bloodlines. They try to match puppies to the right homes and are not afraid to say no to a potential customer. They care about their dogs and are passionate about the history and usefulness of dog breeds.
Here's the thing. We need good dog breeders in America. We need breeders who want to make dogs healthier, happier and, in the case of working lines, even better at what they do, whether it's retrieving, tracking, protecting or serving Americans with disabilities. Irresponsible breeders produce unhealthy dogs that often have a lot of medical needs. These dogs are often given to shelters because owners are overwhelmed with the amount of medical care they require.
Adopting isn't for everyone. As someone who has both adopted from shelters and purchased dogs from a responsible breeder, I can see both sides of the argument. Too often, though, I feel that the well-intentioned emphasis on adopting vilifies all breeders, regardless of their ethics.
For better or for worse, people are always going to breed dogs, and people are always going to buy them. This means there are going to be good breeders and bad breeders, but as consumers, we have a choice of who to support.
Doing the research to find a reputable breeder takes time. If you don't feel like going through all that effort, you probably should reconsider pet ownership. Pets take effort. Frankly, you should research the adoption agency or shelter where you adopt as well to make sure it has a good reputation.
The best way to actively reduce the number of pets in shelters is to adopt, but supporting responsible breeders will help address the issue at its root — economics. We can't stop people from breeding dogs, but if we stop buying puppies from irresponsible breeders and instead support responsible breeders, then we take away the economic incentive for the bad breeders to continue to breed. Without an economic incentive, the sheer number of puppies available will decrease, reducing the number of unwanted dogs in animal shelters.
Combating animal homelessness is going to require participation from both families who adopt dogs and families who buy puppies from breeders. Regardless of where your dog comes from, however, the best thing you can do to reduce the number of unwanted dogs in shelters is to keep that dog in your home and provide him with the love and care he deserves.
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