Enough shopping, start adopting


Pascale Zissu

Chances are if you have a dog, you bought it from a breeder. In the United States, 3.9 million dogs enter shelters each year but only 25% are adopted and 1.2 million are euthanized. This means that last year alone, 1.2 million dogs needed homes, in addition to those who were not adopted but didn’t get euthanized. Meanwhile, each year an additional two million dogs are bred. These puppies are automatically given homes, yet before they were born, millions of other dogs had been waiting, sometimes for their entire lives, to be adopted.

Many people prefer to buy dogs from a breeder rather than adopt from a shelter because shelter dogs have often faced traumatizing challenges that can make them fearful and aggressive. For example, 47% of dogs are rehoused each year, meaning they are given up and must change homes. Anything can happen to these vulnerable dogs between homes and shelters, including being left on the streets and abused, often causing problems like anxiety and fear which can, in turn, lead to aggression and ruin the dogs’ chance at socialization, both with humans and with other dogs. For understandable reasons, many families don’t want to take on this commitment, but unfortunately this only furthers the cycle of rehousing.

A downside to buying purebred dogs is that, because their genes are less varied, they are more prone to health problems such as hip dysplasia, diarrhea, joint pains, skin infections, as well as various heart diseases and cancers (depending on the breed). Why bring a new dog into the world knowing it could live a life of disease, when there are millions of existing dogs who need homes?

My family previously had a golden retriever, Conrad, which we got from a breeder. Conrad was perfectly behaved and could get along with anyone. He was easy to take care of and I loved him so much; however, raising an adopted dog has been even more rewarding. My current dog, Ford, was only eight weeks old when we adopted him four years ago. He had been found on the street in Miami and was driven in a truck with other stray dogs all the way to New York. When we adopted him, he had already been neutered. Being left on the street, traveling so far, and undergoing this procedure too young was extremely traumatizing for him. Ford is diagnosed with ‘fear-based aggression’ and takes medication to help calm him down. The only humans he trusts are my family and his dog walkers and trainers, and he only gets along with a few other dogs. If this were not challenging enough, Ford is a large ninety-pound pitbull mix, so when he gets aggressive, he can be hard to control. Ford’s aggression issues make it difficult to have friends over or even to go on vacation, since we can’t just leave him with anyone.

My parents both work full time, and my mom’s job often requires her to work late. My brother and I are both busy with school and participate in extracurriculars, but we each make time to give Ford attention and the healthy life he deserves. You create an unbreakable bond with your pet when you save their life and give them a home, which is what makes raising them so rewarding.

There are already so many dogs who need homes, so why bring more into the world, especially when there is such a high chance that these dogs will have health issues? It’s not fair to the purebred dogs or to the dogs who have been waiting to be adopted and might face euthanasia if no one adopts them.