Recently I posted about the new addition to my family, an English bulldog puppy that we have named Gimli. One of my readers, Kelly, emailed me with a great and thoughtful question. I had purchased a pure breed dog, which is fine when using a respectable breeder, but what about the pets who were in shelters and need adoption? I thought this was an important point to bring up, and I want to address it.
I am a huge supporter of shelters. In fact, when people mention that they may be getting a new pet I always direct them towards shelters and rescue organizations first. Even if someone wants a pure breed dog I will let them know that they can find these in shelters and that there are rescue organizations that focus specifically on a given breed. People really should start with a shelter and should seriously consider an adult dog rather than a puppy.
My own journey started in this way. Earlier this year one of my local shelters was fostering an adult female English bulldog. I immediately became interested in her and talked to them more about her. She was overall healthy but was positive for heartworms. Even so I really considered adopting her and was prepared to treat the heartworms as her new owner. We took her home for a few days to see if she would fit with our family, especially our other dogs. Unfortunately it didn't work out as she tried to aggressively bite the other dogs on a few occasions. She was great with people, but not so good with other dogs. I had to call the shelter and let them know that we couldn't keep her.
At that point I was really in the mindset to get a bulldog. I checked PetFinder.com and some bulldog rescue groups, but couldn't find one that really caught my eye. I was looking to have a family pet, not just to rescue a dog out of a hard situation. I wanted a dog that could really mesh with our family.
It was after the shelters didn't pan out that I started looking for a breeder. I found several, talked to them, and decided on one that I thought was being extremely responsible. For example, she only breeds her dogs every other year, only has a few litters each, and once they are retired from breeding she has them spayed and keeps them as family pets. She is the kind of breeder I really love working with.
We have two other dogs besides Gimli. Yvaine is a yellow lab, and yes, she's a purebred. My wife really, really loves yellow labs so we again went to a good quality breeder to find one. Our other dog, Inara, is a lab/husky mix that we got from a local shelter. When we saw her we were looking for another dog to add to our family, and one that would be more for the kids.
Our previous dogs included another purebred yellow lab (who died from cancer at a young age) and a long-haired chihuahua that we adopted from a foster home that couldn't keep him. Out of the five dogs I've owned as an adult, two were rescued and three were from breeders. The only reason we used breeders is that we had very specific desires for a particular breed, coloration, and personality. Otherwise I would only get dogs from shelters.
Why is it so important to adopt pets from shelters? Millions are euthanized every year in the US and these dogs and cats are in desperate need for homes. By looking at a shelter you can find a companion that otherwise might go homeless or die, get one cheaper than through a breeder, and help give a pet a forever home. To give you an idea of the numbers, here is an infographic created by Orvis.com and the Petfinder Foundation.
Personally I will always have one Labrador retriever and hopefully one English bulldog, simply because I love the breeds. Any other dog I own will be from a shelter or rescue group.