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Why I Don’t Use the Phrase ‘Adopt Don’t Shop’

I personally don’t use the phrase “Adopt, Don’t Shop” even though of course I support dog adoption.

The saying Adopt Don’t Shop is used to promote dog adoptions vs. buying a puppy from a pet shop (puppy mill) or breeder. You’ll see the phrase on t-shirts, bumper stickers and as a hashtag. #AdoptDontShop

The reason I don’t use the phrase Adopt Don’t Shop is because it’s OK for a dog lover to responsibly get a dog from a breeder OR from a shelter.

Adopting a dog is wonderful!

But buying a puppy is wonderful too!

It’s also extremely important for good breeders and good rescue groups to work together, supporting each other.

Rescue groups need good breeders.

Why adopt don’t shop is wrong

The Adopt Don’t Shop phrase is wrong because you SHOULD “shop” for the right breeder or the right rescue group or the right shelter.

It’s important to “shop around” and do your research in order to get the dog or puppy that is right for your family.

I understand where people are coming from when they use the phrase. Usually they mean well.

It’s good to promote dog adoptions and “Adopt Don’t Shop” is a catchy phrase – especially if you’re standing outside a pet shop protesting puppy mills.

“Adopt, don’t shop!”

I’d even say it makes sense to use the phrase “Adopt Don’t Shop” in that exact scenario, if you’re protesting a puppy mill or pet shop.

I get it. We can all agree that puppy mills are terrible.

The problem is when people use the phrase Adopt Don’t Shop to represent ALL breeders.

Good breeders should not be lumped together with puppy mills.

Adopt Don’t Shop controversy

The phrase Adopt Don’t Shop could potentially alienate a huge percentage of dog owners who have happily purchased their dogs.

These are dog owners who might like to help your rescue or shelter because they love the breed or they love dogs in general.

They are dog lovers who don’t feel guilty about buying a purebred puppy but they also want to help shelter dogs! You can do both, and many of us do! (Such as myself!)

I bought a weimaraner puppy, for example, but I also support my local weimaraner rescue group. In my home, we also have an adopted Lab mix and two adopted cats.

Many families have both “rescued” pets in their home as well as pets from breeders.

Why I don’t use the hashtag #adoptdontshop

The problem is when people use the phrase – Adopt Don’t Shop – to include ALL breeders, not just irresponsible breeders or puppy mills.

Some people take the phrase literally.

But buying a puppy from a breeder is not a bad thing.

For me, it was a very positive experience, and I would do it again.

We can support good breeders and good shelters at the same time

Sometimes rescue volunteers forget that a large percentage of dog owners are proud of buying their dogs from breeders but would ALSO love to support true no-kill shelters.

It’s possible to support both responsible breeders and responsible rescues!

Maybe they’d like to volunteer, foster, donate, attend a fundraiser – or even adopt their next dog! 

They need to feel welcomed in order to do so! Not alienated because of where they got their previous dog.

You could argue, “Who cares! It’s about helping the dogs! I don’t have time to worry about a ‘Greeder’s’ hurt feelings.”

Two good boys Remy and Ace

But this isn’t helpful.

We need good dog owners to open their homes for dogs in need when it’s a good fit.

Do you think this phrase “Adopt, don’t shop” actually helps more dogs get adopted?

I think in some ways it has because it’s added to the social pressure to adopt a dog vs. buy a dog. There is a very high demand for “rescued” dogs right now. Some shelters in the Midwest and northern United States have very few dogs in their shelters right now, which is a good thing.

But on the other hand … the slogan perhaps harms dogs by turning away a large percentage of good dog owners who are interested in adopting but feel ashamed when they hear “Adopt! Don’t Shop!” because they have a lovely dog from a breeder at home.

Or, another phrase they might hear is, “Don’t buy when shelter pets die!”

I’m going to end with a quote from my friend Tegan Whalan who does it all.

She is a blogger, dog breeder, dog trainer AND runs a small rescue group!

I repeat, she is a breeder AND runs a rescue group!

She said:

“If rescues ostracize and discriminate against breeders, they are losing a valuable resource. Many breeders really like dogs, including rescue dogs, and want to help them.

This help can be finances, kennel space, networking or knowledge. If rescues do not communicate in an effective and pleasant – or at least civil – way with breeders, they may be ‘burning bridges’ when it comes to the help that breeders can provide.”

Read the full interview here: How breeders and rescues can work together.

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Jay Robert

Thursday 2nd of March 2023

All breeders need to be state licensed and a $100.00 tax needs to be imposed per dog sale to help alleviate the impact of over breeding, and to support shelters and rescue groups. Don’t shop, ADOPT .


Wednesday 26th of October 2022

I think you don’t really get the point. If you continue to buy animals (cats too for example) then you basically takes another homeless animals place. We have soo many homeless dogs and cats. So the only right thing to do FOR the animals is to adopt. People don’t need to breed dogs and cats. They do it only for themselves and their interest. Not for the animals. Adopting animals is to HELP the animals and take responsibility for the problem that the humanity caused.


Sunday 16th of May 2021

I totally agree with you. I am all for adopting and think it's a great idea. Many of my dogs have been rescues. But I have also been a breeder and showed dogs. If we don't support reputable breeders who care about improving the breed, all that's left will be backyard breeders and puppy mills who care nothing about breeding ethics.


Thursday 18th of March 2021

I know people who've purchased their dogs and others who rescued them. I will never shame anyone for their choices, but if this phrase encourages someone who wants to get a dog to prioritize searching in a shelter/rescue, then I will definitely keep using it. After all, a lot of time people say that they are for buying a puppy from a specific breed for a specific purpose (a job, for instance) and I can respect that... but if you just want a pet, why would you need a particular (and expensive!) breed just to lie down for most of the day? Why wouldn't you try a shelter first, and ask for a specific DOG (not "breed") that matches your lifestyle? Some of them have been waiting for years. And no, not all of them are "special needs".

Lindsay Stordahl

Friday 19th of March 2021

Some areas don't have a lot of rescue/shelter dogs, which is great! That's the case for us in Montana. Sometimes our local shelter will have only 2 dogs for adoption and they get adopted fast! Yes, we can travel out of our area to adopt a dog, but often that is challenging with their different adoption requirements, home visits, etc. Just adding that perspective. If someone wants to adopt a dog, there are always ways, however. It's just not as easy in some areas as people think.


Sunday 14th of March 2021

I agree 100%. I have purchased a few purebred cats, but mostly I have adopted as rescues. It is my choice, I should not be forced to ONLY adopt because of so many people's bad decisions not to neuter/spay. Shaming people for purchasing a pet of their choice is wrong.