Are there enough dogs for everyone who wants one?

Millions of people every year open their hearts and homes to rescue dogs to find their new best friend. It’s an act of compassion that is beneficial and fulfilling for both person and pet.

But, a new study shows that adoption is not an option for everyone. In fact, even if shelters were cleared, there are not enough dogs there for everyone who wants one. Findings from a recent study by the Moore Research Group show an annual demand of at least 8.1 million dogs and growing. Yet, according to the latest research from Mississippi State University, there are only 2.6 million dogs available for adoption from shelters every year. That means five-and-a-half million people looking for dogs need to search elsewhere. And, without options for those people, we would simply run out of dogs.

Where to Find Dogs

So, where do you go when you are ready to welcome a four-legged friend with a wet nose and wagging tail into your home? It starts with what you are looking for.

You might be okay with any dog, no matter the size, mix, age, temperament, or location that nuzzles its way into your heart. But, for others, specific needs often require certain canine traits only found in individual breeds. Parents of children with allergies might need a dog bred to be hypo allergenic. Those living in big cities may not have enough space for a dog with high exercise needs. Families with small children may need a dog with patience and playfulness. Some people seek a dog for home or personal protection. Having a range of options increases the chances that you will find the perfect match and increases the likelihood that a dog won’t end up in a shelter needing rescue because of a poor match.

Snap Up Rescues!

Adoption is a wonderful option that comes with the benefit of giving a homeless animal a second chance. But, this new research from Mississippi State University also shows that thanks to the good work of animal shelters and rescue organizations more lives are being saved and fewer dogs are homeless in shelters. When looking to adopt, there are several different possibilities to choose from including shelters, rescues and animal control facilities. Before you adopt, ask what is known about the dog, including its age, breed, temperament and health- has it been seen by a vet, is it spayed or neutered and microchipped? Spend some time with the dog, introduce it to other family members to see how it interacts. And, finally make sure you fully understand the organization’s policies and procedures so you have peace of mind should the adoption not work out as hoped.

Buy From a Good Breeder

If you are looking for specific traits in your canine companion, getting a dog directly from a breeder gives you a great opportunity to learn about your new pup from an expert. But, be prepared to wait as sometimes a breeder might not have puppies ready just yet as they should be at least 8 weeks old. If you can, visit the facility in person to check it out or have someone else go on your behalf. If not, ask for references and get information about the puppy’s parents and its health records. And, ask if there’s a guarantee so you can go home feeling prepared and confident about the road ahead! A responsible breeder will not only share that information, they might interview you!

Purchase at a Pet Store

Pet stores can be a great place to get your next pup if you just do a little research. First, the somewhat obvious, does the store look and smell clean and is the staff friendly and knowledgeable? Does the puppy look good from head to tail? Ask the staff where the puppies come from and if the store owners have visited the breeders. Are the breeders USDA licensed or do they participate in any certification programs? Ask about the puppy’s health, has it been seen by a vet? What is its daily exercise and routine care? Has it been socialized with other dogs and people? Do they provide a guarantee on its health?

Find Friends or Family

When someone you know has a litter, news travels fast since everyone loves puppies! But don’t let a puppy’s cuteness skew your judgement. When you talk about the dogs, don’t be shy — ask away! They should give you a good picture on what life will be like with your new pup.

As consumer demand for dogs and puppies continues to grow, having options available for selecting your next pet is essential. The right choice is the first step in establishing that deep and lasting bond with your loyal companion. And, a variety of responsible options ensures that everyone who wants a dog can responsibly get one.

Families Should Have the Right to Choose Where They Get Their Pet

Just like every pet, every family is different and has different needs. Responsible pet ownership begins with finding the perfect pet for each unique set of circumstances. Adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue can be a wonderful thing for both the pet and the new pet owner, but it’s not always possible for everyone. A dog from a breeder can often be the best choice. City-dwellers may not have enough space for a dog with high exercise needs. Families with children may need a dog with patience and playfulness. Allergies and other special needs often require specific canine traits only found in a purpose-bred dog. Having a range of options increases the chances that you will find the perfect match.

The bottom line is that poor pet choice means more poor matches, increasing the likelihood of animals needing to be rescued. By protecting your right to choose the right pet for your family, you can take the first step toward forming a mutually beneficial bond for humans and animals alike.

Puppy Mills are Deplorable and Should Not Be Tolerated

Puppy mills are illegal breeding operations that are inhumane and cruel. Unlike hobby breeders and USDA licensed breeders, puppy mills are illegal. These bad actors operate outside of the law and without regard to the physical and mental health of their dogs. Responsible dog owners and breeders know, understand and obey laws that apply to them and understand that they bear a special responsibility to provide proper care and humane treatment for their canine companions at all times.

Unfortunately, there are some people who use the phrase “Puppy Mill” to refer to all breeders, failing to distinguish between the responsible, law-abiding and caring breeders and the irresponsible, illegal and unscrupulous operators. This confusion actually makes things worse as it unfairly tarnishes good breeders working to provide healthy purpose-bred dogs that best fit our diverse lifestyles.

Pet Sale Bans Have no Impact on Puppy Mills

Some groups have lobbied communities across the country to pass pet sale bans with the mistaken belief that such laws will eliminate puppy mills. They believe that making it illegal to purchase dogs and cats, and even rabbits, guinea pigs and other small animals from pet stores will put unscrupulous breeders out of business. In reality, these bans only make things worse by eliminating the most highly regulated and scrutinized option for purchasing a pet.

Pet stores are required by Federal law to obtain dogs from USDA-licensed sources. Pet stores cannot obtain dogs from large-scale, illegally operated, inhumane sources.  But these Federal laws only apply to pet stores, not to other sellers.

The truth is retail pet store bans actually increase the likelihood that families will obtain a pet from an illegal, unregulated seller and/or acquire a pet that is not an appropriate fit for their lifestyle, making it more likely that the pet will end up in a shelter.

Lack of Enforcement and Uniform Breeding Laws

Pet stores are required by law to obtain animals from USDA-licensed sources. Despite this, 4 out of 5 breeders are currently operating without government oversight. These unlicensed breeders are the ones responsible for inhumane conditions we’re fighting against and they are the ones that need to be stopped.

Unfortunately, inconsistent laws across states and a lack of resources at the federal level are what allow puppy mills to continue operating from the shadows. Only by creating — and enforcing — uniform standards for breeders can we put an end to puppy mills for good.