Best Friends Animal Society a leading animal welfare organization working to end the killing of dogs and cats in shelters by 2025. Best Friends runs the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary and works collaboratively with a network of more than 4,200 partners nationwide.
Dogs are a hot commodity. Think of all the fancy French bulldogs, perfectly-groomed corgis, or curly labradoodles in your neighborhood.
According to Forbes, 65.1 million American households are home to at least one dog, but only 38% of dog owners adopted their pups from an animal shelter.
While it’s always great to find the perfect fit when it comes to pet parenting, too many people are counting out their local shelters. In fact, adoption rates are down across the country, while intakes across rescue organizations are skyrocketing.
According to an annual report from Best Friends Animal Society, dogs acquired from breeders and pet stores have been steadily increasing over the past few years, while dog adoptions stalled.
Last year, over 4.4 million cats and dogs entered shelters, up about 100,000 more than the year prior. Of these animals, approximately 378,000 were killed because there was simply nowhere for them to go.
As millennials and Gen Z make up just shy of 50% of the pet owner population in America, it’s imperative that these new animal caretakers consider every option when it comes to introducing a furry friend into the family.
Adopting a dog (or any pet, for that matter) is obviously life-saving, but there are also so many other reasons why it’s an opportunity to do good and make the world a better place for our beloved animals.
Here are the best reasons to consider adopting — not shopping for — your next dog.
Top reasons to adopt a shelter dog
You’ll save lives.
Making the choice to adopt a dog has a ripple effect. By rescuing a dog, you’re making space for another to get the care they need in that very shelter and find their own fur-ever home.
Adopting a dog makes your new pup’s life infinitely greater, but it’s even more of a win to see how just one person’s decision to adopt a dog can change the lives of so many more.
You’ll be doing your part to stop cruel breeding practices.
While there are certainly plenty of reputable dog breeders in the world, the massive commercial scale of “puppy mills” or pet-breeding facilities is cruel and inhumane, and adopting a pet keeps your money from going toward one of these facilities and back into your own community.
Dogs in puppy mills are often kept in unhealthy and unsanitary environments and forced to breed quickly and without companionship. Some of these dogs are even bred for animal testing. This is animal abuse and can even lead to lifelong health conditions for these canines. Across the country, the Humane Society of the United States calculates that there are at least 10,000 puppy mills in operation.
“Behind closed doors, these dogs are suffering at the hands of breeders trying to make a quick buck,” John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Stop Puppy Mills campaign, said in a statement. “Consumers will continue getting scammed while the animals pay the ultimate price.”
The conditions for these facilities are so reprehensible that a number of states, such as California and New York, have banned commercial pet sales.
Adopting a dog from a local shelter sends a message that these breeding facilities will not be tolerated — and decreases the demand for commercialized dog adoption.
Just like you might choose an ethical shopping option for your household goods or the clothes in your closet, adopting a dog is the ethical thing to do in a world so often driven by profit — and not by real love and care for animals.
You’ll save money.
Those commercial breeders do what they do so they can make a whole lot of money from folks who want a specific dog breed.
Of course, it’s totally OK to want a specific breed of dog for your lifestyle or to turn to an expert who knows how to care for a specific breed, but consider checking out your local rescues for those breeds first!
You’d be surprised how many Frenchies, pugs, Shiba Inus, and goldendoodles are waiting to go to loving homes — and for a much cheaper rate (as low as $50!) than the thousands you might spend shopping for a dog from a backyard breeder.
Some shelters even run sales or “pick your price” adoption rates to keep their facilities from overcrowding.
You won’t have to pay for vaccines, spay/neuter, or microchipping.
Part of the cost-saving of adopting a shelter dog comes in the form of reduced medical costs.
If you were to purchase a puppy today, you’d have loads of additional costs to consider, like puppy vaccines and vet check-ups, spaying or neutering, microchipping, and state registration fees.
If you’re adopting a dog from your local humane society or shelter, many of those procedures have already been done or will be free of charge. That’s a few hundred bucks saved right there!
The only thing better than a snuggly pup? One that was on sale.
The money you do spend will support a vital community resource.
Of course, you’ll still likely have to pay some adoption fees for your new best friend. When you adopt from a shelter, however, you can feel good knowing that those funds are going directly back to animals in need.
Whether it’s the salaries of shelter employees, upkeep and maintenance of facilities, food and medical care for animals, or the development of services for community members and their pets, the money you spend with your local shelter or rescue is always money well-spent.
