Adopting vs. Shopping


You've probably hear about a movement with the slogan, "Adopt, Don't Shop" making its way through our internet searches, social media pages, and even local news outlets. This movement is to generate awareness for shelter pets, and to encourage more people to consider adopting a pet from a shelter vs. purchasing a pet from a breeder or pet store. But what are the pros and cons of each? Doesn't every pet that is looking for a home deserve an equal amount of publicity? In this blog, we want to talk about the different options you are faced with when selecting a pet, what to expect in each scenario, and how to decide which route is best for your family. Adding your next family member is a big decision! 

calico kitten


Adopting a shelter pet can be a rewarding and amazing experience for both you and your rescue. Depending on your location, you may find more than just dogs and cats at your local shelter. Some shelters are equipped to take in pocket pets (hamsters, rats, etc.), rabbits, guinea pigs, and even domestic livestock such as horses, donkeys, potbellied pigs, goats and more!  Animals are brought to shelters as either owner surrenders or as strays picked up by local law enforcement or Good Samaritans. If the pet is being surrendered by their owner, the reason behind giving them up and potentially their medical/behavioral history will usually be disclosed by the shelter. For strays, history remains a mystery! The majority of shelters in the US are not considered no-kill shelters, which means that non-adoptable animals or animals that have been available for adoption and have not found homes after a certain amount of time are subject to humane euthanization. Shelters are in constant capacity fluctuation, and often offer lower adoption fees (or waived adoption fees) during periods of being full to avoid having to euthanize animals. Adoption fees vary by shelter, age, and species, but typically adoption fees range from $0-$200. Shelters usually require animals to be spayed or neutered prior to adoption (unless they are too young, in which the adopter signs a contract promising to have the pet sterilized by a certain date), and animals have often been seen by an on-site veterinarian for vaccinations, microchipping, and other services. Though most shelters are sterilized regularly, it is not uncommon for pets to have upper respiratory illness or other viruses from being in close quarters with other animals. Vet checks within the first week of ownership are recommended and sometimes required as part of the adoption agreement. 

frenchie puppy

Purchasing From a Reputable Breeder 

Seeking out a breeder can be a great way to add to your family. Most states require breeders to be registered through state offices as well as their respective breed/species association, and require litter records to be maintained. Additionally, most states or cities have limits as to how many litters breeders can produce in a set amount of time to avoid overpopulation. If you've done research and have decided that a particular breed or species inbodies the desired traits for your family, housing situation, or fits a specific "job,"breeders are a great resource. Breeders are passionate about the animals they produce and can help families decide if their breed/species is a good fit for them. Most breeding establishments have prospective owners fill out applications to ensure their animal is going to the best fit possible. Animals from reputable breeders come with a detailed medical history, registration paperwork and/or pedigree, transition food, and typically a health guarantee for certain genetic disorders for the first year (though sometimes longer). Parents of available animals are usually on site to see the personality and size traits of litters. Animals used in a breeding program are typically only bred a handful of times, and are "retired" after a set number of litters to keep them healthy. Because of the exclusivity of the breed/species, incurred costs of premium food, housing and veterinary care, most animals from breeders will be priced accordingly. It is common for registered pets to cost in the hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars to purchase. Additionally, some breeders may require spay or neuter contracts with purchasers to ensure breed integrity. 

puppy with bowl

Purchasing From a "Backyard Breeder," Pet Store, or "Puppy Mill"

"Backyard Breeder" is a term used to describe individuals who have bred their pets either intentionally or unintentionally without proper permits, and without regard to breed standards.* These litters are often advertised as "purebred," but do not come with pedigree guarantees. These "breeders" are what create the stigma surrounding reputable breeders. A "Puppy Mill" is an operation of backyard breeders on a larger scale. Puppy mills often have numerous animals for breeding stock, which results in multiple litters every year. Housing conditions at puppy mills are often poor due to overcrowding. Because puppy mills are able to produce so many litters at a time, they often sell to pet stores rather than individuals (though selling to individuals is common as well). Puppy mill pets come usually come with no paperwork, history, or guarantees, and buyers are usually not allowed to visit the premises. These pets are often plagued by medical issues ranging from intestinal parasites and skin infections to major illnesses from poor living conditions. Because of unethical practices, puppy mills are illegal in most states, and many pet stores are trying to transition to offering shelter pets rather than mill pets to help control the issue. Costs of purchasing from these types of individuals can vary greatly, but are typically close to, or just below, reputable breeder costs. 


girl with cat

So, Why Adopt Instead of Shop? 

Euthanasia is a very real possibility for a lot of animals in a shelter. Shelter pets are in environments that can make them nervous, shy, or subdued. There are lots of unfamiliar smells, sounds and sights! For this reason, a lot of great family pets are overlooked and run the risk of not finding their forever homes. Adopting a pet from the shelter can literally save their lives! Shelters offer great options for species, age, breed, and temperment types for your next family member. Many animals have had some training in their previous homes or have had experience with children, other pets, etc, and can be great additions for families. Adoption fees are significantly less than purchase prices, and pets often come fully vetted. 


Pros of Adoption: 

You could save the life of a pet 

- Cost of adoption is significantly less than buying a pet, and often includes vaccines, spay/neuter or other services 

- Wide variety of pets to choose from 

- Shelters house animals of all ages


Cons of Adoption: 

- Unknown background 

- No health, breed or behavior guarantee

- Due to being in close quarters, pets may have contracted an illness 


Pros of Purchasing From a Reputable Breeder: 

- Known history, and parents are often on site to see litter traits 

- Health guarantee 

- Get the breed you have picked out 


Cons of Purchasing From a Reputable Breeder: 

Expensive to obtain your pet 

- Sometimes litters are reserved ahead of time, so you may have to wait longer to get your pet 

- Your breeder may not be local, which will incur shipping/travel expenses 

- Usually limited to young animals 


There are really no benefits of purchasing from a puppy mill or backyard breeder, other than you are providing a home for a pet that is in need. These breeding practices still charge a premium for their pets, and use your funds to further their operation. As mentioned before, many states and cities are working tirelessly to shut such operations down.


dog and cat

We are here to help you decide whether adopting or purchasing your next pet will be right for you and your family, and to support you and your new family member after they come home with you! Give us a call to discuss options for obtaining a pet, and how to care for them after they become part of your family. Whichever route you decide on, we are excited to embark on your journey with you! 


*Some litters are truly accidental (for example, a stray dog jumps a fence and breeds someone's female dog), which is why spaying and neutering your pets is so important! Individuals rehoming an accidental litter are not being singled out in this blog post.