Adopt Don’t Shop

Adopt Don’t Shop

The past decade has certainly brought the new adage “Adopt! Don’t Shop!” to the fore. More than ever, people are concerned about the abundance of poor dogs having to spend the rest of their days in the countless shelters out there. And this brings a new debate to the fore:

Is it still considered ethical to buy furry friends from breeders when we are fully aware of the boundless dogs entrapped in shelters and in dire need of loving families too?

Yip, it’s a tricky one. Whether you buy from a shelter or a breeder is obviously a personal choice. But before you go ahead in making this long-term commitment, it’s best to do your research so you know you’re acting in the best interests of your family and your little furry friend-to-be.

Reputable breeders are passionate about what they do and are mindful of the dogs and pups concerned. But before buying from any breeder, please, please, please, research them! There are many backyard breeders out there that operate illegally and are uncertified to breed dogs. They do not put the dog’s best interests first and operate only to make a profit. If a “breeder” you come across appears suspicious, report them to your SPCA. Click here to discover the essential Reputable Breeder’s Checklist

So, I guess the golden question is:

Why buy a puppy from a breeder over saving a shelter dog?

  • Trusted breeders are believed to curtail the genetic health risks assumed to be rife in certain breeds, such as eye problems in Maltese poodles and hip dysplasia in bigger dogs like German Shepherds
  • Reputable breeders are expected to have judiciously selected a pair of dogs to mate to ensure they achieve the probable and sought-after traits related to that specific breed
  • A professional and accredited breeder may assist you in selecting the right breed for your family and lifestyle requirements
  • It’s assumed that reputable breeders will ensure that you’re given a puppy that’s exempt from any genetic-related health issues, potentially lightening the future financial burden of associated vet bills
  • An honest breeder keeps the lines of the communication open and welcomes any queries or challenges you may encounter with your furry friend, even well after the handover has occurred
  • A trustworthy breeder is presumed to take the time to socialise the puppy by introducing it to children, adults as well as other animals which ultimately saves you from having to train your puppy to be social and friendly
  • A reputable breeder should have initiated house training the pup so that you can merely pick up where they left off
  • A reputable breeder should possess and share valuable information and advice regarding the puppy’s food type, food consumption, aspects of training, causes for concern and the like. This is especially helpful for first-time dog owners
  • The general consensus seems to be that you have a clearer idea of a purebred’s lineage hence ensuring the typical physical and behavioural characteristics of the breed in question. If a line of dogs has the same genes, it’s assumed that you can predict the size of the dog, the coat’s colour, texture and length, potential health risks, energy levels as well as its behaviour with children and other animals
  • There seems to be a common thought pattern that a breeder’s objective is to enhance all aspects of the breed, resulting in perfect, all-rounded puppies
  • People find reassurance in knowing that the puppy’s parents’ health condition may warrant the puppy’s health
  • Some breeders may be open to taking puppies back if things don’t work out
  • It’s assumed that the behaviour and temperament of dogs of a certain breed are absolute and therefore predictable. Genes passed down from previous generations, are believed to affect the dogs’ behaviour. For instance, huskies were bred as working dogs and required immense amounts of energy to pull sleds through dense snow. Anyone who owns a husky can vouch for their boundless energy levels and enthusiasm, proving that this trait is still prevalent in husky breeds.
  • However, not all behavioural traits and temperaments are based on genetics. When the good old Nature-Nurture deliberation comes into play, nurture reigns true here. If dogs, even purebreds, aren’t trained, loved and socialised, their behaviour and temperament may be completely different from the breed you signed up for.

