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  • Writer's pictureKaylee Sanabria

Adopt don't shop: Clawing through the truth.

Updated: Jan 21

I will never adopt an animal from a shelter and any animal that I own will be a purebred and come from an ethical breeder. The reasoning might not be what you are thinking.

What if I told you that everything you've been told about adopting versus purchasing pets was fabricated in order to ruin a competitor? I'd sound insane, right? What if that were true? As a breeder who is tired of the false narrative around animal breeding, I am going to expose the true objective of the adopt don't shop movement and explain why ethical breeding is not something to demonize.

First, we must distinguish between different types of breeders, which those who support this movement do not do. To maximize earnings, a puppy mill, also known as a puppy farm, is a commercial breeding operation that practices indiscriminate breeding, confinement, poor husbandry, and little to no veterinary care. These facilities are, to put it mildly, disgusting and are considered unethical breeders. Pet store fronts obtain their animals from here. This breeder is unethical.

Backyard breeders are those who have unsterilized male and female pets and allow them to breed, people who mix breeds, or breeders that are primarily concerned with earnings. These people have little regard for the breed standard, health, or temperament of the animals they produce, and they do so at random with no intention of improving the breed. They do not vet the people who buy their productions, do not have contracts, and do not accept them back if the owner is unable to keep them. Most of the time, their productions are inexpensive, will have terrible health in the future, and may have a bad disposition, leading to abandonment at a shelter.

People that breed purebred animals to the breed standard with the goal of improving the breed by selectively breeding animals for health, temperament, and type are considered ethical breeders. Ethical breeders health screen their animals to ensure that they are breeding only the healthiest animals and will not breed an animal whose disposition does not match the breed standard. They assess potential purchasers, charge a higher price to ensure owners can afford the animals, and make profits to reinvest in the animals they breed to ensure they have the greatest lives possible. Ethical breeders will have contracts that guarantee the health of their productions and promise to take back or even buy back any of them at any time in their lives, ensuring that they never end up in a shelter. Take notice of the massive difference between the types of breeders.

The rise of adopt don't shop

I believe the rise of the adopt don't shop movement began when rescue organizations such as the ASPCA began documenting puppy mills for all to see. Adopt don't shop is reported to have been founded to encourage individuals looking for a pet to adopt from a shelter rather than buying one from a pet store to avoid buying puppy mill animals, but what happened instead was that people began to despise ALL breeders. Which, in my opinion, was never addressed since that was always the intention. Mostly because only supporting ethical breeders would have put an end to puppy mills, rather than adopting when the vast majority of animals in shelters come from unethical breeders such as puppy mills and backyard breeders. People went crazy with this movement and condemned anyone wanting, selling, or owning a purebred by not distinguishing between breeders. Anyone with a social media platform, as well as anyone posting about purebreds, is bombarded with messages and comments about the need to adopt. Adopt don't shop is stated to be only against pet retailers, however let's be honest, anyone working in a shelter is usually actively lobbying against all purebreds and breeders. This leads me to suspect that there are ulterior motives.

Too many people believe that non-profit shelters do not make money from animals because that is their main argument against breeders. However, the truth is that non-profit employees must be compensated. Non-profits are required to file a 990, which is made public, and it was there that I discovered how much the people behind my local humane society were making. What if I told you that there are two officers and one human resources manager who all make six figures a year, with one of them just shy of $200,000? This humane society then pays about 2.7 million in other salaries and receives nearly $700,000 in grants. Would this person be able to quickly find a job paying the same as before? So their livelihood is dependent on animals entering and remaining in shelters? I truly believe that shelters do not want animal homelessness to disappear because it would mean the end of their business. So they launched a campaign to eliminate the only people who aren't contributing to the shelter population: ethical breeders. The truth is adopt don't shop started a marketing ploy to scare people away from breeders and demonize them by saying things that make people feel bad for buying from a breeder when in fact both breeders and shelters are in the business of trading animals for cash and need funds to operate. The only true distinction between the two is that rescues benefit greatly from tax breaks and make a living by taking in abandoned and mistreated animals, whereas ethical breeders do not.

Ethical breeder myths

The Adopt Don't Shop movement, in collaboration with PETA, a well-known anti-pet ownership organization, began spreading false information about breeding by saying things like "making money from animals is unethical," "breeders force animals to breed," "why create more animals when there are ones in shelters," and "breeders contribute to the overpopulation issue."

