Shelter Pets a Better Option Than Purebred


Rees Schellstede, Author

When it comes to adopting dogs, shelter animals are often overlooked and passed up for dogs that are bought from a breeder. Although the number of pets who are adopted from shelters has increased significantly during the years of COVID-19, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 390,000 dogs are still euthanized each year. Compared to the breeding operations of purebred dogs, adopting from shelters is the better choice.


Breeding Operations

While some breeders have genuinely good intentions, others are abusive and only want to produce as many puppies as possible in a short amount of time. The constant stress and pressure these puppies are subjected to can harm them in many different ways.  

This mistreatment of these dogs can often lead to mental issues, such as PTSD, OCD, depression, noise anxiety, and others. Many dogs are also already born with genetic issues such as hip and elbow dysplasia, inherited cancers such as lymphoma, neurologic defects, eye defects, heart defects, skeletal muscle defects, and others, according to the Merck Veterinary Manual.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, puppy mills are also a big problem in the breeding world. These “mills” are inhumane high-volume dog breeding facilities that turn out puppies for money and ignore the basic needs of the dogs in the facility. These dogs are often sick, and are rarely socialized with. The mother dogs spend their whole lives in small cages with little to no personal attention. When the dogs can no longer breed, they are abandoned or killed. 

As a result of poor sanitation, overbreeding, and a lack of any type of veterinary care, the puppies often suffer from a multitude of health issues. This, in turn, creates challenges for families who got a dog from a puppy mill.

So, what does the operation of a reasonable breeder look like? 

According to Essington Road Animal Hospital, there are a few clear signs that you might be dealing with a responsible breeder. If you are able to meet the breeder in person, and the breeder has questions of their own for you, they are likely to be more responsible breeders. If you are able to meet the mother and father dogs, and see all the facilities, it is also a good sign. If there aren’t a variety of dog breeds available, you might have also found a responsible breeder. Having to wait for the puppy, receiving all of its veterinary records, and being put in direct contact with its vet are also indicators of a responsible and humane operation. 


To Kill or Not to Kill?

There are two types of shelters that people can adopt pets from: kill shelters, which will euthanize animals based on the circumstances, and no-kill shelters, which try to keep the animals alive at any cost.

Most often, people support no-kill shelters because they advertise that they don’t kill animals except in emergency situations; however, they might be doing more harm than good. 

Although a no-kill shelter is hoping for the best outcome for all of the animals, a limited amount of space often forces them to turn animals away. Also, many sheltered animals still die, but in pain rather than in peace. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, in no-kill shelters, animals can spend months or years in cages. Additionally, they can be cast out (allowing them to continue to reproduce), and are often handed over to abusers and hoarders. 

Although the thought of no-kill shelters is good, the policies of kill shelters actually keeps more animals out of pain and suffering. Kill shelters may actually be a better option because they accept all animals with no restrictions, and they make choices in the best interest of all of the animals.


Cost Concerns

Buying a pet from a breeder can easily cost $1,000 or more, depending on the breed of dog and the breeder. These prices cover the cost of food, materials, registration, and other boarding fees. Even though shelters have a much lower price, $50 to $400, they still must cover the same basic expenses. 

According to Professional Dog Training Solutions Premier Canine Education, the most popular dog breeds are bulldogs, German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and Siberian huskies. Since these breeds are the most desired, they tend to cost more. 

Prices of dogs in the breeding world also shot up due to COVID-19. Tanya Zehr, owner of the Crosshill Doodles puppy mill in Milbank, Ont., said, “In 2017, we were selling pure bred puppies for $900-$1200. In 2021, to keep up with the market, our purebred puppies are now $2500-$3000.

There are a variety of factors that go into pricing dogs. For example, “designer dogs” (purebred dogs) and the larger breeds sell for more than “toy dog” breeds (smaller dogs). Right now there is a very high demand for puppies. Breeders are aware of this spike in demand, which they exploit by increasing the price of puppies.

Overcrowding at shelters can lead to special discounts and reduced adoption fees. The Santa Fe Animal Shelter frequently offers big discounts on orphaned dogs at PetSmart and on their website. Purebred dogs can sometimes be found in shelters; however, mixed breeds are the most common.

Not only are shelter animals cheaper, but they typically cost a lot less money in vet bills since they are usually mixed breed. Many purebred dogs are prone to developing health problems such as breathing difficulties and hip dysplasia. Because purebred dogs have a limited gene pool, they are at risk of passing genetic disorders from generation to generation, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

As reported by Oakland Veterinary, beyond the dogs’ health, purebred dogs are most often bred for specific tasks such as hunting, herding, or guarding. Unless the owner has a use for these tasks, the purebred dogs can become problematic over time. 

For example, if someone were to get a German shepard that is bred for guarding and they don’t train them properly, the dogs can become aggressive to anyone who is not their owner. This can eventually lead to someone getting hurt and the dog being punished for doing its job. By contrast, mixed breed dogs are usually easier to train and can adapt better to the owner’s lifestyle. 

Overall, adopting from a shelter or rescue center can save a dog’s life, free up space and resources for other animals, and combat the evils of puppy mills and other unethical breeding operations.


SFHS Students Weigh In

Most Santa Fe High students interviewed about this issue said they were opposed to breeders and puppy mills. 

“I have a bunny, a hedgehog, and also mice,” says Anika Heinonen. “I think it depends on what animals you are getting, but mostly I believe in getting animals from shelters in the case of dogs and cats. But for hedgehogs, for example, I trust breeders more.”

“I have gotten all of my animals from shelters and I would say shelters are better as they are cheaper, and breeders can be abusive towards animals sometimes,”  says Malia Kante. “I think there are also a lot more animals that need homes and some animal shelters are overloaded with pets, so they end up having to put some of them down.” 

“I feel very strongly in opposition to purchasing animals from breeders,” says Ada Zoe Zgela. “The practice of forcibly mating animals to produce the ‘ideal’ child (a practice which far too closely resembles the practice of eugenics) in order to make a profit is not only a disgusting exploitation of other living creatures to entertain one’s own capitalistic fantasy, but it is also shamelessly inhumane.”


(Photos by Rees Schellstede and Esther Lescht)