When picking your next dog, “adopt, don’t shop!

The “adopt, don’t shop” movement wants you to get your next pet from a rescue or shelter rather than purchasing it from a breeder, a pet store, or the Internet. Like many other catchy 3-word slogans, this one has achieved great marketing success for the rescue-pet trade. Google it and you get a whopping 800,000 pages.

So, what is behind the slogan? The Hinsdale Humane Society says it is important to “adopt, don’t shop” in order to “ensure you are not supporting and inadvertently endorsing commercial breeding facilities, (which they disparaging refer to as puppy mills), that supply pet stores and sell pets online.” Some in the adopt, don’t shop movement acknowledge the existence of ethical breeders, but many do not. They damn all breeders with faint praise or characterize them as moral reprobates, blaming even the most dedicated dog breeders for the creation of pet overpopulation, shelter euthanasia, unhealthy pets, and poor temperaments. Their bottom line is a clever marketing binary choice, a public war cry, and a shaming tool: in their world the only ethical choice for prospective pet owners is adoption.

The Facts:

Admittedly, the phrase is catchy, but the fact of the matter is that many breeders are fantastic and many shelters are deplorable, while most fall somewhere between the extremes. Claiming one source is awful and another saint-like is unfair and simply incorrect.

Speaking of incorrect, several of the claims made by the “adopt, don’t shop” crowd are debatable, but here are three that are flat-out wrong and should be corrected as we Consider The Source:

  • Numerous sources claim that 25% of the dogs available in rescue or shelters are purebreds, but recent research puts the number closer to 5%.
  • The idea that dogs purchased from breeders suffer from temperament and health issues while dogs adopted from rescues and shelters do not is downright laughable
  • Adoption is often cited as a great way to help the “overpopulation crisis,” but at least for dogs, overpopulation has been solved in many parts of the United States. Many shelters are now actually importing dogs from hundreds of miles away – even out of the country – in order to keep their doors open, with predictably bad consequences.

This is not to discourage anybody from getting a dog from a rescue or shelter – there are numerous great options to choose from. We do, however, want potential dog owners to choose the right dog for their lifestyles – and to make a choice that is grounded in fact.


  • If dog overpopulation has been solved in many regions of the United States, why is “pet overpopulation” still used so often in dog adoption campaigns and events?
  • If dog overpopulation is still a big problem, why do rescues and shelters import hundreds of thousands of foreign dogs each year for adoption?

Further Reading


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