by Much Love Volunteer Lisa Klink
Potential pet owners have long wrestled with the choice: adopt from a shelter or get a purebred dog or cat? The fact is, it’s a false dilemma. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates that twenty-five percent of the animals currently in shelters are purebreds. That’s right: twenty-five percent. The odds are even higher for large dog breeds like German Shepherds or Labrador retrievers, and for breeds classified as “pit bulls,” like American Staffordshire terriers.
So how do all these purebreds end up in shelters? What’s wrong with them? In most cases, nothing at all. The majority of owner turn-ins are the result of problems with the owner rather than the animal. Some owners simply don’t know what they’re getting into. They buy a Siamese kitten because it’s cute, or an adorable Chihuahua to carry around in a purse, then become overwhelmed by the demands of pet care, training and vet bills. Some discover that they’re allergic to their pets only after buying them. Other people face life upheavals such as foreclosure, relocation or divorce and no longer have the means to properly care for their pet. Some owners are unwilling or unable to care for a pet who has become sick. Even in cases when the owner cites “behavioral issues” as a reason for giving up a dog or cat, the real problem is often a lack of commitment to proper training.
Another source of purebreds in shelters are the breeders and puppy mills who sell them. The downturn in the economy has hit them as well. Reputable breeders will keep animals until they find homes, but less-responsible puppy and kitten factories will often dump the “product” they can’t sell at the local shelter. Unfortunately, a pedigree won’t save unwanted purebreds from ending up on death row along with their mixed-breed companions.
Some breeders dispute the twenty-five percent figure from the HSUS. They argue that without knowing an animal’s heritage, it’s impossible to classify him or her as a “purebred.” It’s true that most dogs and cats arrive at the shelter without papers to certify their bloodlines. Shelter workers must use their knowledge of various breeds to judge whether a particular cat seems to be a “Himalayan” or a “Himalayan mix.” Fortunately, a pure bloodline is only crucial for breeding or showing an animal. A potential owner is more likely to seek a purebred pet for the sake of its appearance, temperament and other qualities typically associated with that breed. The same is true for breed-specific rescue groups, who will pull a dog if he seems “Labby” enough, regardless of the purity of his DNA.
There’s no reason to feel guilty about wanting a purebred pet – and no need to go to a breeder to get one. If the local shelter seems overwhelming, a breed-specific rescue group will be happy to match you with the dog or cat of your dreams. To find them, check petfinder.com, or contact Much Love at firstname.lastname@example.org.