Every year, over two million dogs and cats are euthanized in the U.S. simply for lack of a good home. Every adoption of an animal from a shelter reduces that figure by one. Every purchase of an animal from a pet store, breeder, or puppy mill sends a signal to the owners of those businesses that they can make money by breeding more animals. America doesn’t need more animals, but America’s animals do need more good homes.
Encouragingly, whatever cultural bias there may have been in favor of bred-and-purchased animals over shelter animals is eroding, as people have come to realize that most dogs and cats arrive at shelters through no fault of their own (as opposed to cartoonish notions that shelters are full of strays, feral animals, or those too wild to share a home). Human living conditions change—people move, relationships start and end, illness and age make it too difficult for humans to care for their companions—and often animals end up relinquished to the care of the local shelter as a result, when nobody else can take them on.
In fact, because so many of the animals in shelters have had homes already, they may be more likely to appreciate the stability, warmth, and love that an adoption will bring—94% of the animals adopted from ASPCA partner shelters remain with their adopters.
Additionally, with millions of dogs in shelters all over the country searchable and viewable online, even an adopter with a strong penchant for a certain type of dog—size, color, breed, age—can probably find that dog waiting out there if they’re just willing to look. I’m personally still a sucker for walking through the local shelter to fall in love, but I first saw my current canine companion on PetFinder. Other online options include The Shelter Pet Project, Adopt-a-Pet, Petango, or the website of just about any local shelter in your vicinity.
The purchase price of an animal bought from a breeder perpetuates further breeding. The adoption fee for an adopted animal supports the maintenance and improvement of the shelter, which in turn provides a temporary haven and a second chance for animals who would otherwise have none. Freeing up one more kennel provides the next shelter dog or cat a momentary reprieve, but supporting shelters as institutions slowly shifts our culture’s treatment of animals toward a sustained, shared compassion.