Why the "adopt don't shop" agenda is toxic.
I feel like there is a lot to unpack here, so buckle up and bare with me for a few minutes. I want to start by giving some background on myself and why I feel like I have decent perspective to speak on this topic. I love dogs. I always have. I began volunteering at my local shelter weekly, often multiple days a week for hours a time around the age of 10, and did so consistently for years. I was their "favorite volunteer" and always eager to help in any way. I bonded strongly with those dogs and my heart hurt for each one of them. Fast forward to my early to mid 20's. I again became involved with my local shelter, spending time with and working with the dogs there. I ran for and was voted in as a board member for that humane society and then put in a great deal of work drafting up and implementing a foster dog program for them. I moved again in my mid 20's and became involved volunteering with a local bully breed rescue. I explain all of this because I am very familiar with rescue and how it works and I am far from blinded or ignorant to the dogs in rescue, after spending 20+ years in it. One thing that became apparent when working with rescues and shelters is that many of the people involved have very polarized views. There is no gray area to many, it is simply ALL breeders are bad and everyone should adopt rather than support these greedy, awful dog breeders. Not everyone, but many, have this mentality and spread it like wildfire. Then, well meaning people with their big hearts hear and regurgitate it. I mean, look at all these poor homeless dogs needing love, many with bleak futures, how can supporting a breeder possibly be good, right?
Here is how. Puppies come from many different sources. Strays, puppy mills, backyard breeders, those people who just want their dogs to have "one litter", responsible breeders, etc. Let's talk about the responsible breeders for a minute. These are the ones that are working to better breed that they are deeply passionate about, the breed that they love and want the best for. The ones that are actively, or working toward health testing their dogs, the ones who screen any potential buyer and make them sign strict contracts that include a clause stating the puppy/dog is to be returned to the breeder if the new owner EVER needs to re-home the animal. The ones who would be appalled and immediately take action if they heard one of the puppies they produced was heading to an animal shelter. The ones who objectively step back and evaluate their dogs to make sure they are only breeding the ones that are of sound temperament and structure, and pair up dogs thoughtfully to ensure they are positively contributing to the breed with every breeding they do. The ones that will keep any puppies they cannot find suitable loving homes for indefinitely, possibly for the life of the dog. The ones who go above and beyond, spending insane amounts of money to care for their dogs and make sure they are kept in top condition. Ok, are we on the same page on what constitutes a responsible breeder? Good. Puppies and dogs produced from these responsible breeders rarely end up in shelters because of everything listed above. Rarely.
Now lets talk about the dogs that DO end up in shelters. You know that friend on Facebook who chose not to spay her dog of mixed breeds, or perhaps a poorly bred pure-breed, because they want to "just have one litter first"? How about the family down the street with the purebred dog that has no papers, health testing nor does it look like a nice visual representation of said breed, that churns out a litter every year? The person who wants to breed their cute mutt (nothing against mixed breeds) to that other cute mutt, because duh, cute puppies? The puppy mill producing countless pups in horrid conditions that sell to pet stores....and anyone else? How about the stray dogs on the edge of town nobody can ever get close enough to catch? Yeah? These are the puppies and dogs that fill shelters.
So let's pretend for a moment that we followed the "adopt don't shop" advice. The responsible breeders would dwindle away, along with pure bred dogs. This means the rancher has no working Border Collie bred to help him with his stock. This means the police officer has no Belgian Malinois to help him on the job. The avid hunter who loves to take his Labrador or Pointer out to hunt, his dog is gone too. What about the family who just wants a puppy that will make a good family dog? Low energy, low drive, medium sized, friendly disposition? Good luck finding the right one if everything has become a melting pot, you'd never know what you were in for! There is something to be said for wanting a specific type of dog, whether it be for work or companionship, and it is ok to prefer a specific breed with specific traits you like!! Taking this away takes away much of what is so incredible about dogs! And guess what, we would still have dogs in shelters, because back to my original point, responsible breeders are not the ones filling these shelters. I agree that not EVERY breeder should be supported. I agree that people should do their homework on where their dog is coming from and choose responsibly. I agree that puppy mills, backyard breeders, etc should not be supported. I agree that if you are not looking for a specific breed, bloodline, etc the shelter should be you first stop. However, I do NOT believe in adopt don't shop and I certainly do not think people should feel guilt or be shamed for choosing to purchase their next dog from a responsible breeder.