‘Adopt don’t shop‘—marketing genius or shaming slogan?

June 1, 2020

Although it has been effective in raising pet adoption rates, one veterinarian thinks this marketing campaign has a dark side. Here is what she proposes instead.

The slogan “adopt don’t shop” was created to bring attention to the many amazing pets available in shelters and rescues across the nation. Although the marketing campaign has been very effective—pet adoptions have continued to rise in recent years—it has also resulted in the shaming and judgment of those who choose to buy from a breeder.

One of the best parts of my job is the new pet visit. Owners present their new family member with pride for the first exam. While performing my exam, I always ask them to share the story of how they found their new addition. This not only helps me plan out any routine preventive care the pet will need, but it allows me to connect with the clients and share in their excitement about their new pet.

'Breeder-bought' guilt

Recently, I’ve noticed the disturbing trend of some new owners speaking in an apologetic tone when they share that they purchased their new pet from a breeder. This admission is often followed by a list of reasons why they chose to get their pet from a breeder rather than a rescue, or stories about rescue fails that eventually sent them looking for something different. As a veterinarian, I believe that what matters most when you chose a new pet is that it is the right pet for your family.

The implication that the only pets worthy of a forever home are those obtained from a shelter or rescue, or as a stray, is misleading. It assumes two inaccurate ideas: (1) that all rescue animals will be put to sleep unless you go out right now and save one, and (2) that all breeders are bad people and by purchasing a puppy from them you are supporting their evil, money-generating puppy mill empire.

Using #adoptdontshop to promote an intolerant behavior toward certain pets is aggravating. The guilt is intended to be placed on well-intentioned new pet owners. The perception that people who purchase a dog from a breeder is selfish or immoral is hurtful to all pets.

A happy medium

I propose a happy medium. My slogans might not be as catchy, but I wish we could say “Pick your next pet responsibly” or “Do your research and find the best pet for you.”

There are responsible breeders in this world. They test for genetic mutations, breed for good behavior and do not have too many litters a year. They often enter contracts with new owners stating they will forever be responsible for the puppies and want them back if it does not work out. Their primary concern is the health and wellbeing of their puppies and kittens. They want the right home and not just any home.

Over and over I have seen the happiness that both rescue and intentionally bred pets have brought to their new owners. All pets need a home. Let’s join together to encourage people seeking a new pet to make the best, most well-informed decision they can for their family. That will be the best solution to keep pets in the home forever, no matter where they come from.