“Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened” – Anatole France
It is no secret that the Angry Hypocrites are animal lovers. 9 years ago we were looking for an apartment to rent together in Los Angeles. During our search, we walked down Wilshire Blvd. and passed a pet store. We meandered in to kill some time before we went to the next apartment viewing.
Once inside, we unexpectedly fell in love with a bunny and made the uncharacteristically impulsive decision to buy her. We loved our rabbit and ended up rescuing two more. It wasn’t until a year later we stumbled upon an article detailing the cruel conditions of puppy mills, rabbit farms, and rodent breeding for pet stores. I will spare the details for the sake of our readers, but it was enough for us to swear off purchasing a pet from a pet store. Unless more cities like San Francisco move to sell rescue animals only, we are happy to adopt our animals from local shelters.
This is not to say that pet stores are somehow inherently evil or that we were not happy that we bought our rabbit. Several major pet store chains donate to local animal shelters and encourage their patrons to do the same. Our purpose is not to necessarily bash pet stores, but speak to the merits of adopting animals from shelters and rescues.
Animal shelters, more often than not, are a dismal, concrete-laden, chain-link limbo for animals. Shelters are not typically at the top of funding lists for communities, though there are some that have excellent conditions due to generous donations. The life options for shelter animals are unfortunately limited [and obvious]. Every community with an animal shelter has dozens or more animals in need of loving homes.
In 2015, we adopted a one-year-old Queensland Heeler/Border Collie mix from our local SPCA. He was a stray who had been found wandering the streets and dropped off at the SPCA. It was a decision that has brought us countless hours of entertainment, companionship, and has ultimately made us more active individuals.
I hear on a regular basis the fear of adopting from a shelter due to potential baggage an animal may or may not carry from its pre-shelter life. Our pup definitely carried his fair share of doggy baggage, but we spent time training him and correcting his behavior, something that most animals, whether from a pet store or not, require. The risk of puppy baggage was less of a concern in our endeavor to rescue an animal life from the situation that was in no part a fault of his own.
When we went to look for a dog, we were also looking for a running partner. Our dog is the most energetic dog we have ever seen. His boundless and unequivocal love for running requires us to wake early, hit the pavement before most have hit their snooze button for a second time, and start our day with an athletic accomplishment.
We also spend time together on the weekends with our dog, going on long walks across neighborhood trails and picking up trash along the way (Check out our post on picking up litter). Walking and playing with the dog gets us out of the house and spending time together.
Another common excuse for buying an expensive dog from a pet store or a breeder is that people want a very specific type of dog. We totally get that. We like German Shepherds, Huskies, Queenslands, Aussies, and a million others. If you had a Beagle growing up and you will only own purebred Beagles for the rest of your life, you can adopt from a Beagle rescue. There are dog, cat, rabbit, bird, etc. rescues specializing in nearly every type of breed. Rescues are typically funded through donations and usually only charge a small adoption fee to cover the cost of shots, immunizations, and spay/neuter. This is a great opportunity for anyone looking to rescue a pure breed without paying the exorbitant costs of a breeder. You can adopt the type of dog you want for a fraction of the cost. It may require some patience to find the right dog for you, but at the end of the day, what is your rush?
Choosing an Appropriate Pet
It is also important to do your due diligence on the type of pet or breed of animal you want. People who are not prepared for the personality of the animal they are bringing into their home are far more likely to give the animal up for adoption down the road. Rabbits, for instance, are substantially more work than most would expect. They are often given as gifts for children on Easter and are quickly sent to shelters or worse after they quickly lose their novelty. They dig carpet, chew extension cords, chew walls, poop and pee everywhere, and sometimes throw late night tantrums that last for hours. They are also incredibly intelligent, loving, and sweet animals that make for wonderful pets, if you are willing to take the good with the bad for the next 10 years.
Certain dog breeds can also be particularly challenging. Queensland Heelers and Border Collies are often adopted because they are ridiculously cute as puppies and as adults appear to be the perfect size for a small house. I cannot stress enough the amount of energy these dogs possess. Both are bred for countless hours of herding. They are smart and they will find a way to outsmart you. Lastly, they have the intensity of a thousand suns and the high-pitched bark of a Celtic banshee. I have taken our Queensland/Border Collie mix on a six mile run only to have him come home and immediately bring me his ball. He works for us and our lifestyle, but he requires a lot of time and attention. Do your research on the dog breed you think you want.
Domesticated animals including dogs, cats, rabbits, rodents, horses, birds, and others have literally nothing but love to give. Yes many will require a great degree of work to socialize a shelter companion or train a rescued purebred, but so do pet store animals. No matter where you find your next animal companion, they will require a significant amount of your time. They are your responsibility and they will rely on you for more than you expect.
At the very least we implore you to postpone any potential impulse pet purchases. If you walk into a pet store and see an animal that you have to have, go home and check your local animal shelter’s website for available pets. You may find the perfect pet for you and your family. And most importantly, you will save a life.