When we adopt a shelter dog, we make a lifelong commitment. The dog we adopt may have been hit by a car, neglected and left starving in a backyard, raced, kicked and beaten and now fearing human contact, or surrendered by the only family and home he or she has ever known. These are not reasons to not adopt shelter dogs; these are the reasons we should adopt shelter dogs instead of supporting pet stores with dogs from cruel puppy mills or profit-driven breeders who unnecessarily contribute to overpopulation problems.
Erin Auerbach’s harmful Washington Post article “Why I’d never adopt a shelter dog again” (intentionally not hyperlinked to prevent an increase in your blood pressure) fails to recognize several key points:
1) If a shelter dog has a challenging medical problem, we can’t extrapolate that experience to all shelter dogs. Most shelter dogs are healthy.
2) Any dog we adopt, even from a breeder or pet store, comes with health risks.
3) If we enjoy the company of a healthy dog for 10 years, as Auerbach did, and then the dog becomes ill, that is part and parcel of caring for a companion animal, not cause for complaint. When we sign the paper at the dog shelter, we must be ready to sign the bill at the vet’s office. My dog swallowed a lamp cord when he was six-months-old and almost died. Anything can happen.
4) Purchasing a dog from a breeder is not a “good deed” as Auerbach insists. With millions of dogs waiting for homes in shelters, we don’t need breeders creating more dogs. When we buy a dog from a breeder, we are not “re-homing” the dog, a term she uses to fend off critics. We’re perpetuating a problem that supports the unnecessary breeding of dogs while lonely and scared shelter dogs die. Breeders and pet stores may also be less responsible about spaying and neutering.
5) Many dog shelters conduct thorough interviews and background checks to ensure the suitability of prospective parents whereas many breeders and pet stores are profit-driven above all else. Adopting dogs is about more than satisfying people; it’s foremost about the best interest of the animals.
Auerbach fails to mention that most shelter dogs, including puppies, live happy and healthy lives in their new forever home. While I applaud her for previously rescuing dogs and providing them medical care before she started raising her pom poms for breeders and condemning shelters, and while I empathize with the medical challenges she experienced, she makes reckless generalizations, fails to comprehend the global problem of dogs in shelters, and doesn’t weigh the impact of her suggestions on the millions of adoptable shelter dogs waiting desperately for homes. Many of these dogs also came from breeders and puppy mills because they couldn’t find homes or people surrendered or abandoned them.
I’ve been volunteering at dog shelters in Florida, walking dogs, hosting fundraisers, providing orientations for volunteers, and matching prospective parents with dogs, for more than 20 years. Dog shelters are places that give hope to the downtrodden and brighten the lives of families beyond measure. I have never met more happy people than I have speaking with the grateful masses who return to volunteer after adopting a shelter dog or adopt another dog to join their family.
This is Rusty, an abandoned shelter dog with a clean bill of health. I visited him today at my local animal shelter to take him for a walk and provide him comfort until he finds a home. Rusty was thrown over the shelter’s fence in the middle of the night by his owners. When I entered his cage, he was crying, pushing his nose into my chest, and licking my face.
As I left the shelter today, this thoughtful couple adopted this sweet and healthy puppy named Sammy. They were beaming with pride as they explained how rewarding it feels to save a life.
These are the faces of abandoned, abused, stray, and surrendered dogs. I hope they dispel Auerbach’s inaccurate statements about shelter dogs being sick and inappropriate for adoption.
Auerbach states that shelter dogs are a “crapshoot.” For compassionate people who love animals unconditionally, there’s nothing risky about shelter dogs and our desire to care for them never wavers. To the contrary, it grows stronger as they grow older and our bond becomes unbreakable. With millions of dogs waiting desperately in shelters for homes, it’s the height of irresponsibility to promote breeders simply because she doesn’t want to care for a dog if he or she becomes ill. Her article serves as a valuable reminder to everyone who runs a dog shelter to screen applicants carefully. Not everyone deserves a shelter dog.
Andrew Kirschner, Ed.D., is the founder and CEO of Animal Rescue Bar, a delicious plant-based snack for health-conscious people that donates 50% of its proceeds to non-profit animal rescue and advocacy organizations. Dr. Kirschner also serves on the Advisory Board for 600 Million Stray Dogs Need You. To subscribe to this blog and receive new articles via e-mail, enter your e-mail address in the “Follow Blog by E-Mail” link at the top right of the page.