It’s easier than starting with a puppy.
You can definitely adopt a puppy from a shelter or rescue, but adult and senior dogs are often most in-need of loving homes. And while puppies sure are cute and cuddly, they are also known to be little gremlins.
By adopting an adult or senior dog, you get to skip the puppy stage entirely. You will, of course, still need to adjust, and lots of grown-up pups can be reactive or nervous, but hopefully you’ll be able to bring home your new friend without puppy-proofing.
This is especially helpful for folks who are first-time dog owners. By starting with a more relaxed dog, you’ll be able to learn the ropes and jump right into the good part — sans pee pads and teething.
You can probably skip the potty-training.
With the above in mind, another advantage to adopting a dog is that you’ll probably spend a little less time on potty training (and little more time snuggling and frolicking!).
If you adopt an adult dog, you can feel pretty confident that they already know the bathroom rules and can quickly adjust to living (and pooping) in a new place.
If you adopt a puppy, chances are, they’ve already gotten some training under their belt by living in the shelter and socializing with volunteers and staff. Even if your pup isn’t fully potty-trained, they should be well on their way after learning from the pros.
You’ll be helping out an overworked shelter team.
Animal shelter employees and volunteers are overworked, and with minimal funding and ongoing demand, they work tirelessly — often without a break in sight.
Adopting a dog — and keeping that dog — is one more contribution you can make to help prevent burnout in shelter teams and create a community where all animals are cared for.
“If you can find ways to get animals out and to keep them out of the shelter, then that helps everybody,” Jennifer Jenkins, a manager at Louisiana-based Jefferson Protection and Animal Welfare Services, said in a blog post for Human Animal Support Services.
“That helps your staff. It helps so they don’t feel like there’s pressure and frustration and everything. And it helps the animals, too.”
Shelters provide ongoing resources and support.
When you adopt from a shelter or rescue organization, it’s not a one-and-done relationship, but rather an ongoing commitment to the well-being of your pet.
Many rescues and shelter programs provide free or discounted obedience classes, veterinary support, advice, and hands-on support as you transition to a new life with your furry friend.
Your pup will be full of personality.
One day you see a lonely pit bull in a kennel; the next, they’re begging to be swaddled in a blankie in their luxurious eco-friendly dog bed.
Rescue dogs are the poster children for a good redemption arc. While some rescues might be reactive and anxious — and you will have to learn how to work with them to find shared comfort and success — these dogs are so eager to be loved and cared for — and spoiled.
All dogs are full of individual personality and quirks, but rescues have a reputation for being extra goofy. Embrace the sing-song howls, fantastical fetch demands, and picky eating!
You’ll get to choose from a large selection of available dogs.
While you might be searching for a dog of a specific breed, age, or other qualifier, you’d be surprised which shelter dogs speak to your soul.
When you begin your search for adoptable dogs — whether online, in the shelter, at an adoption event, or elsewhere — you’ll find that the selection of mutts, purebreds, puppies, seniors, and canines of all kinds is vast and diverse.
As opposed to a pet store or breeder who only provides one option, shelters are full of different dogs who are ready to be loved.
Shelter dogs are known for their loyalty.
Not only are you committing to a lifetime of loving your new dog, but rescues are an endless well for unconditional love, too. While dogs who have been abused or traumatized might take a moment to warm up, once they do, the trust and loyalty you cultivate is second to none.
When you provide a shelter dog with safety and trust, they are very quick to show love, affection, and loyalty. This pack mentality comes from thousands of years of human-dog bonds. Once your dog knows they can rely on you to survive, you’ll be set for life.
Adopting changes the life of an animal — and yours, too.
Besides the “who rescued who?” bumper stickers and endless supply of festive bandanas, your new pup will provide you with something more: an unwavering support system.
When you adopt a dog, you also adopt a built-in exercise buddy, stress reduction program, daily companion — and if you work from home — the best kind of co-worker.
Adopting a dog requires lifestyle changes and commitments that prioritize another living being over yourself, and if you’re up to the task, it’s one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet.
You encourage others to adopt, too.
Adopting a dog — and you, know, bringing them everywhere with you — shows your friends and loved ones how easy and rewarding it can be to choose adopting a shelter pet over buying from a breeding facility.
You’ll be the resident dog parent in the friend group, and you can help your circle of friends find the right rescue organization or adoptable dog to grow your pack — and make the world a better place in the process.