There are so many wonderful reasons to bring a new dog into your home, but the decision should never be taken lightly. It's important to research the characteristics that best fit your family before making a choice. Unfortunately, many people in the market for a new best friend do not even consider adopting one from a shelter - and the reasons they cite may surprise you.
According to a 2014 study conducted by PetSmart, 66% of potential dog owners adopted their pet from shelters, which is an increase of 8% since 2011. That's great news for adoption advocates. Still, purchasing a dog remains common (at 25%) and only 46% of people surveyed said that the issue of pet homelessness was important to them, so there's still room for improvement.
Here are six of the main reasons according to the study (followed by six reasons they should consider adopting from a shelter or rescue instead).
1. "We're looking for a particular breed."
Many families and others seeking a dog are often looking for a particular breed, be it a purebred or some kind of “designer” hybrid breed. Some potential owners automatically dismiss shelter adoptions out of hand, with 36% of people who chose not to adopt stating that they believe their shelter would not have the animal they were looking for, and 34% claiming they wanted a “purebred."
Counterpoint: Rescue groups that work with all kinds of specific breeds are in operation across the country, and there are a number of online adoption resources (Petfinder, for example) that allow a potential dog owner to filter available dogs for adoption by many different breeds or types.
2."It's too expensive to adopt."
When looking for a new pup, families will naturally shop around to look for the best deals. They’ll compare prices for dogs at pet store and breeders, but will often overlook the local shelter.
Counterpoint: Adopting a pet is usually far cheaper than buying from breeders and pet stores, and when you adopt from a rescue, those dogs are often already spayed or neutered. This cuts down on the costs of altering the dogs after they're acquired and prevents further unwanted pets. About half of the families who buy their dogs do not have their pets spayed or neutered, which can lead to further offspring that can end up being euthanized in shelters. It is estimated that of the 8 million pets who enter shelters every year, 4 million end up euthanized.
3. "Shelter dogs aren't as well-behaved."
Some of the additional questions potential dog owners had when looking for a pet for their families revolved around the dogs’ behavior. Some owners want the experience of house-breaking and training their dog… and others don’t. Some big reasons families will pass up the chance to adopt a pup and go to a breeder or pet store have to do with concerns that dogs from a shelter will have behavioral problems since“you never know what you’ll get” with a shelter dog.
Counterpoint: Every dog that is put up for adoption at a shelter is examined and treated by trained medical and behavioral experts beforehand. They are frequently already house-trained and the shelter professionals will have insight into the dogs’ health history, personality and - in some cases - their history. This means that a family looking to adopt a dog will know more about their potential new family member from a shelter than the information they can get from pet stores or even some breeders.
4. "Buying dogs is just traditionally how we've always done it."
For many people seeking a new dog, there are social and economical factors which affect their choice of where to turn. The broader, philosophical issues may not occur to them. The tradition of finding a dog at a pet store or breeder is still ingrained in some people.
Counterpoint: There are still over 4 million adoptable pets euthanized each year when they cannot find homes. Adopting a dog rather than buying one adds a four-legged family member who has probably already been house trained and spayed or neutered. Beyond this, adopting a dog will also save a life.
5. "Shelters aren't clean and shelter dogs aren't healthy."
Despite the extensive documentation of the connection between cruel, inhumane puppy mills and pet stores/breeders, many people will connect those providers of dogs with clean and more hygienic environments. Shelters are still sometimes thought to be dirtier, less healthy environments.
Counterpoint: As a matter of fact, over half of new dog owners gave shelters high marks for their cleanliness and having happy and healthy dogs available for adoption. On the other hand, it's not uncommon for purchased dogs to be poorly taken care of and suffer from various health problems due to inbreeding.
6. "It's too difficult to adopt."
For some, just the thought of adopting a dog from a shelter can steer them toward a pet store or someone’s backyard. Adopting a dog conjures images of a labyrinth of paperwork and a process that is far too convoluted to be bothered with - so much so that many simply don’t.
Counterpoint: While the adoption process tends to vary from person to person and group to group, the ultimate aim of shelters is to place as many dogs as possible in happy, loving homes. Shelters can differ in the time needed to complete the process - in an open adoption, a shelter representative will often interview the potential pet parent and allow them to take their pup home that same day. In a closed adoption, the shelter may require a background check or home inspection.
These procedures are in place to insure that a potential adoption family finds the right dog, and every step involves open communication. Pet adoption groups - like Scotia, NY’s Animal Protective Foundation - exist to make sure that each animal finds the home he or she deserves, and that each family finds the furry family member that will thrive among them.
According to the ASPCA, of the 3.9 million dogs that enter shelters each year, roughly 1.2 million will be euthanized. The number of new dog owners who opt to adopt rather than buy from a breeder or pet store is rising each year, but millions of dogs are still put down. For more information on shelter adoptions, you can search websites like North Shore Animal League’s to find a wonderful, adoptable pup near you.
Featured image via @uppa_animais