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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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Shaka S

Monday 11th of December 2023

Upon reading your other comments and your arguments for buying vs adopting, it’s clear that you think dogs are here to serve us with their specific skills so you pick a breed, you pay money, and you buy them. Not all of them are true to the traits of the breed tho. You said that if you didn’t buy that breed, you’d not adopt form a shelter. Then don’t get a dog. You paid the breeder adding to demand for more supply. Breeders breed because there is demand. And your puppy was not the only puppy and it won’t be the last. You helped create demand for the breeding business. That’s more perennial dogs who will end up in an helper anyway. And not all shelter dogs have special needs. I have 4 shelter dogs who came with just as many challenges as any new addition to the family. You’re helping add more dogs into a world where we’re already not able to house the dogs that exist so we are killing them. And advocating for buying and minimising the impact it has on the dog population and the shelter system, adds more to the problem. Spend some time volunteering in a few different shelters and rescues if you really want to understand the gravity of the situation and why people get so angry with breeders and buyers. If you don’t care, then that’s a different story. You’ll continue spreading the “it’s okay wit buy” narrative. If you simply wanted a designer dog to do specific tasks and you don’t care about the impact of adding to the demand or the increasing number of homeless dogs, then thats understandable. That designer dog might not also turn out to be completely different form the given traits to their breed. Dogs are individuals with personalities and they don’t always confine to the breed. These dogs usually get surrendered into shelters because it’s not what people expected. This happens very often! If buying is a great experience for YOU, it works for YOU and the impact on the dog population, shelters, and rescues doesn’t matter to you. That’s fair. You don't have to care about other dogs, just don’t pretend by making it seem like buying has no impact on the ongoing pet crisis. I hope you change your heart at some point. I only had pure bread dogs that I bought from AKC breeders until I started volunteering and fostering. I was shocked at what I had contributed to only after seeing the impact dirt hand. So I get your POV but I hope you change it over time.

Shaka S

Monday 11th of December 2023

Buying a dog is great too?! When there are millions of dogs waiting for homes in shelters, you think breeding and buying is great too?! Walking into a shelter is heartbreaking because of the overwhelming number of dogs and cats just stuck in cages for years while people go to breeders for “pure bread dogs” for the “great” feeling of buying a new puppy. And to know that there are people out there saying ‘buy form a responsible breeder, buying is great too’ is just so irresponsible. Putting a prise tag on dogs, and buying and selling them for profit like they are not living beings is so awful. People who buy “responsibly” also surrender Dog’s to shelters, abandon, then and resell them like a used car. This adds more to the shelters. I hope you spend more time working with rescues where the incoming number of animals is so high that we are barely able to make room for the homeless animals. There might be no kills shelters in some places but there are an abundant of kill shelters. Even if there weren’t any, how is it okay to breed and buy while shelter animals sit in small enclosures without home and love and a life?! Responsible, certified breeders with awards, are all mostly for profit. Once the dogs are beyond puppy baring age, they either try to sell them or come rescues and shelters to surrender them. A LOT of “responsible” breeders do that. Please stop this narrative while there are still animals in shelters waiting on a home. There is no excuse for breeding while shelter animales die on a daily basis.

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.