Adopt, Don’t Shop: A Phrase Worth Thousands Of Lives

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Dog in cage at shelterHave you heard the latest catch-phrase, “Adopt, Don’t Shop?” If so, you might be wondering what it means. Adopt, Don’t Shop is a campaign slogan that a growing number of animal rights proponents are using to promote adopting pets from shelters, rather than buying them from pet stores.

What’s behind the movement? Is it controversial? And how can you get involved? Read on for answers to all these questions and more.

Article Overview

Why You Should Adopt A Pet Rather Than Buy

Many of the puppies sold in pet stores or online originate from puppy mills, commercial dog-breeding facilities that focus on increasing profit with little regard for the health and welfare of the animals. Although puppy mills in the U.S. are legal, a vast majority aren’t regulated.

Practices and conditions in most puppy mills are unethical and downright abhorrent in many cases. Dogs live in filthy conditions without adequate food, water or veterinary care. And female dogs are bred at every opportunity with little to no recovery time between litters. Inbreeding is also a huge problem.

Because of these conditions, puppy mills often produce animals with serious health problems down the road. And this translates to hefty vet bills for you. Many pet stores also don’t socialize their animals, which can lead to potential behavioral problems that aren’t ideal for a family pet. Adopting a pet, however, has a ton of advantages. The ASPCA reports that roughly 6.5 million companion animals enter shelters every year.

What Are The Benefits Of Adopting From A Shelter?

There are many advantages of adopting a rescue dog that you and your family can enjoy.

1. You’re Saving A Life

Adopting a dog from a shelter not only means that you’re giving him a happy life, but you also free up a spot at the rescue or shelter to save another dog’s life.

2. You Can Find A Fully Trained Dog

Don’t know much about training a puppy or don’t have the patience? You can find an adult rescue dog who’s already house trained and has his basic manners down pat. But if you’re up to the challenge, a rescue can find you a puppy as well.

3. You’ll Know The Dog’s Personality

Rescues and shelters care about how a dog will fit in with your family and will give you as much information as possible about each dog’s personality, activity level, how they behave with children, other pets and strangers, and other factors that make for a good fit.

Be sure to tell them about the qualities you want in your pet and ask lots of questions. That way, you can find a perfect addition to your family.

Reputable breeds should know this information as well, but many pet stores and puppy mills can’t share these specifics.

4. Rescue Dogs Are Often Less Expensive To Adopt

A rescue dog has already had all of his vaccinations and may have been spayed or neutered. And shelters typically have very reasonable adoption fees, ranging from $50 to $300.

5. You’ll Find A Lot Of Choices

Rescue shelters often have dogs of all ages and genders, as well as purebred and mixed breeds of all kinds (an estimated 30% of dogs in rescues are purebred). And if you have a specific breed in mind, reach out to a breed-specific rescue near you.

6. Helps Fight Puppy Mills

Approximately 90% of puppies you can buy in pet stores or online are from puppy mills. Adopting a dog from a shelter takes business away from mills. The more people who adopt, the more puppy mills have a hard time staying in business.

What’s The “Adopt, Don’t Shop” Campaign?

“Adopt, Don’t Shop” is a national campaign to raise awareness about the benefits of adopting rescue pets instead of puppies from pet stores that buy from puppy mills.

The organization that launched the Adopt Don’t Shop campaign is Los Angeles-based Last Chance for Animals (LCA), an international, nonprofit animal advocacy organization focused on investigating, exposing and ending animal exploitation since 1984. LCA founder Chris DeRose is a leader in the animal rights movement and works closely with countless individuals and groups dedicated to humane treatment of animals.

Real-Life Adoption Stories

Check out this heartwarming video by LCA with some adorable adopted rescues.

How Can You Help Raise Awareness?

There are several things you can do if you’re committed to raising awareness for the adopt, don’t shop messaging about puppy mills and the benefits of adopting a pet from a shelter.

  • Start a local group to raise awareness in your community
  • Educate pet store owners about the inhumane conditions and cruelty of puppy mills
  • Support pet stores when they agree to stop selling puppies from puppy mills
  • Encourage pet stores to deal only with rescue and shelter dogs
  • Wear an adopt don’t shop shirt to spread the message

U.S. Animal Shelter Facts & Statistics

The data below is from the ASPCA and are rough estimates about shelters in the U.S.

