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  • Jennifer Fano

Should I Adopt or Buy a Puppy from a Breeder?


Bringing a new puppy or adult dog into your life is a big decision and one that should not be taken lightly. This fur baby will be a part of your family for many years to come. A popular question always seems to emerge and is a very personal topic- should I adopt from a shelter or buy from a reputable breeder? Let's take a look at both sides of the coin.

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of shelter dogs. I mean, after all, the shelters have plenty available at any given time. Statistically speaking, there are upwards of 3 million dogs available for adoption every year. On the upside, the upfront adoption costs are very low. Their vaccinations, spay/ neuter and any necessary grooming will likely be done before the animal goes home with you. The adoption fees many times are under $100. What a bargain, right? Is it really?

Even though I grew up with parents who were Golden Retriever breeders, I was a huge advocate of adopting vs. buying for many years. We have had some really sweet shelter dogs and cats in our lives over the years. We have also had a lot of issues- both behaviorally and medically. Almost ALL of the animals we have adopted have had issues of some sort. I'm the type of person who believes in a lifelong commitment once I decide to bring a pet home. What that can translate to is a lot of money in vet bills and and emotional rollercoaster over the years. I've done a lot of research over the past few years and have a better understanding now as to what actually happens.

Did you know that a high percentage of dogs are returned to the shelters after being adopted? The reason is that behavioral issues, illnesses and high maintenance costs only become apparent after adoption. Many of the dogs that are in shelters are the result of improper breeding from backyard puppy mills, which is where most puppies found in pet stores are from. There are no genetic health screenings done on the parents and it is common for there to be issues from inbreeding as well. Aside from that, many of the dogs in shelters have been mistreated, neglected and had improper socialization. It's not true of all of the dogs but it is more common than you think.

Those cute little faces staring at you through the window of the pet store or adoption center definitely pull on your heart strings. After all, who doesn't have a soft spot for those precious babies? That is exactly what the marketing geniuses are trying to do. They want to catch you off guard and have you make an impulsive decision. Did you know that shelters are absolutely overrun with surrendered pets after Christmas?

I have had friends who paid $100 to adopt a cute shelter dog that they absolutely loved and adored. 6 months later discovered the dog had major health issues and had to spend thousands and thousands of dollars for their care...not to mention the heartbreak!!?

A personal experience I had was when I volunteered to help with adoption day with one of the big name pet stores in our area. We dressed the dogs in cute, colorful bandanas and bows and stood out front of the store all afternoon. It was like attracting bees to honey; the people came in droves and I saw firsthand many of the dogs get adopted. I had my eye on Mandy, a beautiful black and white pit bull/ boxer mix. I decided that if she hadn't been adopted by the end of the day, that I would consider taking her home. I called my husband and discussed it with him and he said he was ok with her coming into our family.

Well, the problems started before we even got into the car. She had such anxiety over getting in the car that it took three of us to get her in!? She proceeded to drool excessively and vomit non stop the whole 30 minute trip home. Poor baby! I was determined to help her overcome her emotional trauma. I spent hours and hours over the next few months reading, watching videos from other dog trainers, working with her and she never did get over it. It barely improved at all. so, we just limited the car trips to those absolutely necessary. She was seemingly perfect in every other way and integrated well into our pack- Barkley and Fred seemed to accept her and they became friends. The kids loved her and she was the sweetest dog ever. She was good with our kitties, dogs and kids...or so it seemed.

Whenever I was going to be out for more than a few hours, I would put the dogs in an outdoor kennel. They always enjoyed it and had plenty of space and freedom to do doggy things. One afternoon after returning home, my daughter went out to get the dogs and called out to me crying hysterically. One of our cats was lying dead inside of the kennel. Seemed odd- after all, how did she get inside of the kennel and she didn't have any marks on her. Maybe she fell from a tree? All of the dogs were gentle and loving to the cats, so we never suspected any of them were at fault. I don't remember the timeframe exactly but a month or two after, we had gone to a school event for my daughters in the evening. Upon returning home, I went out to bring the dogs in and, to my horror, found my Shepard mix, Barkley, laying dead. He had had his throat completely ripped out. It was absolutely horrific and it is something that will stay with me forever.

I was mad at myself for not having seen the signs, but she didn't show any obvious signs and certainly didn't seem aggressive. She was a silent ticking time bomb. We were left with a horrible decision. Was it safe to have Mandy around our young children? As most parents would agree, I would do anything to protect my children. Nothing comes between and momma bear and her cubs!! It was a devastating decision but we had to put her down. This was a totally different situation to be in; different than just paying for medical care. This was a problem that vets and money couldn't fix. It was in that moment that I seriously began to question animal adoptions for our family. It is not something to take lightly. It actually happened to me and wasn't just a story I heard.

Although buying a puppy from a breeder costs more upfront, I believe it's worth it for the peace of mind. Isn't it worth it to know that your new family member has come from healthy parents and been loved, cared for, nurtured and socialized properly? It's definitely a decision that must be carefully weighed. Because it is a long term decision, make sure you think it through and make a decision with your whole family on board.


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