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Rescuing is the only ethical way to bring a new pet home

Last month, my family and I lost our cat of 16 years, Melvin. He was a wonderful cat that we loved with all of our hearts. I rescued him when I was just a kitten myself, fresh out of undergrad. I went through dating, engagement, early marriage and the births of all three kids with Melvin. To say he was a part of my heart is to vastly understate it. But he was. We rescued him, but in many other ways, he rescued us.

Soon after we lost him, our family made the decision to bring two new cats into our home: Pirate and Panda. Pirate is about 5 years old and is missing one eye; Panda is a kitten. Both were found outside, disheveled and nearly dead, and nursed back to life at our wonderful vet’s office. If I hadn’t come along when I did, maybe someone else would have taken them. Maybe. But adult animals have a lot of trouble being rescued, and Panda was only getting older. What’s even more likely is that they would have become some of the many animals still living in shelters (or put down by shelters) because there are just simply not enough homes to go around.

According to the ASPCA, 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats. Of the dogs entering shelters, approximately 35 percent are adopted, 31 percent are euthanized and 26 percent are returned to their owners. Of the cats entering shelters, approximately 37 percent are adopted, 41 percent are euthanized and less than 5 percent are returned to their owners.

Anyone looking at those grim stats would have a hard time justifying buying an animal. Obviously, all animals need homes, but the truth is, if no one bought from breeders, breeders would simply cease to exist. And while there are many reputable breeders and not all breeders are puppy mills, the fact is, puppy mills do exist and pet stores sell sick puppies, and good animals lose out on homes because of it. It’s terrible.

Very few things in life are black and white, but with pet adoption, there really is only one ethical way to bring a new pet home. Anyone who buys a pet may love it every bit as much as someone who adopts from a shelter, but he or she didn’t save a life in the same way.

Now, obviously, we are not under any obligation to save the world. I eat meat and wear leather, and I do all kinds of things that would make vegans balk. But, even so, unless you are showing your pet, there is really no reason to have a purebred, other than wanting one.

So, instead of supporting organizations that bring more pets into the world, why not give a home to the many sheltered animals who need one?

Pirate is the most loving cat I have ever had. All of my four cats and my one dog have been rescues. But Pirate is the most appreciative. He knows exactly where he comes from, and he loves our home. I can’t guarantee all animals will be as appreciative as this one (our kitten is pretty darn entitled, even for a shelter cat), but I can guarantee that knowing you saved a life in that way only makes the love that much richer.

Adopt pets. Don’t buy them.

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