  • 6.5 million animals enter shelters each year
    • 3.3 million of those are dogs
    • 3.2 million of those are cats
  • 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized each year
    • 670,000 of those are dogs
    • 860,000 of those are cats
  • 3.2 million shelter animals are adopted each year
    • 1.6 million of those are dogs
    • 1.6 million of those are cats
  • 710,000 animals who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners
    • 620,000 of those are dogs
    • 90,000 of those are cats
  • 23% of dogs and 31% of cats are obtained through an animal shelter or the humane society, compared to 34% of dogs and 3% of cats obtained through a breeder

When Buying A Puppy Makes Sense

Some people object to the slogan “Adopt, Don’t Shop” because it presumably detracts from a worthwhile industry that sells puppies — legitimate breeders. There are hundreds of licensed breeders across the country who are committed to humane practices and take great care in placing their purebred puppies in ideal homes.

Many breeders do what they do for their love of dogs and maintain supportive relationships with their local shelters and rescue organizations. And many people who purchase purebred dogs are also committed to supporting adoption practices. Learn how to find a reputable dog breeder.

Learn More About Adopting A Pet

Are you considering adopting a dog? Be sure to check out our tips on how to adopt a dog and also learn about fostering. And you’ll enjoy our real-life stories about rescue dogs finding their forever homes. If you’re still considering a purebred, we have a helpful guide to choosing the right dog breed for you and your family. Finally, no matter how you choose to bring your fur baby into your home, you’ll definitely want to consider pet insurance – it’s very inexpensive and could save your furry loved one’s life.

Where do you stand on the Adopt, Don’t Shop slogan?

About The Author:

Sally holds a BA in English from James Madison University and began her 25-year writing career as a grad student at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Journalism & Mass Communications. She’s been a pet parent since college years (and spent her whole childhood with pets).

Now as a parent of two teenagers, she’s made sure to raise her daughters to learn how to love and care for pets (and other animals) in the most responsible and loving ways. As a result, she and her daughters now have 5 rescued dogs and cats who essentially rule their home! Sally has also volunteered over the years to help raise funds for various animal nonprofit organizations.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

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February 3, 2020 1:36 pm

I assume everyone who is adamant about “Adopt, don’t shop” doesn’t give birth to children and only adopts. I mean, it would only make sense!

April 14, 2020 12:43 pm
Reply to  Jeff

When birthing a child they have your DNA, a mother goes through a pregnancy which many women want to do to. A child you will have for the rest of your life, a spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on. When buying or adopting, in neither case does the dog have your DNA….. HOW could you possibly compare the two!!

March 2, 2020 7:24 pm
Reply to  Jeff

But you don’t have to buy a child you give birth to…

November 25, 2019 8:39 pm

I am all for people adopting and saving dogs lives, but I am also one of the people who hates this phrase. I’m really troubled the article qualifies the issues with the slogan only at the very the bottom. A lot of people read a link title and never read the article itself. Plus there are several misleading statements. If you really love dog please consider the dangers of this post.

1. ‘Most Online stores are puppy mills.’ Can you substantiate this? Most reputable breeders rely on online presence so people will find them. Online does not make a puppy mill.
2. Rescue dogs are less expensive. Not necessarily. Many who rescue spend large amounts of money on health issues and many hours training out the trauma.
3. If people only adopted, then there would be no purebred dogs left in a generation. People who promote adoptdontshop should include this point, because it also implies extinction of dogs as we know them.
4. This slogan broadly lumps in reputable breeders, and most people don’t bother to make the distinction, even if you do. You have no idea how much heat articles like this cause for volunteer communities trying to promote dog rights and wellness.
5. A good breeder will also know their pup’s personality just as much as an animal shelter.
6. Good breeders assiduously fight puppy mills and all they stand for just as much as shelters. They make it possible for people to have a good option for healthy purebred dogs and boycott puppy mills. Fyi, most breeders make very little, if any, money. They do it because they love dogs.

I know you mean well, but this article gives incomplete information and inadvertently encourages harassment from people who aren’t knowledgeable. They lash out, sometimes very aggressively towards a demographic of people who breed as a labor of love and love dogs more than nearly anyone else.

As a clever writer that says yourself you know the phrase is an issue, we would love if you help us invent a new phrase to better educate people.

Also, I took a screenshot of this comment awaiting moderation, please approve it. I would like a healthy dialogue even if you disagree.

Kimberly Alt
January 2, 2020 4:34 pm
Reply to  Anon

Thank you for your comment. The goal of this article was to generate this type of discussion so we’re really happy that you took the time to comment so thoroughly. We’re going to use this as an opportunity to revisit and refresh the content.