Why are you breeding more animals when there are so many who are homeless? This is the most frequently used argument against animal breeding. The people who say this presumably also think that since there are so many kids without homes, no one should have their own children. Right? Nobody has to assume responsibility for the mistakes of others EVER. If the offspring your animals produce ever knowingly ends up in a shelter or you are unwilling to take one back then you are an unethical breeder therefore the shelter population is solely because of those people as well as owners abandoning their animals. But why are ethical breeders being blamed for something that they aren't contributing to? Many people believe that stopping animal breeding until all animals have been adopted is a way to end the "overpopulation" issue but ending the production of well bred animals would only increase the demand for shelter animals that come from unethical breeders and puppy mills which means that those places would have to increase their production to accommodate the demand, pushing out even more unethically bred animals. Educating people about the purpose of breeding and what to look for in a breeder to make sure people are only giving business to the best breeders would have run unethical breeders out of business and ended the "overpopulation" issue that shelters are dealing with but they didn't do that because they are actively making money off of unethical breeders.

If all ethical breeders vanished tomorrow, you would be left with animals who had behavioral and health issues and ended up living such miserable lives that nobody would want to own a pet in the first place. Not to mention the rise in backyard breeding, animal mistreatment, and the increased number of animals in shelters as a result. By breeding for the three basic criteria of health, temperament, and type, ethical breeders eliminate the most frequent causes of animal abandonment to shelters. You are being emotional and not rational if you complain about animals in shelters and despise the people who are the only ones keeping them out.

The myth that "breeders force animals to breed". Animals cannot be coerced into reproducing. This is human emotions being placed onto animals. Why isn't a human coupled with every wild animal so they can reproduce if they had to be coerced? Animals don't experience feelings; instead, they have instincts, and those instincts direct them to reproduce.

"Breeders are over breeding". I dont believe that this is even possible and this ties into breeders forcing animals to breed. Animals are bred back-to-back because every heat cycle that they go through without becoming pregnant increases their likelihood of getting pyometra, a uterine infection that can be fatal. This is significant for cats in particular because they go into heat three times as often as dogs. Animals wouldn't become pregnant again for however long if they were designed to have long intervals between litters. Making sure a animal is recovered and healthy before reproducing again should always be a priority.

Don't be fooled

Many people who oppose breeders have pets and want to keep them, but pets obviously come from breeders, so their logic is completely irrational. For some reason, there are people who rescue who put themselves on a pedestal and act as if they are superior because they rescued instead of buying from a breeder, but don't be fooled into thinking that just because you bought from a shelter, you aren't supporting breeding when in fact you are and from the worst of them. It is hard to support a cause that claims there is an animal shelter overpopulation crisis in the United States while bringing in large numbers of rescue animals from other countries.

I will always advocate for purebred dogs or cats from reputable breeders over rescues or any mixed breed breeder like doodles, especially to families looking for a specific pet, because the whole aim of breeding was to achieve consistency in structure, appearance, and temperament. Purebred dogs and cats have a breed standard that specifies how a breed should look and behave; if you breed responsibly and selectively, you will always obtain the same temperament in the offspring and the opposite is true for mixed breeds, their health, temperaments and type will never be consistent or predictable. This implies that a family may look up dog or cat breeds to choose one that fits their lifestyle and the purpose of the pet. When purchasing from a shelter, you are most likely to receive a pet that has had its breed assumed, most of the time being mixed and unethically bred, which means you will not receive a pet with a stable temperament equivalent to its breeds. Not only that, but the chance that the animal was left at the shelter in the first place is due to health or temperament issues that may not be apparent until you bring the pet home. Understanding the distinction between the two is critical, and adopt don't shop will never tell this. The goal is to be informed on both ends rather than forced into buying one or the other.

something fortunate for the Maine coon

Maine coons are never seen in shelters due to their high demand and expensive price. I have noticed that the more something costs the less likely it is to end up in a shelter. A free or couple hundred dollar animal is easy to dump while Maine coons that are $3,000+ are more likely to be re sold to get back some of the money spent. Shelters will label domestic long hairs as Maine coons in order to get rid of cats more quickly and Maine coon mixes don't exist. In order to prevent their kittens from reproducing and ending up in the wrong hands or in a shelter almost all Maine coon breeders, if not all, demand the return of their cats if the owner is unable to care for them and sterilize prior to going to a new home.

I am a breeder and have no guilt about what I do. Because there is no one alive today who can decide to put an end to a breed, and because without breeders the pets we know would go extinct, I will always do this for the benefit of the breed and to keep them around for generations after me. If your heart is in rescuing abandoned animals, more power to you.

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