“Adopt don’t shop” is a phrase designed to draw awareness to the plight of the 6.5 million animals that enter shelters each year. Sadly, many of these dogs and cats are euthanized.
When you factor in the mistreatment of animals in puppy mill operations, adopting dogs and cats that need homes is the humane thing to do.
And believe it or not, adopting a pet doesn’t just benefit you and your family family, it is good for the planet.
My poodle rescue story
My mom rescued my first dog: a purebred miniature poodle on his way to the pound. The owner, who purchased the dog from a breeder, wasn’t prepared to train and care for him.
Poodles are incredibly intelligent. The ASPCA’s website states their cleverness can easily lead to poor behaviors. It goes on to say if you feed your poodle table scraps, he’ll expect table scraps and turn his nose up at dog food.
I was 7 years old at the time. I rose early each morning to clean up after him because my dad said if he isn’t properly trained, out he goes. I fell in love with Pierrot, which was the name on his pedigree certificate.
My second dog, also rescued by my mom, came from a local animal shelter. Since I’ve been on my own, I’ve lived with cats. The first two were born in a newspaper production room. (A female cat came into the newspaper office where I worked and had a litter of four kittens.) I took two; the other two and the mom went to loving homes. My current two came from a local kill shelter.
There’s a saying in the rescue community: “Who saved who?” “It’s almost a cliché,” Holly Sizemore, Chief Mission Officer at Best Friends Animal Society, says. “To know that you saved a life while enriching your own life is immensely rewarding.”
Pet adoption is environmentally conscientious
“If you think about pet adoption as an environmentally conscientious choice,” Sizemore says, “think about the re-use message, and I mean that in the most loving way. Animals that have been abandoned or relinquished are already here on the planet and are at-risk of dying. So why would we want to expend resources on breeding animals when we can re-use and preserve the lives of already homeless pets who may be at risk of being killed?”
The number of cats and dogs euthanized in animal shelters all over the country each year is 1.5 million, according to the ASPCA. The statement from the ASPCA goes on to say, “Buying a pet from a breeder adds to the pet overpopulation problem.”
More cats and dogs need homes
In 2020, about 4.26 million cats and dogs entered shelters and adoptions totaled close to 3.9 million. “While that is good news for the majority of the animals who left shelters alive,” Erin Katribe, DVM, MS, and Medical Director at Best Friends Animal Society, says, “it’s still a terrible loss of life for so many companion animals.”
Your pet’s carbon foot (paw) print
In his book, How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything, Mike Berners-Lee discloses annual CO2e (emissions) for cats and dogs are:
- 310kg of CO2e for an average sized cat
- 770kg of CO2e for an average sized dog
- 2,500kg of CO2e for a large dog
Saving lives is good for the planet
The solution to the overpopulation of pets is to adopt, not shop and to spay and neuter your pets. “Spaying and neutering cats and dogs get to the root of the problem and prevents unwanted pets,”Katribe says. “It also reduces the expensive environmental impacts of breeding.”
Spaying and neutering appears to be the best option for the health of pets and the planet. “It’s not just about euthanizing or spaying/neutering animals,” Yvette Berke, Outreach Coordinator at The Little Angels Project, says. “Adding more unwanted pets to the planet impacts production of pet food, costs to rescues to care for the pets, and housing costs at animal shelters.”
Pet food production causes a huge burden on the planet. According to a study in PLOS One, pet food production constitutes about 25 to 30 percent of environmental impacts in terms of the use of land, water, fossil fuel, phosphate, and biocides.
Purebreds need rescuing, too
You might have a favorite breed. My first dog was a miniature poodle. My first cat was a Seal Point Siamese kitten. Both were rescues. (The kitten wandered into my copy editing class at college.)
If you have a preference towards a specific breed, consider adopting through a breed specific rescue. Numerous purebred dog and cat rescues exist. Many work hand in hand with animal shelters. Some animal shelters have lists of breed rescues in their area.
Adopting saves lives and cuts down on carbon dioxide emissions.