July 14, 2019 10:31 am

The best reason is that a couple years ago we had to put our best friend Sparky down. He gave us nearly sixteen years of love and friendship. It still hurts but we’re almost ready to adopt again. There is a mutt out there waiting to love you. Mutt love is the best there is.

Carol Ann Watkins
July 10, 2019 4:47 am

Texas will not allow adoption without a fenced yard. Some can run as high as $400. They do not allow out of town adoptions. Other states do not allow out of State Adoptions. Yet shelters are overflowing Nation wide. I wanted to find a blonde female lab. An adult. To live in my house with me out in a rural area at the end of a dead end road on 5 acres butI cant afford $400 to $1,000 a pop for a pet lab.

June 29, 2019 6:56 pm

We do clear the shelter. Mega adoptions here several times a year

June 29, 2019 6:53 pm

My cats are seniors 5 to 12 we adopted a kitten last year and another this year the two year old needed a playmate it has work wonders both still play with my seniorsmall are rescues… For life…. All are BFFs

Michelle Lewis
June 19, 2019 10:08 pm

I tried to adopt a 10 year lab here in the state of utah, all dog pounds charge in this between 100 to 175 dollars. Well I don’t have that kinda money so he didn’t come home with me. I ended up getting a 1 old paper lab that has adhd anixtey, he’s scared to death to be left alone so he’s your shallowed. He’s fixed, chipped,and all his shots. The pound would sell more animals if they dropped the price.

Amy Lewis
June 10, 2019 10:41 pm

I believe these animals and all animals deserve a second chance but if the people that don’t have there prioritys on helping these poor animals and just let’s it all he about money that’s not fair that’s greed so how can u give another chance to these animals when that’s not at all what it’s about people need to get it together and help them or get another job if the money is all it’s about that’s just sad weather sale the products for animals or stop letting this happen the abuse the neglect the damn meaness I love animals and it’s safe to heat all the stories about puppy Mills and pet store abuse we are there boice to help not turn our backs on these defenceless amimals

March 19, 2019 12:21 pm

Andrew, I have recently experienced the same thing when trying to adopt a rescue dog. I was turned down twice because I don’t take my dogs to the vet on a yearly bases and I don’t vaccinate yearly. I’m a firm believer in the holistic approach to vaccinating every 7 year -15 years. Which is the life expectancy of dogs. See Jean Dobbs DVM protocol and Rabies Challenge Fund. I just had to euthanize my last shelter dog. He was between 17-18 years old. I’m a very experienced dog owner. I’m a retired Certified Dog Trainer and self taught Behaviorist. I specialized in dog aggression. I ran a home style boarding facility, taught Agility, did Rally and Earth Dog for years. I have over an 1/8 of an acre that has a 5 ft. commercial grade chain link fence. My dogs have been exposed to hundreds of dogs and never contracted a disease. Why? Because research shows that my dogs were still protected from the diseases that they had been vaccinated for 13 years ago. I do provide the Rabies vaccine every three years as required by law. No other vaccines are required by law. I didn’t titer my dogs due to cost. I applied for one dog with aggression issues with food and toys. He was only 8 months old. But this rescue group turned me down. So are they really doing what is in the best interest of the dog? No!!! This dogs aggression will advance and at some point he will be deemed unadoptable. Why?
Aggression in puppies is unnatural. Aggression isn’t the issue. It’s the outcome of the issue. What’s the issue? Lack of leadership, discipline and exercise. In this case opinions about vaccine overruled an experienced trainer and dog owner. The dog now will suffer as the result of this rescue group. Would you want to adopt a dog that you knew in advance is aggressive? 99% of people would say no. What are the odds that another potential adopter like me will see this dog and want him? This has happened to me twice with two different rescues. So I found a Maltese from a lady that found him dumped in the middle of nowhere. He was only about 6 months old. He was emaciated, filthy and matted to the skin. She nursed him back to health over a period of 4 months. So yes I finally got a new rescue dog, despite two rescue groups.

