When Someone You Know and Love Buys From a Breeder

Updated 01-04-18
    If you're not involved in pet rescue you may not understand the title of this blog.
    So read it, so you can understand.

    Over the years I've heard about friends of rescue friends buying a dog from a breeder oppose to adopting. Over the years I've heard about this action breaking up friendships or driving a wedge between people.
    I've also experienced this on a personal level and it has converted once-lovely-friendships into an abyss of separation a time or two.
    A few years ago while working at Animal Services I had a girlfriend that wanted a dog, a puppy.
    On various occasions I showed her pictures of adoptable pets, I spoke to her about how rewarding adoption was, how she had the power to save a life and asked her regularly, "When are you going to adopt?!"

Adoptable dog, municipal shelter

    The next thing I know she's posting pictures on facebook of a french bulldog puppy.
    I was horrified.
    We discussed her purchase briefly and she said the typical things breeder-buyers say: we wanted this certain breed, we wanted it to be a puppy, it was a sporadic decision, etc.

    To make matters worse this 'friend' opted not to neuter her new frenchie (doesn't every other person on the block have one of these breeds now?!).

    Immediately our friendship changed. We lost touch.
    I felt angry and disappointed on behalf of all the dogs that had missed out on a loving home due to my friend's decision.
    And that's the issue- when an animal-loving-pet-owner to-be chooses to buy oppose to adopt this person is inevitably choosing not to save a shelter pet's life. 
    This person is choosing to be an onlooker, a bystander, a spectator- seeing, hearing of the shelter pets waiting for loving homes, knowing the shelter pets are being put to sleep daily, but choosing to do nothing about it. These bystanders are choosing not to be part of the solution, choosing not to help end euthanasia by their decision to buy rather than adopt. It's just that simple.
    And something so strange to me is, the grand majority of people that buy from breeders are big-time animal lovers and are generally great pet owners. You'd think they'd make the connection on their own:
Adoption = Saving a Pet's Life and I want to save a pet's life because I love pets! Or, at the very least you're giving a pet a chance at a new, good life by adopting.
    Now 15-20 years ago it was a different story. Some of you, my animal-rescue-friends, bought a pet from a breeder yourselves, some of you were even involved in breeding, but you didn't know about the plight of our shelter pets then. "You don't know what you don't know," as the saying goes.
    We cannot really blame people for not knowing something, but nowadays, let's be honest- how many people are truly unaware of their local animal shelters? Hasn't just about everyone seen the ASPCA commercials featuring sorry-looking abandoned animals?     Isn't the 'Humane Society' a household name? There are huge billboards up about pet rescue for God's sake.
    And getting back to the title of this blog, "When someone you know and love buys from a breeder," we're talking specifically about people that are aware of shelter pets' plight... through me, through you, the animal activist people!
    They know all too well about shelter pets, they see their pictures that you send out and everything, then they choose to buy from a breeder... ouch. That hurts. Really bad.
    This is a wound that has recently been ripped open, by someone in my family.
    Friends you can disassociate with if need be, if their breeder-buying-behavior perturbs you so, but when it's someone in your own family, it becomes stickier.
A dog we fostered and adopted out

    My aunt is a big-time dog lover. She loves all animals and is one of the sweetest people I know. She's gentle, kind, always eager to help anyone in need, a hard worker and active in her church.
    She visited me years ago at Animal Services in Louisville when I worked there in the kennels. We took out dogs to play. She loved all of them so much. I made her promise me that, 'next time she would adopt.'
    At the time she had a wonderful Golden Retriever named Duke that her and her husband had bought from a breeder. She said, "next time we will probably adopt, I know there are so many," or something along those lines.
Over the past couple of years as I worked as Adoption Counselor/Foster Care Coordinator for MDAS I would include her on email blasts about dogs in desperate need of rescue. She received emails about puppies, nursing litters, adults... you name it. I included her to keep rescue top of mind, even though she was in Kentucky and I was in Florida. She would even forward my emails to friends she has in the Fl area!
Adoptable dog from a Humane Society

