Breeder? Pet Store? Shelter? Rescue Group? “Free to Good Home”?

Ready to get a new dog? Congratulations on your decision to add a loving member to your family and enrich your life! Now it’s time to decide where to get your new best friend. Adopt? Buy? Rescue? In making your decision, there are several important issues to consider:

1. Cost. Buying a purebred puppy directly from a reputable breeder will typically cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Buying from a pet store will cost somewhat less but is still likely to run in the hundreds. A shelter dog can likely be adopted for under $100 but you will then need to pay for the dog’s vetting, which can be expected to cost $200-$500. “Free” dogs offered in the newspaper or the Internet are not free after you finish paying for their required vetting. Adopting from a rescue group will cost a little more up front than getting a dog from a shelter or private individual, but since the dogs are already fully vetted, you will end up paying significantly less in the long run. Compare New Rattitude’s adoption fee for fully vetted dogs ($175 for adult dogs, $225 for puppies under 6 months old) to the typical cost of vetting a new dog:

 Component  Typical Cost 
 Exam/office visit     $ 50 
 Spay/neuter     $120 
 Rabies vaccination     $ 21 
 Distemper/parvo vaccination     $ 21 
 Bordetella vaccination     $ 20 
 Fecal exam     $ 25 
 Worming     $ 18 
 Heartworm test     $ 25 
 Heartworm preventative (1 month)     $  5 
 Flea Preventative (1 month)     $ 11 
 Microchip with insertion/registration    $ 40 
 TOTAL     $356 

2. Health. Health issues aren’t always apparent when acquiring a new dog or puppy. Dogs that have been living in a private home, such as a rescue foster home or a reputable breeder, are far less likely to come down with serious and expensive medical problems after you get them home. Shelters are notorious breeding grounds for viruses and other communicable diseases, and many shelters do not provide any veterinary care. Most dogs sold by pet stores come from puppy mills, which are known to have unsanitary, inhumane conditions, poor feeding practices, and little or no vet care. Puppy mills breed dogs as commodities with no attention to health and genetics, so they are prone to congenital and hereditary conditions as well as diseases. In contrast, New Rattitude’s dogs live as family pets in private foster homes, where they get one-on-one attention for a minimum of two weeks before adoption, giving us a chance to ensure they are healthy.

3. Behavior and Temperament. A cute face or handsome body might attract you to a dog, but the dog’s behavior and temperament are far more important criteria for a great, long-term relationship. That behavior and temperament are very difficult to assess from a short observation period in a shelter or pet store. You have no way of knowing whether or not the dog is housetrained or if it will chew up your furniture, howl when left alone, dig up your garden, or scale your fence. Dogs who seem low-key and compliant could have aggressive tendencies that aren’t revealed until the dog has settled into a comfortable environment. In contrast, dogs who seem bouncy and playful could be reacting to the stress of the surroundings and end up being lethargic and dull once they’re in a stable routine. Adopting a dog from a rescue group enables you to get first-hand observation of the dog’s true nature. New Rattitude’s two-week minimum in foster care ensures that there has been ample opportunity for the foster parent to get to know that dog so that we can accurately describe his or her energy level, housetraining status, habits, noise level, skills, fears, attentiveness, socialization, and manners. Our adoption screening process works hard to ensure that there is a good match between the dog and the adoptive household, and if the particular dog applied for isn’t a good match, the Adoption Coordinator will work with the applicant to suggest another more suitable dog. 

4. Motive. If the people giving away their dog on Craig’s List tell you how well behaved the dog is, can you trust them? Or are they so anxious to get rid of the dog that they’ll mislead you or hold back important information? If a pet store or breeder is selling you a dog, will their profit motive keep them from being completely candid and straightforward? Does a shelter worker, faced with overcrowded conditions, have an inducement to skew the facts in hopes of saving a dog’s life? In all of these circumstances, a touch of skepticism on your part is probably warranted and may help you ask the right questions and not rely too heavily on information that might not be accurate. A rescue group with a careful screening process is generally a more objective source. Because their primary goal is to find a great permanent match for the dog’s individual characteristics, it benefits them to be completely frank and accurate in their description of the dog. New Rattitude’s adoption application process encourages the applicant and foster parent to enter a detailed dialog about the dog before the adoption decision is finalized.

5. Over Population. Each year, 5 to 7 million dogs and cats enter shelters in the U.S. waiting to be reclaimed, adopted, rescued… or euthanized. On average, a dog or cat is sent to a shelter every 8 seconds! Only 15-20% of shelter dogs are reclaimed by their owners. Sixty percent of the dogs in shelters are euthanized simply because there is not enough space or resources to care for them all. More than 25% of shelter dogs are purebred. The National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy found that the #1 reason dogs are relinquished to shelters is because their owners were moving. The #2 reason is landlord issues. Buying a dog from a pet store or breeder provides financial incentive for them to continue adding new dogs to the population month after month, while wonderful healthy dogs are euthanized simply because there aren’t enough homes for them.