Avreigh Brooke Lizana
February 25, 2019 2:06 pm

I totally agree! Too many people are shopping for animals and leaving the ones living in shelters to die… We need to find a way to help these animals. More than a dozen animals die in shelters every 5 minutes! There are things that we need to do to improve this prosses of doing things with these poor hopeless animals! But people need to understand there well being and that they are not just money or toys! People say, “why don’t we just open up a bunch of no-kill shelters?” But we would just run out of room in shelters, and be forced to put down the animals coming in because of the lack of space. We could make dog facilities but that would take years. And still, dogs would be overcrowded. Overall animals do eliminate the number of people on earth. We need to find a way to fix this problem, using a way that is safe for the animals and will not harm them! Animals are a very precious thing, and we need to give them the best of care that we can offer! They don’t deserve this! They don’t deserve to be put down, just because humans are making money off of breeding animals! We need to find a way to solve this complicated issue before it gets too out of hand. If animal shopping stopped, even for just one week… dozens of animals lives would be saved. But right now, rather than saved, animals lives are at stake! We care about the animals. But all they care about is money. What do you think is more important? Money?…..Or animals lives? Join the fight. When enough people do…. we can help those animals in need! If enough people are against having breeders in the US, we could pass a new law. We could shut them down for good! You might think it is hard, and it is, but if you think you can…your already halfway there! After all, what do you have to lose?! You won’t be the person losing your life the animals will if you don’t help them! Join the fight…for animals who need our help. One person cannot change how the world treats there animals….but together we can! I may not be the most important, or the coolest person……but at least I know what’s right, not what’s easy! Don’t wait! Their lives are at stake! Help them thrive, not die! Be the person you want to be… no matter what anyone else thinks….help these poor animals…save them! Join the fight! Because together we are better! Together we can save these animals! Join the fight!

Emily p
February 27, 2019 11:53 pm

yes I agree so many animals die out on the streets and are taken in by pet shelters but there are some dogs that are unfortunate enough to be taken in by dirty animal shop that if they’re not in good enough condition will just put the dog down when the animal hadn’t lived for long at all and no kill shelters are getting so overcrowded with dogs when everyone’s shopping at pet shops where every day a million dogs lose their lives don’t shop at pet shop even if you think you are saving a lives from being killed but really what your doing is supporting the shop giving them money to but more picture pi=erfect dogs and put down dogs every day.

thank you

Elaine Morrow
February 16, 2019 2:59 pm

I agree on the slogan..Adopt…dont shop. But why leave out precious kitty cats? I Like dogs too just especially fond of kitty cats. There are as many cats for adoption as dogs.

Kimberly Alt
February 18, 2019 10:13 am
Reply to  Elaine Morrow

Hi Elaine, we think adopting cats is just as important as adopting dogs. The only reason we focus on dogs for this article is because our entire website is focused on dogs and is why it’s called Canine Journal. If you are searching for a cat to join your family, we definitely recommend adopting! Thanks for asking!

Kate Welling
January 25, 2019 6:29 pm

My daughter is begging me to get a dog. I’ll be sure to adopt, and not shop. It makes sense because there are a lot of puppies without homes!

October 24, 2018 7:47 pm

I can definitely see where people are coming from when they say “adopt, don’t shop”; however, this is a difficult ideal to follow…or at least it is where I’m from in New Jersey. I have been trying to adopt a dog for months, but every shelter I go to gives me so many problems and refuses to let me adopt.
Now you may think that there must be something wrong that is causing these shelters to refuse to adopt to me. Not to blow smoke, but I believe I am the perfect candidate for a dog. I am a very active person (daily hiking, walking, running, etc.) and am looking for a companion to enjoy these daily activities with. I have a large fenced-in yard (over an acre, plus access to hundreds of acres of woods in northern jersey with miles beyond miles of biking trails. I have numerous options when it comes to taking care of the dog when I have to work late or go somewhere that doesn’t allow me to bring my dog. I covered all the basics in that aspect. I also have plenty of experience working with dogs, including having several family dogs, dog sitting for several people, and even working at an AKC-registered dog kennel. Most of these shelters have even said that they “couldn’t think of a better candidate to adopt.” Then, in one instance, the woman in charge of adoption refused to allow me to adopt any dog at the shelter in case I might have to move in the couple of years to a place that doesn’t allow dogs. She thought that if this happened that I would give the dog back to a shelter. The thing is, I’M NOT EVEN PLANNING ON MOVING IN THE NEAR FUTURE! So why is she thinking about this hypothetical scenario? Another shelter did the same thing. Then other shelters refused to let me adopt for other reasons or just refused to let me adopt and refused to provide an answer. What’s worse is that those dogs are still in those shelters. These people think they’re saving the lives of so many dogs, but in reality, they’re just taking them from one bad living situation and placing them in a cage for months at a time instead of allowing a good dog owner to take amazing care of him or her.
I’m not the only one. Many other people I have spoken to have had similar complaints. One woman I spoke with said that the shelter had to make THREE HOUSE VISITS to make sure hat the house was suitable for the dog, but then denied the adoption. The adoption processes are ridiculous. Trust me, I understand everyone being cautious in who is adopting the dogs, but they’re turning away so many people that would make these animals’ lives better. Instead, they’re just adding to the problem.
Do you know what they process is for buying a dog from a kennel? Oh have to sign a basic application form, have one reference, a check, and you can walk away with the dog that same day! No wonder people are buying dogs. Shelters and rescues make the adoption process so intricate and ridiculous that it’s not even worth the trouble and stress in many instances.
I’m all for adopting dog and I would still love to, but this is getting absolutely ridiculous. I just want a good dog to have in my life and it’s frustrating that I can’t even do that because of some narrow-minded volunteers that claim to be saving animals’ lives.
If you’re one of these people, please realize that not every single person in the world is going to be some horrible animal hoarder. Some of us just want a dog in our life.

