Op-ed: #AdoptDontShop to save animals’ lives

My dog, Marty, the day we rescued her (top) and then two months after bringing her into my family (bottom). Shelters wouldn’t take her in since she was in bad health and close to death — however, my family and I brought her in.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter shelters nationwide every year.

It’s a cringe-worthy statistic, but is also illuminating, as it allows insight into the direct effects of being an irresponsible pet owner.

Overpopulated shelters often lead to high rates of euthanization. In fact, more cats are euthanized than adopted annually. Out of all the dogs that enter shelters, according to the ASPCA, 31 percent must be put down, usually due to a lack of space and ability to care for them. With numbers as high as that, one would think that dog breeding would be put to an end so that every pet who is in need of a home would find a family. But unfortunately, that is not the case, as 28 percent of dogs are obtained through a breeder.

With so many people still unwilling to open their hearts up to an animal in need, it’s more important now than ever to #adoptdontshop, as the popular hashtag suggests.

Something just as important as boycotting animal breeding is getting your pet spayed or neutered. With so many homeless animals already in need of forever homes, there is no reason to have your pet reproduce. If you give your pet’s babies to a friend or, even worse, sell them, it takes away the opportunity for them to adopt an in-need shelter animal.

The ASPCA and the Humane Society both offer sterilization procedures at low costs, in addition to services offered by local veterinarians.  When these precautions are taken, it increases the chances of shelter pets being placed in homes, therefore lowering the amount of euthanizations and overpopulation in shelters.

Some believe that they shouldn’t adopt shelter pets because of the possibility that the animals will be closed off emotionally due to the trauma of being abandoned, but that is the very reason you should be adopting rather than shopping.

So many of the animals in shelters are traumatized, maybe because they were abused, close to death or just terrified from living alone on the streets. But being shown human compassion is a huge factor of the rehabilitation process.

Animal lives are often not valued as much as human lives, so when they are respected and shown love, it affects them in a very positive way. Although it may take time to gain the animal’s trust, you will later find that a shelter pet can give more love than imaginable because since they’ve been exposed to cruelty, they will be eternally grateful to be shown compassion.

Prior to adopting my rabbit, she was in an abusive situation, in which she was being kept with over 100 other rabbits by hoarders. She had both physical and emotional damage because of it, which caused her to fear human interaction. However, after a few months of being together and treating her with compassion, she started to act just as lovingly towards me. Now, after being with each other for two years, I’ve fully gained her trust and her trauma has subsided.

I also recently rescued a pitbull, who was emaciated and had a body-wide yeast infection when she came into our family. With lots of patience, medical care and affection, she is now at the proper weight, her skin is back to normal and she has adapted to her new home after years of being on the streets.

Although a percentage of animals up for adoption are somewhat emotionally fragile, many end up in shelters because of reasons as innocent as their owner passing away. Shelter animals come from a variety of backgrounds, but their differences and experiences should not deter you from forming a relationship and saving a life.

According to the Humane Society’s statistics on the different way, pets are acquired, adoption rates are at an all-time high. Bringing awareness to this cause inspires more people to adopt, which then lessens the demand for animal breeding.

If you plan on expanding your family by bringing in a new pet, please make sure to adopt rather than shop, because every living being deserves a chance at a better life.