Drawbacks to Deliberate when Supporting Breeders

  • The reality is that a lot of people struggle to keep their guilt at bay when supporting breeders over shelters as there are millions of dogs wasting away in these shelters every year. They know that rescuing one of those dogs, will save a life and make room for another homeless pup
  • You should be prepared to conduct methodical research to find a reputable breeder and this process can be painstakingly time-consuming
  • There is usually a substantial waiting list even before most thoroughbred puppies are born so you need to be organised to even get on that list in the first place. Take heed, that you may be expected to meet the breeder, often several times, so they can decide whether you’re a suitable fit for one of their puppies
  • It’s highly suggested that a binding contract be in place between you and the breeder. This again will be time-consuming to draft and then both parties are required to review and sign it. You may even want a lawyer’s opinion so extra costs will be involved
  • The breeder route is overall very expensive. Thoroughbred puppies are generally pricier than shelter dogs. You could be looking between R 3000 to R 25 000 on a puppy, depending on the breed. Remember that most breeders are located on the outskirts of towns or cities or on farms in more rural areas, so you can expect to pay even more on petrol and mileage costs, especially if you’re required to visit the breeder more than once
  • If you haven’t thoroughly conducted your research or realistically adjusted your expectations, you may be disappointed to learn that the traits you relied on as a surety for your choice of breed, begin to take a toll:
    Let’s say you want a vibrant, intelligent dog to interact with and take for long runs but when you find that you don’t have the time to do so any longer, you feel frustrated that your Border Collie plays up because they’re under-stimulated and now possess a surplus of energy. Or, perhaps you love the gorgeous long locks of a St Bernard but the constant cleaning of the shedding fur becomes a chore.
  • It cannot be stressed enough to do the necessary research before you decide on a breed: Amounts and frequency of shedding and grooming; energy levels; food consumption (will it fit into your budget?), weight concerns and genetic shortcomings are only a few invaluable guidelines to help you make the correct decision.
  • It’s also worthy to note that many purebreds weren’t always intended to be companions for us. They were initially bred with a purpose and with that purpose, they developed certain mannerisms. Working dogs such as sled and cart pullers, hunting dogs, herding dogs and the like, may still display the following behavioural traits that may lead to some vexation for their human parents:
    • They may have excessive energy levels
    • They may require constant stimulation and busy themselves around the home subsequently causing mischief
    • They may act out in the form of:
      • digging holes in the garden
      • constant barking
      • chewing furniture or shoes
    • They may not socialise well with other animals and/or children
    • They may be unfriendly or even aggressive to visitors
  • Determining a purebred’s traits is not an exact science. In fact, you may often be surprised or even disheartened by how your furry friend turns out. There’s no guarantee that you’ll receive exactly what you’re looking for in the breed, so keep that in mind when opting to take the breeder path
  • Contrary to popular belief, purebred dogs may have a lot of health issues that could present themselves as the following, depending on the breed:
    • Crippling bone and joint disorders
    • Eye diseases that cause reduced sight or total blindness
    • Heart diseases that drastically shorten a dog’s life
    • Endocrine system diseases like hypothyroidism and diabetes
    • Seizure disorders such as epilepsy
    • Skin diseases that cause frantic itching
    • Slip disks and other back problems
    • Digestive disorders that cause chronic diarrhoea and vomiting
    • Kidney and liver diseases
    • Blood-clotting diseases
    • Cancer – the number 1 killer of many breeds

With this said, you need to be willing and able to support your furry friend both financially, to cover the vet bills and medication, as well as emotionally.

Who’ll Save the Desperate Dogs in Shelters?

You can’t deny the sense of fulfillment in saving a fellow being’s life. Furthermore, to be able to adopt a rescue dog without so much as a name to go on, is certainly a selfless and heroic act and not many people possess this rare and extraordinary gift.

Society, however, is showing an increased concern for the well-being of animals and as a result, more individuals are taking personal action to save lives by adopting rescues from the myriad of shelters worldwide. This is fantastic news but tragically, they’re still unable to keep up with the thousands of daily additions to shelters.

This brings us back to the controversial argument touched upon earlier: Is it blatantly unfair to support breeders when there are so many lives desperately waiting to be rescued elsewhere?

Again, the choice is individual in nature but similarly requires a vigilant stock-take as it’s a decision that will ultimately affect you, your family and the rescue dog concerned.

Besides the obvious, of granting an innocent pup another chance at life, why would a person support a shelter as opposed to buying from a reputable, accredited breeder?

