These days, the hot slogan, “adopt don’t shop,” is on every Facebook page and bumper sticker. The catchphrase urges you to adopt your new dog from a shelter rather than picking your new best friend from a breeder. However, there is a line between puppy mills and responsible breeders. It may shock you to learn that there are a plethora of reputable breeders out there who care deeply about their breed and their dogs and are actually wonderful sources for your new pup. 

As college students, we are entering a time in our lives when we may want to take on the responsibility of owning a pet. The source of our dogs is a deeply personal choice. Whether you decide to adopt or buy from a breeder, anyone looking for a dog should be educated on their decision and never shamed for it. 

Good breeders are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about their breed. They will put dogs through numerous health screenings and are not just out to make money. Instead, they will vet prospective buyers and make sure their dogs are going to a good, responsible home. Breeders want buyers to find peace of mind in the process. 

Beyond this comfort, many people use breeders when looking for a trained working dog or a particular breed that is close to their heart. Some also choose to use breeders because buying a new puppy gives owners full knowledge of the dog’s training, socialization and health record. 

Of course, those who are proudly anti-breeder have a number of reasons for their opinion. By adopting a shelter dog, you open up a spot for another dog in need. If your heart is set on a certain breed, there are rescues that cater to specific breeds and many shelters will work to find a dog suited to your family’s lifestyle. 

Adopting a dog is also cheaper than sourcing from a breeder. As adoption rates typically range from $0 to $250, and breeders average $400 to $2,000 depending on the dog’s lineage, health, and breed. Plus, if you don’t have the time or energy to raise a puppy from “scratch,” shelters are chock-full of middle-aged dogs (two to six years) that have likely already been trained. Adopting a senior dog is also a good choice, as dogs seven years old and older offer a more mellow companionship for a shorter period of time. Adopting a dog is a great choice, whether you don’t have your heart set on a particular type of dog, have a soft spot for mutts or just want to help a local animal in need. 

If we bridge the harsh divide between adopters and shoppers, both shelters and breeders could benefit dramatically. Rescue groups and shelters depend on competent breeders, as they provide an excellent breed-specific knowledge base. Dog breeder and rescue group owner Tegan Whalan has spoken about the discrimination against breeders. “Many breeders really like dogs, including rescue dogs, and want to help them. If rescues do not communicate in an effective and pleasant (or at least civil) way with breeders, they may be ‘burning bridges’ when it comes to the help that breeders can provide.” Breeders also have waitlists for their dogs and stay in contact with local shelters so they can refer new buyers to a shelter when a similar breed is surrendered.  In return, shelters can track down the recognized breeder of newly surrendered or found dogs, and any good breeder will happily take back their dog. The tension between adopters and shoppers is intense, but any defusion of the rigidity between the two could help all dogs.

Whether you decide to adopt or shop, understand that there are dog owners who want a purebred puppy, but also want to put a stop to puppy-mills. In fact, you should “shop” for the right shelter or breeder. If you do decide to bring home a new dog, the Gallatin Valley is home to many options. Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter has local Bozeman pets looking for new homes, as does Stafford Animal Shelter in Livingston. If you’re looking for a particular breed, the AKC Marketplace lists numerous reputable breeders nearby. However you decide to acquire your new best friend, make sure you do your research and meet the dog. Most importantly, make sure you’re ready for a long-term commitment to your furry friend.

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