Rescue or Buy?

I won’t ever buy a dog, but rescuing is too often too difficult for some.


Some months ago, I received a note from a subscriber that was titled, “Why I’m buying my next dog at the mall.” At first, I thought it was a joke. Then I read the rest and realized that the writer was perfectly serious. He described what had happened when he, as a first-time dog owner in his 40s, decided to get a dog.

Nancy Kerns


He researched dogs in general, went to dog shows, spoke to lots of people, did online research, and decided on a breed that he admired. Though a novice dog owner, he determined that the “right” thing to do was to look in shelters and breed rescues to find a dog of the breed of his choice. 

Next he wrote to the contact person for a breed rescue in his part of his state. He was given an application to fill out and return; he says “it was several pages long and asked for information I don’t usually give to strangers, but what the hell. It’s been years and I’ve never heard back. Presumably, I wasn’t selected.”

In the meantime, a coworker recommended a shelter. He found a dog there that he bonded with, filled out an application, and was interviewed.

To make a long story short, it developed that the dog had some medical problems. The shelter offered to have the dog seen by the veterinarian who had performed what seemed to the owner as a botched spay surgery, he declined, and took his new dog to another vet. About $1,000 later, she was better, and today the guy is totally in love with the dog.

Here’s the part that kills me. “Since then, I found a puppy store at the (name redacted) Mall. I am certain that anyone who visits this pet store, inspects the dogs, talks to the employees, and compares the cleanliness and vibe to a breeder or shelter, will easily understand why I am buying my next dog at the mall. And the price is half what my shelter dog cost me. I know pet stores that sell puppies are considered to be the scum of the universe, but my experience suggests reality is more complex.”

We ended up having quite a lengthy email exchange. I congratulated him for adopting from a shelter. I deplored the fact that he never heard back from the rescue, but explained that volunteers in rescue are frequently exhausted, and that perhaps more persistence would have achieved a better result – although, maybe not. As a novice owner and new to the breed, he may not have sounded like a great candidate for adoption; to some breeders, he may not have even sounded like a good buyer. I also told him that while it may well be easier to buy a puppy mill puppy from a pet store, if no one bought them, the mills wouldn’t exist, and if the puppy mills didn’t exist, there would be far fewer dogs in shelters and rescues.

I’ve seen rescue groups and shelters who, in an effort to find the best possible homes for dogs, make the adoption process quite difficult. Do they realize that this may drive some people to pet stores and quick-buck breeders? And on the other hand, why do so many people have the expectation that they should be able to get a  dog the moment they want one?