We’ve all heard the phrase Adopt Don’t Shop. You may have even used the hashtag, #adoptdontshop. But what’s the real meaning behind this campaign? Is it to say you should never buy a puppy from a breeder? Is it really better to adopt a dog than to buy one?

I wanted to know how the Adopt Don’t Shop thing started, so I did some research and found that LCA (Last Chance For Animals) was behind the initial creation of the Adopt Don’t Shop campaign. The idea was to stop pet stores from selling puppy mill puppies.

Puppy Mill Puppies #adoptdontshop

What is a Puppy Mill? #SayNOtoPuppyMills

A puppy mill is a commercially run puppy factory of sorts. Dogs are jam-packed into cages and are in terrible condition. Dogs kept in small disgusting cages, sick, diseased and breed as often as possible with no regard to health or temperament of the dogs and their puppies.

These puppy mill puppies are then shipped off to the pet store as designer dogs at high prices. Buyers do not get to meet the puppy’s parents or ask questions about temperament or health.

I remember walking into our local Animart and they were selling a puppy for $800. Does anyone ever head to a pet store planning on buying a puppy? I don’t think so. The pet stores plan on pulling on your heart strings. And getting a puppy on a whim is never a good idea. A lot of research and planning is involved in choosing the right dog for you and your family.

The True Meaning of #AdoptDontShop

The Adopt Don’t Shop campaign was NOT meant to ban all breeders. It was started to bring awareness to stop puppy mills. To stop the mass production of pure breed puppies and dogs that were being treated as money making machines.

Well-meaning humans looking out for the animal’s welfare are pushing the adopt don’t shop message to the extreme. People are being shamed for wanting to get a dog from a breeder. Is that right? Should all pure-breed dogs be eliminated, for us to adopt only dogs from shelters?

Let’s break this down. If dogs are ancestors of the wolf, then with the help of humans and evolution, we have created dog breeds for a wide array of particular jobs throughout time. Dogs to hunt, dogs to herd cattle, dogs to rescue people, police dogs… the list goes on and on.

Puppy mills started popping up because humans saw the demand for particular dog breeds. So of course, people created puppy mills as a way to make a lot of money. These people don’t care about the dogs, just about the money and selling to uneducated people just wanting a cute puppy.

Rescue Dog Ginger DNA Test
Ginger represents the true meaning of a mutt!

Mixed breed mutts happen because dogs are not spayed/neutered and irresponsible owners let the dog mate and 6-12 more puppies enter the world with no homes to go to and end up in shelters and rescues. This scenario multiplies by hundreds and thousands very quickly.

Does any of this have to do with responsible dog breeders? That would be a big NO! A responsible dog breeder will ensure that they breed only the healthiest and best temperament tested dogs.

Are you responsible to adopt a dog just because the shelters are overcrowded? No. It is the responsibility of dog owners to not let their dogs get pregnant. If we can stop random dogs to breed, the shelters will not be full of dogs without homes.

Does that mean dogs, even from responsible breeders, could never end up in a shelter? No, but much less likely. Pure breed dogs are all about predictability. Knowing that when you get a Labrador Retriever he will have certain characteristics. Or when getting a Mastiff, he will be 120-230 lbs!

Adopting vs Buying a Dog

Adopting a dog is very rewarding to you and the dog you rescued. My husband and I bought our first dog (Symba) from a pet store in 1995 before the adopt don’t shop movement. We’ve since adopted 5 dogs over the years from various situations.

We’ve adopted two dogs from a foster-based rescue (Ginger and JJ), one dog from our trainer (Nala), and two pure breed yellow labs directly from owners surrendering them (Abby and Bear).

You see, adopting can come all different forms. Finding the right situation for you and your family is the most important.

I am not against buying a dog from a reputable breeder. I believe there are circumstances that buying a dog over adopting one is a better choice. Like I said above, pure breed dogs are all about predictability. This is your decision to make, not anyone else’s.

The key to whether you buy or adopt a dog is finding a reputable breeder or rescue to get that dog.

I will most likely adopt all my future dogs. BUT we will be buying our next dog (a border collie) from a reputable breeder.

Why? Because in our situation I think it may be for the best. My pre-teen daughter really has taken a big interest in dog agility over the last several years and wants a sports-driven dog.

We could adopt a border collie from a breed-specific rescue. In fact, we have attempted to adopt a border collie which resulted in a failed adoption. I have contacted three separate border collie rescues, only one replied back… 6 months later!

We have spent the last year researching reputable breeders, learning what goes into temperament and health testing. Talking to our local kennel club and others experienced with the breed. We are finally ready and will be getting a puppy this spring/summer.

I really feel you can be an advocate for rescue dogs and still buy a dog from a breeder. Does that make me a bad person? I don’t think so, but I’m assuming not everyone will agree with me.

Is it Better to Adopt or Buy a Pet?

A rescue or shelter dog can come with some behavior baggage, but so can a puppy mill puppy. There are never any guarantees when it comes to owning a dog.

Mutts and pure breed dogs all have their own issues. One is NOT better than the other.

Do your research and decide what type of dog best fits you. Then find a reputable breeder or rescue. Don’t let your heart lead your decision, because puppy fever is real and rescues will pull at your heart strings. But you don’t want to adopt a dog just because you feel sorry for him. You need to get a dog that matches your experience and energy level.

Also consider you can adopt pure breed dogs if you are looking for more predictability. Just search for breed specific rescues in your area.

Adopt Don’t Shop T-shirts

adoptdontshop hashtag tshirts by RescueDogs101
adoptdontshop tshirts by rescuedogs101


I’m curious, will you continue to use the hashtag on social media? Do you still believe in the #adoptdontshop campaign?

Looking for something different to use? I was inspired after reading What You Should Know About #AdoptDontShop Before You Use It by Big Dog Mom. Here are a few  great alternatives she suggests to use: #SayNOtoPuppyMills #SayNOtoBYB #AdoptOrShop

Please leave a comment below and let’s talk about this. I love to hear everyone’s opinions… I know this is a passionate topic, and you are free to share your thoughts either way. Just please NO bashing. Be nice, we all want the best for our dogs, adopted our purchased from a breeder.

Recommended just for you:

About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

  1. Hi Debi, my first time on your site. Well done. Great article. I love how balanced your view is. I have never used that hashtag and have no plans to. I am not unaware of the issues having been a shelter worker, an Animal Control Officer and a State Humane Officer. I have also had mixed breed rescues in the past.
    You are right about people who choose to buy from a reputable breeder, like myself, are being bullied and put down. I have been to doggie events and people have been just short of openly hostile towards me because I didn’t “adopt” my two girls. Harriet has her own Facebook page and people want to know where “Mommy” (another pet peeve of mine) adopted her from. I’m sure people have left because of my answer. Thank you for being a voice of reason.
    PS I really enjoyed learning nail trimming in Stephanie’s course with you. Bear and his tail was always a hoot.

    1. Thank you Joy! There are so many great reasons to adopt and just as many to buy from a reputable breeder. The decision should be based on each individuals situation. I’m so sorry you’ve experienced being bullied about your dogs, I really feel people just need to be educated and they would understand. I enjoyed taking the Nail Pro course with you also! Bear is a character 🙂

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}