Must love dogs.

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 This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. It’s a sensitive subject and one I’m obviously a bit biased on, but nonetheless, one I am passionate about.

I wish I could say they’re in the minority: my friends with their designer dogs, bought from breeders for hundreds of dollars.

Confession: I am guilty of owning a pure-bred puppy. My family and I have bought more than one dog over the years. Unfortunately, that’s just what we did when it was time to get a dog. You go to the local breeder and pick out the cutest darn dog there. Boy were they cute! And great dogs. Incredible dogs. I loved them so much. That’s not the problem – the problem is it was our first instinct to go to a breeder instead of a local shelter. Why is that? Why do I see more and more people choosing to buy  dog instead of rescuing?

I don’t know when it started, long before the Paris Hilton’s started carrying designer dogs in their purses, long before the dog shows. What I do know – is something has to be done. We have to change the overall mindset: That adoption is the best option.

I’m trying to be impartial here – and I know there are valid reasons some people choose the breeder route. I am not discounting those and I do understand:

-Allergies in the household and the need for a hypo-allergenic dog.
-The need for a specific breed for children in the household

And while I do not have a solution for those two excuses, I do have one for the other excuses I hear all too often. Let’s run through  few:

1. “Going to a shelter is so sad! I want to take them all!”

-Yes, it is. It’s heartbreaking.
Many of the dogs in shelters will probably die because there aren’t enough people adopting. They will be put down, long before they are even given the chance to love or be loved.

So, suck it up. Life is hard. Yes, those Sarah McLaughlin commercials are sad. I can’t watch them either. But know that you are changing ONE life, and that’s better than none.

Still can’t stomach a trip to the pound? Check out PetFinder or RescueMe.org! Adorable pictures galore of dogs looking for good homes. They are all rescues – and you can search to fit your needs.

2. “The old college try”
We tried to adopt. We just didn’t connect with any dogs.

I totally get that. You might not want the 75 lb dogs that are in the shelter.

You might want a certain color, size or even a breed. Guess what? Go back another week. Because most likely, the dogs you saw the first time will be gone, either adopted or euthanized. And they will be replaced with a whole new batch, waiting patiently to be loved. If you STILL can’t find what you are looking for – search for breed-specific rescues! One of my friends really wanted a miniature dachshund. Instead of going to a breeder, she searched “dachshund rescues.” There are SO many out there – some pure bred! Puppy mills are busted all the time, and guess what? Those puppy mill dogs people were paying hundreds of dollars for (likely being kept in deplorable conditions) can now be yours for a fraction of the cost.

3. “We want to know where our dogs come from.” Ok, I get that. You worry about potential behavior or health problems.

The solution to this: Do your research. Rescues are usually filled with dedicated people who truly love the animals they take care of, they know the animals and spend a lot of time with them. Tell the rescue your concerns, what you are looking for, and what you don’t want. They will listen. Some will even keep a file on you and make a note to call you if they get a dog they think you might be interested in. Foster dogs are also great options. The dogs that have been kept in a foster home are usually close to (if not already) house broken, and you can talk to their foster parent about them!

Another solution – see answer #2. Go to a breed-specific rescue.

 4. “The dog will have behavioral / health issues if it comes from the shelter.” Yes, this is definitely a possibility, both with shelter pets and pure-bred.

Unfortunately during my time as a reporter I have seen shelters with animals in terrible conditions. If dogs make it out of there alive, yes, they very well could have health issues. I get that some people don’t have the time money resources to care for a sick dog, but if you aren’t prepared for the worst, you shouldn’t have a dog.

Side bar – Dogs are EXPENSIVE – no matter where they come from!

Going to a breeder won’t guarantee your dog’s health. Breeders aren’t always ethically reproducing dogs. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard from people who have spent thousands of dollars on a perfect pooch- only for it to have a terrible health issue (likely from over breeding and inbreeding) and die. Unfortunately breeders like that – see these animals as a piece of property. A pay check. A means to an end. And they will do whatever it takes to make more dogs and make more money. The puppy mill busts I covered never get easier, I see things like over-breeding: Female dogs being bred hundreds of times and having way too many litters. Dogs kept in deplorable conditions. I will never forget a puppy mill bust I covered in Kentucky. The dogs were stacked in tiny 8×10 cages and tacked on top of each other. The dogs up top were luckier than the ones on the bottom – feces dropped onto them. Their hair matted beyond recognition – the breeders didn’t care. As long as they were producing.  And that’s not all – the breeders may clean up the dog before they bring them to you, but all too often they have fleas, ticks and mange. I’ve seen dogs with hair matted so badly they can’t move. They don’t have proper food, water or temperatures. One puppy mill – dogs were given random scraps from family dinners or not fed at all. Dogs are deprived of human attention, kept in crates and rarely given the chance to run or even walk on grass. Can you imagine? I can. I’ve seen it.

Sounds awful, right? It’s not unusual.

Still can’t find one that fits your needs?  I have an idea. Donate to your local shelter to keep one animal alive for a year. You’ll help out that shelter (and animal) tremendously and you’ll get a better understanding of what it takes to keep animals in shelters.

I’m not trying to tell you how to grow your family. That’s not my place. What makes you and your family happy is your business – and I hope I don’t come off as chastising people who have not adopted. I only want to open your eyes to other possibilities. Maybe next time, you’ll consider adoption. Maybe next time you’ll be a part of the solution instead of the problem.

PS – Insist on going to a breeder? Then please insist on seeing where the dogs are kept. If the breeder will not allow you to their facility, that’s a red flag. If they say they’ll meet you at a nearby gas station – another red flag.
If you do get the the facility and the conditions are concerning – call the humane society and report it.

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But let’s end on a happy note – a rescue success story. There are SO many, but personally, my little guy is of course one of my favorites!

Reggie White is the newest addition to the family! Reggie White (named after former defensive end at the University of Tennessee, Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers). We found Reggie through a wonderful website – RescueMe.org. We knew we wanted a puppy and a smaller breed, so we were able to search the site via breed and location! Reggie White and his brothers and sisters were all up for adoption, thankfully after the rescue called Halfway House for Animals saved them.

Reggie’s mother was pregnant with him and his brothers and sisters, but she was on the streets, sick and in need of life-saving surgery. Thankfully someone picked her up and brought her to the Halfway House for Animals in Charlotte, NC. The shelter paid for her surgery and she successfully delivered a whole litter of sweet boys and girls. We saw Reggie’s picture and knew he belonged to us! The organization made the process fun and easy! Since Reggie was in North Carolina, we couldn’t make it down there until late October. The shelter was packed and they needed the space, so instead of waiting on us, they brought Reggie to DC! The shelter uses a service called the Carolina Babies Transport, essentially, a puppy shuttle! A husband and wife created the service to help transport dogs from shelters to their forever homes.

Reggie was delivered to the DC area one early October morning, and we have been in love with him ever since!

I hope you decide to adopt, and I hope your home and hearts are as full as ours!

Thanks for reading.

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