The stats by themselves paint a bleak picture. 1.2 million dogs are euthanized every year in the United States. 3.9 million dogs enter US shelters every year. Shelters play a critical role in managing our society’s unwanted dogs. There are plenty of inaccurate myths that circle around shelters. First, not all shelter dogs are mutts (about 25% are purebred). Second, most shelter dogs are not there as a result of a behavioral problem. More likely, divorce, job loss, death, or other changing circumstances affected the dog’s family and led to the dog becoming homeless and family-less. Like breeders, successful shelters are ultimately concerned with the welfare of their animals.

PROs of adopting from a shelter include

  • Hybrid vigor – sometimes (not always) mixed breed dogs get the best healthy genes from each parent, making them more durable and less susceptible to hereditary health conditions that affect certain breeds
  • Pick your age – shelters often have a full range of ages, from puppies to adult dogs. An adult dog might just be a better fit for your lifestyle.
  • Less vet bills – the dogs may already be vaccinated and sterilized
  • Less expensive – a typical adoption fee from a shelter is $150.
  • Already trained – from potty training to basic commands, adult shelter dogs may already be trained.

CONs of adopting from a shelter include

  • Uncertainty – you may not know the exact breed of your dog.
  • Emotional scars – some shelter dogs may have suffered abandonment or abuse.
  • Unsocialized – dogs rescued from problem situations may have never set foot in a house, never been on leash, and have never been socialized (with other dogs or humans).

While any pet needs time and love as it adjusts to a new family and a new life, rescue dogs can present unique challenges. If you are thinking about a shelter dog, it is important to be realistic about your lifestyle and your ability to devote the time, patience, and emotional support needed to rehab a dog with an unfortunate past. The rewards are wonderful but they don’t come without a lot of work!

A NOTE ABOUT ADOPTING FROM A PETSTORE

In any discussion about adopting dogs, I feel it is important to make this point. Most dogs in pet stores come from puppy mills. These businesses are, quite simply, awful. Dogs are often kept in cages for their entire lives. Their basic needs are met (maybe) and not much else. It is estimated that there are around 10,000 puppy mills in the United States. If you are thinking of adopting from a pet store, do your research first to ensure that they don’t purchase dogs from puppy mills.

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