    Some months ago her beloved Duke passed away after a long, good fight against cancer. My aunt arranged for weekly acupuncture treatments for Duke while he was alive, this helped prolong his life and the quality of it for a very long time; my aunt was and is a superb pet owner.
    Some time passed and I began nudging her to consider adopting another dog; I knew they were going to get another dog.
    When I was home during the summer I told my aunt's husband in a low tone, just between the two of us, "Don't you dare buy from a breeder. I mean it. There are too many at the shelter. It would tear me up if you all did that."
    He seemed to feel a bit uneasy and moved off. For the record, my aunt's husband is a great guy and a huge dog lover too. But he has always bought his dogs from breeders.
And that's the thing here, old habits die hard. 
Adoptable dog from a Humane Society

    About a week ago my dad asked me, over the phone, "Did you hear your aunt and _________ bought a new Golden puppy?"
    My heart sunk. I quickly retorted, "I don't want to hear about it."
He said, "Oh that puppy needed a home too now," so, wow, even my own father doesn't 'get it.' -Scary and sad.

    Analogy intermission: if your last 5 cars have been Hondas and you've had great luck with all of them... you love the way they drive, the way they handle, the way the engine sounds when you start it up (very 'Honda'), the reliability of the car... and someone tries to convince you to get a Toyota, you're not going be very likely to go, "Oh OK, why not give Toyota a try since you think they're just as good."
    In essence me insisting on my aunt adopting a dog, likely a mixed breed, rather than her buying a Golden Retriever, a breed she had grown to trust and love dearly through her own life's experience, was a threat.
    It does feel threatening and uneasy to go outside of one's comfort zone. -You know what you love and are comfortable with.
Adoptable puppy, municipal shelter

    My aunt knew what a great experience she had with Duke for all of those years. She wanted to have an equally gratifying experience with her new dog and apparently just didn't have faith enough to go out of her comfort zone and adopt (perhaps a different breed or rescue an older Golden) rather than buy.
    That's so sad to me. I know so many excellent shelter dogs waiting for loving homes.
    There are great ones on any given day being put to sleep because of wonderful pet-owners like my aunt and her husband that can't make that jump from buying to adopting, they must not have enough faith in the dog, the shelter dog, that it will be as faithful, well-mannered, good-tempered and as overall wonderful as their pure bred Golden or whatever the breed may be. 
    If that sounds extreme, I'm sorry, but it's true. Remember, if one chooses to buy, one chooses not to save the life of a pet in desperate need. Period.
    These spectators must feel there's something special about the breed they like and they're right, there's something special about every breed, about every pet, about every living being for that matter.
Adoptable dog, municipal shelter

    As a shepherd mix owner/lover I have a soft spot for any brown dog with some black on its face that I see.
    It is just as easy to form a beautiful bond with a mixed breed as with a pure breed.
    Our spectators need to choose to take that leap of faith and find this out for themselves. One day I hope they will.
    Who knows, maybe my aunt will adopt a 2nd dog just for the heck of it... just to save a life. Would that be such an outrageous thing to do? -I don't think so.
    I do know she'll neuter her new Golden puppy so that's one positive aspect of the entire situation.

Author's footnote 01-04-18: Since this post was first written, 5 years ago, much progress has been made in sheltering. Spay/neuter initiatives has increased, as have transport and foster care programs. It can be a challenge now for people to adopt a puppy in many areas of the country. 
That being said, drive 30-60 miles out of your city (to rural, surrounding counties) and you'll have no problem finding puppies in shelters... if that's what you're looking for!
And, at the end of the day, this blog post is an 'opinion piece' written by someone with extensive shelter experience. 

However, the information on the link below isn't opinion; it's fact and there's no disputing the numbers folks. 
An average of 6 MILLION pets are still entering shelters annually in this country and we're still euthanizing more than 1 MILLION pets a year in our shelters. 
And 34% of people buy dogs from breeders. 
We still have a long way to go! 
Adopt, Don't Shop!