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The Benefits of Adopting Pets From Shelters Instead of Buying from Pet Stores

Updated on November 20, 2013
Stray cats can be found almost anywhere.
Stray cats can be found almost anywhere.

Cats and dogs are the most popular pets in America, and Americans love their pets. Pet stores are a multi-billion dollar industry, with Petco and Petsmart dominating the market share. Many pet owners will happily spoil their pets with fancy foods, expensive toys and professional grooming. The American Pet Product Association finds that the average American will spend $250 on food alone for their pet. The pet industry makes money makes money on both the necessities and indulgences, and not least of all, the animals themselves. Buying a cat or dog in a pet store can cost anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to somewhere in the thousands, especially if the pet in question is a desirable breed.

But despite how adorable it is to see rows of young animals in the local pet shop, buying pets at pet shops can be morally dubious in addition to being expensive. Why not take a look at the local animal shelter and rescue a pet instead?

Pet shops often get their animals from "pet mills" - mass non-reputable breeders who keep animals in substandard conditions. Reports from the Humane Society have found hundreds of puppy mills around the country, but estimates are in the thousands. Conditions in these mills are often horrible as mills try to maximize profits at the expense of the animals' health. They are treated as merchandise rather than living animals, with often too-small cages stacked on top of each other, unclean and overcrowded living conditions, and lack of fresh food. Young puppies (and kittens) are often shipped to pet stores at six weeks, which is much younger than experts recommend. Despite what store staff may tell you (or even believe themselves), many if not most pet store animals come from mills rather than reputable breeders.

Pet stores also often keep animals in small and crowded conditions. Though it might make you feel as though you want to "save" the animal, in reality, you are supporting a business that treats animals with such low regard, and enabling them to continue and quickly replace the animal that you bought.

Shelters will give away cats and dogs for a simple re-homing fee. This fee generally is meant to cover the costs of neutering and vaccinations, as well as fees to allow the shelter to continue to rescue animals.

Shelters are overflowing with unwanted pets. From owners that genuinely can't take care of their pets anymore, to owners to abandon their animals when they become a "burden" (for example, the cat won't use the litter box, or the dog keeps howling at night), or owners who think breeding their pet is a great idea (it's not - it leads to more unwanted pets), there are millions of homeless pets. Shelters also will try to rescue animals from the city pound, where generally animals are only given a couple of days before they are euthanized. It is estimated that half of dogs in are euthanized, and 7 out of 10 cats, so around 2.7 million unwanted cats and dogs are euthanized every year. Adopting can save a life!

Adopting from a shelter also supports a local organization over a big company. You will work with people who truly care about the welfare of their animals rather than an industry that looks at profit, and try to find an animal that suits you.

Stray animals, especially cats, can be found almost anywhere. Taking a pet in and getting in neutered and vaccinated yourself not only saves one pet from the streets, but also prevents the animal from reproducing and leading to more stray animals.


These are easy reasons to adopt rather than buy a pet. So why don't people do it more often? Some claim that shelter animals have "baggage" due to losing an owner, or are in the shelter in the first place because they simply are bad pets. As someone who has volunteered at shelters, I can confidently argue that that simply is not true. All pets have their own personalities, and the stress of re-homing can usually be remedied simply with warmth, patience and love. Some people worry that they don't know what kind of pet they will be getting, but most shelters either have or require a "trial period" - usually of about two weeks - to see if you and your new pet are a good match.

Adopting pets is a service to animal welfare, that allows you to enjoy animal companionship without supporting mills or pet shops. Lives of unwanted pets are saved. And more than that, there are a number of resources that can help you find the perfect pet for you. Look for your local or nearest shelter, or check out If you are an animal lover but can't have a pet right now, most shelters are always looking for volunteers to help give the animals attention and donate supplies.

Rescued cat
Rescued cat

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