June 28, 2019 8:28 am
Reply to  Andrew

I totally agree. I have noticed a new trend. It’s nearly impossible to adopt from some rescues. They act like they’re the only ones with the “perfect home” i see why people go buy a dog.

February 15, 2019 3:57 pm
Reply to  Andrew

I have volunteered at a shelter in Cleveland, Ohio for 6 years. I have adopted numerous cats and 2 dogs and have never encountered the problems you have described

December 30, 2018 9:16 am
Reply to  Andrew

I’m so sorry you’ve had these experiences. This is very surprising and not something I’ve every experienced adopting through the MSPCA. I’ve jusy adopted a dog at the MSPCA in Boston, MA and the process was fast and easy. The only reason we had to go twice was so that the dog could meet everyone in the family. Then a one page application, a conversation, address check and Elliot was ours. If there is one you can get to definitely go!

Ellie Sinna
November 28, 2018 4:41 pm
Reply to  Andrew

All rescues have the animal’s best interests as first priority. They’d like nothing better than to find a safe and loving home for the dogs/ cats in foster care-and they’re thrilled when they find that for their foster animals.
To that end, they require certain things from prospective adopters-ie., references (that are legit and check out well), a home visit, compatibility with animals already in the home, not having more animals in the home than is practical or safe, etc.
There is no reason that a rescue would deny an application where the applicant is suitable and WILLING to demonstrate that.
I’m sure that you have left out germane information about your experiences and/ or have twisted the “facts”.

February 11, 2019 4:17 pm
Reply to  Ellie Sinna

I don’t believe that! A few things are being lsftbougbof his experience.

Kimberly Alt
October 25, 2018 7:34 am
Reply to  Andrew

Wow, I am shocked to read about your experience. I don’t understand why they aren’t allowing you to adopt. They are keeping the dogs in shelters over finding their forever homes. Doesn’t make any sense. I’m sorry you have gone through this.

December 19, 2018 7:29 pm
Reply to  Kimberly Alt

One. Shelter I visited wanted me to visit 6 times before the dog being approved for release!

January 16, 2018 5:55 pm

I may get my dog a DNA test to check for breed specific problems, and to stop speculating. However, he’s in his forever home. Adopted 12/11, I am so eclxcited to have him in my home. I love the slogan. People are so fascinated with purebreds, I genuinely don’t think it’ll hurt breeders. It could make someone who has a purebred say “I’ll adopt a mixed breed this time”. It’s a great reminder to some that they’re animals out there not receiving a second thought. Max is a terrier,literally all I know, and the most loving dog I’ve ever encountered!!

Kimberly Alt
January 17, 2018 10:05 am
Reply to  Angel

Congrats on the new addition to your family! I did a dog dna test on my rescue dog, Sally. We tested Embark DNA vs Wisdom Panel for Sally and the results varied slightly but overall were pretty similar! It was really cool to learn more about her genetic makeup.

Kimberly Alt
December 8, 2017 12:35 pm

I understand that there are instances where someone wants a purebred dog and may not be able to adopt form a shelter. However, for my family specifically, this is not the case. We have adopted two dogs from a local Humane Society and it has been so rewarding to save two lives and give them forever homes. The bond we share with our dogs is amazing and I’m so happy that we found each other. Our family will always go to a shelter. The stigma that “all dogs in shelters are bad” is simply not true. Sure, there are some who may have aggression problems or other behavioral issues, but for the most part, these dogs were abandoned or lost and need someone to love.

December 11, 2017 3:56 pm
Reply to  Kimberly Alt

Awe so glad you found your fur babies from a shelter and had success, agree don’t shop adopt y’all!