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


Last Updated: January 19, 2023 | 4 min read | 40 Comments

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Dog in cage at shelter (Caption: Adopt Don't Shop)

Have 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.

Why You Should Adopt A Pet Rather Than Buy

Puppy smiling

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.

Girl hugging dog on the ground

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 year1.

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 mills2. 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 the 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?

Adopt Don't Shop Shirt

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.1

  • 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

According to a Wisdom Panel study, a dog DNA company, the number of shelter adoptions as a percentage of total new dog adoptions increased from 46% in 2010 to 63% in 20203.

When Buying A Puppy Makes Sense

Puppies peeking through fence(Caption: How To Find A Reputable Breeder)

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.

Sources: [1] ASPCA, [2] Paws, [3] Wisdom Panel

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