Companion animals should be considered members of our family, so it makes sense to call it “adoption” when you bring one into your home. But what does “adoption” mean, exactly? It means saving one of the more than 6 million cats and dogs or countless other animals who enter U.S. animal shelters every single year. And it means never buying dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, birds, guinea pigs, mice, or any other living being from a pet store or breeder.  

animals in shelters

© Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals 

What’s the difference between a pet store and an animal shelter?

Pet stores sell animals for profit.💰Most animals sold in pet stores were bred in large-scale breeding mills, where they were crammed into tiny, filthy cages or bins. These mills mass-produce animals as if they were products and often ignore their basic needs. Many are shipped to pet stores inside cramped containers and arrive malnourished, sick, or injured. Dead or dying animals are considered part of the cost of doing business.

Suppliers often ship animals to pet stores in cramped containers like these.

While pet stores’ goal is to make money, animal shelters’ goal is to save lives and prevent suffering. Shelters take in unwanted, stray, or abandoned animals and provide them with veterinary care, food, water, and shelter and find them loving homes.💓Animal shelters also carefully screen potential adopters (unlike pet stores and breeders), making sure that the animals are going to a safe home and to someone who can care for them properly.

I feel bad for animals in pet stores. Can I save them by buying them?

You should never buy animals from pet stores or breeders. When you buy an animal, you’re supporting cruel breeding mills, and another animal will be bred to replace him or her. It’s a never-ending cycle of misery.💔 Every dollar spent at stores that sell animals contributes to more animals’ suffering.

pet store supplier, pet store cruelty

Animals at pet store suppliers are often denied veterinary care. If you buy from pet stores, you’re contributing to their suffering.

Animal shelters charge adoption fees. Isn’t that the same as buying an animal?

Shelter adoption fees cover the cost of food, medicine, spay/neuter surgery, vaccinations, microchipping, and other important things that your new companion needs. In other words, your money is going to help animals.👍 When you give your money to pet stores or breeders, they use it to breed and abuse more animals. Which would you rather support?  

Are some breeders and pet stores worse than others?

There’s no such thing as a “responsible” breeder. People who breed and sell animals are adding to the overpopulation problem, and you shouldn’t support them. When more animals are brought into the world, they take homes away from animals who are waiting in shelters. Any type of animal you’re looking for—dogs and cats of all ages and breeds and even mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, and reptiles—can be found at animal shelters, just waiting to be adopted.🐢🐇🐁


Do I have to go to a shelter to adopt an animal?

Not necessarily. Often, shelters will take adoptable animals to off-site adoption events and locations to get more exposure. If it makes you sad to see all the homeless animals at the shelter, remember that it makes them happy to see and interact with people—so you should consider visiting or volunteering. Check with the staff at your local animal shelter for details.

How to help animals:

If you’re ready for the commitment of bringing an animal into your family, make sure you’re adopting from a shelter and NOT buying from a pet store. Want to support your local open-admission shelter and all the lifesaving work that it does but aren’t ready to adopt? Host a fundraising drive at your school, volunteer to walk dogs and play with cats at the shelter, or just spread the word and tell others why they should adopt, and never buy, animals.