Adopt a Pet: Save a Life

Do you have a dog? Where did Fido come from? Some fancy breeder halfway across the country, maybe? A pet store? Or the local animal shelter?

When I was twelve years old, I had my first experience adopting a pet. Visions of a lovely, purebred puppy crossed my mind when my parents told me I could get a dog for my birthday. However, I was told I must find one at a shelter. I searched online for days and finally found an adorable corgi and beagle mix whose appearance fit my dreams. Adopted from the Nelson County “Almost Home” Animal Shelter, I got Watson as a ten-month-old puppy. Unloved and previously abused, Watson was skittish at first, uneasy with car rides, being walked, and eating. Slowly I built his trust, and he is now one of the most loving and happy dogs I have ever met.

Dogs in a crowded puppy mill. Image credit to Kristina Bowman.

Dogs in a crowded puppy mill. Image credit to Kristina Bowman.

There is an enormous amount of homeless dogs in the United States, searching for a second chance at life. In the United States, there are about 3.9 million homeless dogs that enter animal shelters each year. Of these 3.9 million, only about 1.4 million are adopted. 1.2 million dogs are euthanized each year. Many of these dogs are surrendered by their owners, found on the streets, or removed from their current situations, which could be abusive or neglectful. Contrary to popular belief, there is no organization that presides over animal shelters. The names “SPCA” and “Humane Society” that animal shelters often use in their own names are not related to the ASPCA or the Humane Society of the United States in any way. For the most part, each animal shelter stands on its own, which causes discrepancies in shelter policy, such as a “no-kill” shelter versus a shelter that euthanizes animals after an amount of time, specific to that shelter. This also means, however, that local animal shelters are not receiving any aid from these national organizations. Steele Viverette (’18), the president of the Collegiate Animal Rescue Effort, says, “There is currently an excess of dogs. If you’re continually breeding them, then even more will be subjected to homelessness or euthanasia.” Supporting these breeders will cause more dogs to be bred and fewer strays to be re-homed.

Getting a dog from a breeder raises another concern: Where is the dog coming from? Many so-called breeders are in fact puppy mills, which the ASPCA defines as, “A large-scale commercial dog breeding facility where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs.” It is often difficult to tell if a breeder is running a puppy mill because of their manipulative outside appearances, where they act with professionalism. It is what is behind the scenes that is of concern. Puppies are bred constantly; mothers are given no rest time between litters. The puppies are held in overcrowded cages, often muddy, wet, and unsanitary, and are often not vaccinated. The most common outlet for puppy mill dogs are pet stores.

Violet. Image credit to Abigail Winfree.

Violet. Image credit to Abigail Winfree.

Some people are opposed to adoption because of some behavioral problems characteristic of abandoned dogs. Occasionally they will develop an aggressive attitude or attachment problems. However, this is a vast generalization. A dog I recently fostered, Violet, was abandoned. However, she was beautifully house-trained and had excellent manners. She was loving and grateful. At about two years old, she was calm for her age. Eleanor Dillon (’16) says, “When I think of someone getting a dog, I think of going to a breeder.” However, you can go to the animal shelter and find plenty of purebred dogs there, abandoned. These dogs may have been abandoned because a family or individual could no longer care for them, or surrendered for the same reason.

Although there are many purebreds searching for a home, I also encourage adopting a mutt. Sometimes an overbred pure breed can have some health issues related to inbreeding and overbreeding. An example of this are many short-nosed breeds, such as pugs, bulldogs, boxers, chihuahuas, and shih tzus, which are prone to brachycephalic airway syndrome, which causes them to have difficulty breathing.

Altogether, adopting a dog from a shelter saves two lives. Not only are you saving the dog you adopt from euthanasia. You are also opening up another spot in the shelter, so they can save another dog. And from this, you get a life-long best friend, who will forever be grateful for your help.

If you are interested in adopting a pet, check out For the Love of Animals – Goochland and the Richmond SPCA.

Featured image credit to the ASPCA.

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About the author

Abigail Winfree is a junior, who is that weird horse girl.