Every year, approximately 6.5 million animals are brought to shelters around the country. That is over 6 million animals who are homeless, abandoned and oftentimes abused or neglected. Many others are not rescued, and 2.7 million are euthanized in kill shelters every year. And for what? So people can have a purebred dog with perfectly pointed ears and just the right colored fur? Sorry, but the cost benefit analysis is just not adding up on this one.

A little over a year ago my family adopted our beautiful, friendly and stubborn mutt Stella. Her story is sad, much like all the other dogs posted on adoption websites, but seeing her, you would never know. After being wronged by so many humans during her life, all she wants is to make up for lost time and receive as much love as possible. Like seriously, she won’t leave you alone until you pet her for at least 20 minutes, and if you don’t acknowledge her when she walks into a room she gets quite broody. But, I can relate to that so maybe that’s why we are perfect for each other.

I truly believe that the love you receive from an animal rescued from terrible conditions is unlike any other. Animals are smart and intuitive, it does not fly over their heads that you gave them a new home that meets their physical needs of food and shelter, as well as their companionship needs. They are grateful and they show you that every day through their constant need for attention, endless wet kisses and drooling on your pants right before you have to leave for work.

Not only is there moral reasoning behind adopting rather than buying dogs, there are also logical reasons to prove the benefit. Mainly, adopting a dog will always be less expensive. There typically is an adoption fee, but it will barely be a fraction of what you pay at a breeder or pet store. There is really no need to break the bank during the obtaining portion of owning an animal; save your money so that you can properly feed and vaccinate your animal down the line.

Puppies are absolutely adorable and super fun to play with, but they are also a ton of work. When adopting from a shelter, you get to choose what age range you are looking for in a dog, or any animal for that matter. Personally, I feel that adopting senior animals is incredibly rewarding and much easier. You won’t need to clean up as many messes or buy as many new pairs of socks due to mysterious holes popping up in all your old ones. Many dogs in shelters are already trained and accustomed to living in a house, making the transition of inviting a new being into your home a little smoother.

Another great thing about inviting an older animal into your home is you know exactly what their temperament and personality is like. There is a lovely little biography about each animal, telling you how energetic they are, if they get along with other animals and so on. You get to pick out what qualities are important to you and make sure the animal you choose will be a good fit. When buying a young puppy from a pet store or breeder, it’s pretty up in the air on how they will behave and fit into your lifestyle. Not knowing the temperament of the animal you are purchasing is a big reason why animals get surrendered—they didn’t behave the way the person who bought them wanted. You can take some of the risk out of the decision when you get your animal through a shelter.

When you adopt an animal from a shelter, not only do you give an animal a loving home, you clear up a space in that shelter for another animal to be rescued. This can entail giving the shelter the ability to bring in a new animal, and it can also free up space so that an animal does not have to be euthanized due to overcrowding. Shelters receive animals constantly and often do not have the space or resources to care for all of them, resulting in euthanasia at kill shelters or having to turn animals away at no-kill shelters. Any space created is an enormous benefit to the animals still in the shelter.

Buying dogs from breeders can give reward to those who are irresponsible enough to willingly contribute to the animal overpopulation issue. To breed animals when there are millions that are homeless is incredibly irresponsible and not an act that any true animal lover would contribute to. Breeders are incredibly unregulated in this country, making it easy for people to get away with abuse and neglect of animals. Even breeders who are perfectly kind to animals and provide for them are part of the problem. Simply put, every animal bred and sold is a death sentence for one in a shelter who will not get the opportunity to go to a loving home. It is also important to note that the breeding of purebred dogs and cats can be incredibly unhealthy. Purebred dogs have far more genetic issues than mixed breeds, and often this is a result of inbreeding that can occur in such facilities.

Luckily, there is a strong shift toward better practices regarding the selling of animals. California recently became the first state to make the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits illegal in pet stores, unless the animals are rescues. This is a great move in the right direction, though it is still hard to determine if the care of the animals will be to the standard it should be. A huge way to create change is to change your own practices and encourage the people around you to do the same.

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