There seems to be a great divide among dog owners about how the benefits of adopting from a shelter or rescue would be better than purchasing from a breeder. The two schools of preference range from just that, a preference, to outright mutual exclusion. There also are some myths about whether adopted dogs are somehow better than purebreds, as dogs themselves and for their owners. My goal in this discussion is to lessen that divide, and discuss some of the pros and cons of purchasing a purebred dog or adopting one.
In some circles, it seems that somehow, you are less compassionate if you choose to go pure. That is simply not true—or fair—for that matter. Hence the evolution of pure breed rescues, which seem to cover just about any breed you can think of. I guess you could cover both sides of the divide by adopting a purebred dog! I sometimes see people take a negative posture to another when someone chooses not to adopt. Owners have their own personal reasons for selecting their dog, and if that is not to rescue, you may not even come close to the number of reasons that went into that choice. But, that is simply what it is: an owner’s choice. As long as they are a good and caring pet owner, we should all respect that personal preference. It may be that the choice is based on a person’s history, extending all the way back to someone’s childhood.
Flipping that coin, adopting a stray or rescue is a good way to get a great dog inexpensively and save an animal’s life in the process. We all know there are rescues and shelters that are busting at the seams, full to capacity and even unable to accept more dogs. It is proven that as the economy gets worse, shelters increase in population—a fact nationwide. Actually the places in the U.S. with the worst economies and home foreclosures have the highest rates of pet abandonment, and inordinately large quantities of adoptable dogs and cats. A shame, but a fact. There are a ton of adoptable dogs out there, of all makes and models. The obvious plus to adopting a dog is that you likely saved its life. The dog is usually already tested, vaccinated, dewormed, treated for fleas and heartworm, micro-chipped and surgically neutered. That is good for you, your pet and your wallet. For a relatively low cost, you have a pet that is veterinary-ready. Not so good for veterinarians, but we are used to it by now. And your adoption fee goes to help save other dogs, too. Another plus is that you can pick from a range of ages to suit your family and lifestyle. Having a potty-trained pet to start with can be perfect for those who don’t have the time to train a puppy.
Buying a purebred allows you to really customize your dog to your lifestyle and family. For many, dogs play a role for their owners. They may hunt, protect or compete. The purebred owner will likely be more deliberate and less impulsive and do their homework prior to shelling out the dough for their dog. That way, they can study the puppy’s parents, the breeder and their facilities, and may be able visit the litter multiple times before they finalize their choice of a puppy. Those who come from the purebred school generally know what the size of their new pup will grow up to be, which is not so easy with an adoptee pup. This makes a big difference for those in condominiums or apartments with pet-size limits. The myths about both schools that I mentioned earlier can be covered pretty quickly, and in no particular order:
◆ PUREBRED DOGS DON’T LIVE AS LONG AS RESCUE DOGS. Not true.
◆ STRAY DOGS HAVE THE BENEFIT OF HYBRID VIGOR; THAT IS TO SAY, A MIX OF DOGS CAN WEATHER PROBLEMS BETTER AND LIVE LONGER. As a veterinarian, I have seen mutts that are the equivalent of car that is a ‘lemon.’ Some mutts could even be at an increased risk of medical problems, just by virtue of who their parents are. For example, if this breed is predisposed to medical problem ‘x,’ and mates with a breed that may carry that same trait, their puppies may be at a higher risk than if they were not a mixed breed. Having stated that pseudo-contradiction, it is the breeder’s responsibility to eliminate predispositions from their chosen breed.
◆ PUREBRED DOGS ARE WOUND-UP AND HYPER, WHILE ADOPTED MIX BREEDS ARE CALMER AND MORE MELLOW. I have seen insanely active dogs of all sorts, mixes and pures, and also extraordinarily chilled out specimens in both camps.
Obviously, the best way to fix many of the issues that help bolster the support for one side or the other is to eliminate bad breeders and puppy mills. Good breeders don’t sell defective dogs and do not accept as normal what is medically not. They also take actions to correct the passing on of problems. Puppy mills produce unhealthy dogs in unhealthy conditions in deplorable quanities. No puppy mills—thousands of problems fixed in an instant! And tens of thousands of dogs spared. Either way you side, being a responsible and loving pet owner fixes all the other problems.
Dr. Kenneth Geoghegan, of Village Veterinary Hospital in Warson Woods (villagevethosp.com), has been a neighborhood veterinarian since 1992.