The idea that we should adopt animals instead of buying them is a surprisingly controversial one, considering the fact that the over-breeding of animals and the lack of availability of places in shelters have reached crisis levels all over the world. The truth of the matter is that when places in that context, there is just no such thing as a responsible breeder.
In the US alone, approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter shelters every year. Of these, 2.7 million are killed due to not being adopted, most of whom are perfectly healthy animals with no significant behavioural issues. These statistics do not account for the number of abandoned and stray animals who are killed in road traffic accidents, or succumb to sickness, starvation, dehydration or cold. These are staggering statistics, and a global total is not available as most countries do not even record these figures due to the sheer volume of culling that is done. Given the extent of these issues, adding even more animals to the population, regardless of whether they end up with responsible owners or not, just cannot be justified.
No matter how careful the breeder is with who they select, they cannot guarantee their animals will not be abandoned, and even if they can, the issue is that even in the best possible case scenario, where a breeder will take back an animal an owner no longer wants even years later, which is rare, an animal has still been purchased instead of adopted. That breeder, no matter how “responsible,” will go on to to add dozens or possibly hundreds of new animals to an already grossly inflated population which we do not have the resources to adequately care for. For every animal who is purchased from a breeder, that is one more animal who will not be adopted, and will very probably be killed as a result.
No kill shelters are often cited as a solution for this problem, but most of these rely on charitable donations and have nowhere near enough places to adequately cover the number of unwanted animals even in their local areas. Keeping an animal alive for years, including all their feed, care and medical treatment, is exorbitantly expensive and is just not doable for a charity for anything approaching the volume of animals which would be necessary. As harsh as this truth is, if animals were not being killed in shelters then their population would explode even further than it already has. That is not in any way a justification for killing an unwanted animal, but it is a truth which we must acknowledge and it is the reason that kill shelters exist.
Many people buy from breeders as they believe that they can know more about the health and behaviour of an animal if they buy from the person who bred them rather than from a shelter, since they know their genetic history and have had them since they were a puppy. The issue with this line of thinking is that genetics have a very small impact on animal behaviour when compared with how they were raised, just because you know that an animal’s parents were docile and healthy does not mean you can assume the same about their offspring. That is assuming a breeder would even be honest with you about their lineage and behaviour as a young animal, since breeders have a fairly obvious incentive to midlead you so that you will purchase an animal from them. Rescue workers on the other hand, have no such incentive, and since they have usually spent quite a lot of time around an animal and they are experts, they can tell you a great deal more about their specific needs, health and behaviours than any breeder can, and they are much more likely to be honest with you about it.
The primary reason most people buy from breeders however, is that they want a specific breed. When it comes down to it though, there is no reason why anyone would ever require a specific breed from a breeder, with the possible exception of working animals. Besides, there are breed specific shelters and rescues all over the world for pretty much every breed imaginable, and the desire for a specific breed does not justify supporting breeders, whether they are small-scale businesses or intensive breeding operations. The reason people most often want a specific breed is purely vanity or for their own pleasure, and if you have the best interests of animals in mind then that will never be enough.
The fundamental question that you need to honestly ask yourself when you are considering where you will source an animal from, is why it is that you want to acquire them in the first place. If your primary intention is to give a good home to an animal who needs it, then you will never have a good reason to buy from a breeder rather than adopting from a reputable shelter or rescue. Animals are not commodities, to be bought, sold, chosen and discarded based on aesthetics, breed or novelty, they are living beings who we have bought into this world and now have a responsibility to take care of. It is first and foremost our moral obligation to care for those animals who already exist and need a home, rather than bringing even more animals into a world which does not have the resources nor the will to look after them properly.
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