  • People are drawn to the rewarding sense of elation their children feel when personally involved in rescuing a fellow creature. Empathy is an extraordinary life lesson to bestow on your child by enabling them to think beyond themselves when experiencing, first hand, the distress of the creatures in those shelters
  • By allowing your children to play with the shelter dogs and eventually picking one out themselves, implants in the child, a sense of responsibility for the dog as well as an initial bond between the two of them
  • It’s devastating to think that most dogs in shelters will never experience the love and security of a family that they so rightfully deserve. They are sentenced to spend the rest of their lives there. Many people feel this to be inhumane and this precise point drives them to adopt from shelters rather than shop from breeders
  • Rescues are different! Not to say they’re superior to purebreds, but it cannot be refuted: They certainly have their very own story ascribed to them which forges their unique character. What an incredible fortune for you to become part of their special story!
  • By adopting from shelters, you are fundamentally saving TWO lives: your new furry friend’s as well as providing a vacant spot in the shelter for another rescue dog
  • Rescue dogs are exceptionally loving, devoted and appreciative and they never forget they were rescued
  • You can opt for a pooch from a range of ages, sizes, hair length, textures and colours so to best accommodate your family’s lifestyle, budget and personalities
  • People working at shelters usually conduct temperament evaluations and are well-acquainted with the dogs. They will know the dog’s personality and whether you’ll complement each other
  • Some people are unable to commit to the 10 to 15year period when acquiring a puppy. By adopting an older pooch, you compromise by not being bound to a longer time frame and you are still able to relish your time with your special companion
  • Selecting an adolescent or older dog, is certainly beneficial for your carpet budget! Rescues are generally house-trained at this age and therefore don’t revert to “lifting their leg” as frequently or at all in comparison to puppies
  • Adopting a house-trained pooch is also extremely helpful if you don’t have the time or the will to house-train them yourself
  • Adopting a fluffy friend from the shelter is also lighter on your overall wallet. Nowadays, rescue dogs are usually microchipped, dewormed and remedied against heartworm and fleas. They are also neutered or spayed which means you get to take home a vet-ready dog and for a reasonable price at that!
  • You don’t pay the premium on an adopted dog as you do with a purebred. You could look at adopting a shelter dog from R500 with all the veterinary bells and whistles included, such as vaccinations, spaying, neutering and more, so you get a lot more bang for your buck here and you get to save an innocent and thankful dog’s life while you’re at it! What a bargain!
  • If your heart is set on a puppy, don’t eliminate shelters as an option. If you call around, you can be put on various shelters’ waiting lists. Often, pregnant females are brought in or they’ve already given birth to a litter of puppies needing a loving family when they’ve been weaned off their mother
  • Likewise, if your heart is set on a purebred, try out the breed in question’s rescue association or SPCA’s in the vicinity. Facebook is flooded with these groups and you’ll be so surprised to learn the variety of breeds you can choose from. People, for instance, may have bought a purebred dog and have found that the dog is unsuitable to their lifestyle and land up giving them to the SPCA! So, it’s high fives all round: You get your purebred and in the same breath, you get to give a creature a second chance at life!
  • Some may be concerned that the rescue won’t be well socialised with children, adults or even other animals due to a traumatic history. Fortunately, most shelters nowadays have highly-qualified animal behaviourist who are amazing in counselling dogs that have experienced trauma. These dogs are successfully rehabilitated and able to integrate with a normal family perfectly. All they need is a kind soul to give them the opportunity to prove it.
  • A lot of shelter representatives are very generous with their knowledge and serve as a support system if you have any concerns or queries
  • Most people don’t realise that puppies aren’t always ideally suited to children as they are babies themselves and require an abundance of love, attention and time too. If you’re already inundated with the demands that come with having children, I will be worthwhile adopting an older, more settled and serene dog that still requires love and consideration, but will alleviate the stress of double-folded parenting

Puppy Pitfalls to Consider:

  • Can you meet the expense of neutering or spaying the puppy?
  • Can you afford to maintain the puppy’s current shot schedule?
  • Are you able and willing to be on stand by numerous times at night and during the day to let the puppy out?
  • Are you able and willing to feed the pup the necessary three to four times daily?
  • Are you able and willing to support the pup whilst they’re teething?
  • Are you able and willing to manage the pup’s child-like enthusiasm and liveliness?
  • Will you be able to tolerate their increased noise levels with barking and crying?
  • Are you willing and able to commit to your pup’s training both financially and emotionally?
  • Are you prepared to commit to this puppy for the next decade or longer?
  • Will you unconditionally devote yourself to the pup despite them not turning into the dog you initially envisaged?

If you’ve realised that you may not be as prepared as you thought, don’t discount adopting an older dog who will give you just as much pleasure but without the hardcore parenting that goes with puppies.

Shortcomings of Shelter

  • A shelter dog’s health is not always certain as their origin might be unknown
  • Unless they are puppies, it’s unknown if they’ll be good with children or other pets
  • Rescues may have some quirks stemming from their arduous past, but remember that with love, patience and perseverance, animals are innately inclined to trust again but they need a fighting chance to do so
  • Individuals may feel apprehensive about common illnesses the rescue may have consequently picked up in the shelter. Research alternative shelters and ensure they have evidence of up-to-date shots and that a vet has signed the pooch off as healthy
  • Going the shelter route also entails scrupulous research. You need to decide whether the dog you want will suit your lifestyle and budget. If you get a puppy from a shelter, they may land up being a lot bigger, or smaller than you anticipated so take this into account so to avoid disappointment
  • You need to align your expectations and realise that adopting a pooch from a shelter can be compared to a lucky draw as you don’t always know what you’re going to get. The lineage of some rescue dogs is unknown and even if it is, they may have encountered traumatising events in their pasts that may affect their behaviour

I’ve stressed throughout our time together that the choice of supporting breeders versus shelters is totally personal. Provided you’re a loving parent to your dog and have their very best interests at heart, we should all respect that personal preference.


If you’re feeling torn and morally confused at this stage, how’s this for a compromise? If you have your heart set on a certain breed, why not support and adopt from the purebred rescue societies as I’ve mentioned above? That way, you’re bound to get the traits you’re after and you can rest assured knowing that you’ve saved a life! Try out:

Thanks for reading and here’s wishing you all the best in your endeavour in adopting a precious fur child.

Written for inFURmation
by Taliah Williamson


Disclaimer: The information produced by Infurmation is provided for general and educational purposes only and does not constitute any legal, medical or other professional advice on any subject matter. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease. Always seek the advice of your vet or other qualified health care provider prior to starting any new diet or treatment and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you suspect that your pet has a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.