Once you’ve decided to get a pet (no matter what species), the biggest question you need to ask is whether you’re going to buy or adopt. Almost anyone involved in animal welfare, behaviour and training will tell you that adopting is by far the better option, but is it really right for you? We look the differences between buying and adopting pets, including the pros and cons of each, so that you can make an informed decision. We’re going to approach it in two parts, starting with buying.
There are two options when it comes to buying pets:
- From a pet store
- From a breeder
You don’t want to take the first option. Most often, the animals sold in pet stores come from dubious suppliers, like puppy and kitten mills (where the cruelty is extreme), irresponsible backyard breeders or irresponsible pet owners who can’t be bothered to sterilise their dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, etc. When you buy from a pet store, you endorse these unethical practices.
If you’re going to buy a dog you should only do so from a reputable breeder. But how do you know if a breeder really is reputable, after all, some people talk a great talk?
The American Humane Society has some excellent information on how to find breeders who have their animals’ best interests and not profit at heart. Good breeders are registered and advertise in credible animal magazines and with local kennel clubs or registered breed-specific organisations. They might also advertise on online classified sites, but if the breeder is prepared to let you have a puppy or kitten without meeting you or inviting you to see their premises then the chances are good that they’re iffy.
Good breeders want to meet and vet the people who will be taking their babies home; they’re also not afraid to have you come over to look over their premises so you can see how the animals are kept and treated and you can meet the parents. This is highly recommended, even if it involves something of a trek.
What to look for when you visit a breeder
Take a look at where the babies and their moms are kept. Is it clean, is there enough space for all the animals to stretch their legs and play, do they have access to proper shelter, where do they sleep, where do they spend the day, what’s the state of the bedding, does it smell clean, do they look relaxed and happy or are their ears tucked back, their tails between their legs and do they squirm when you come near them?
You also need to be able to see the parents, preferably both. Seeing the parents will give you a good idea of how big your puppy or kitten will grow and will even give you an indication of temperament and health.
How many animals are on the property? If there are several breeding females with plenty of litters at the same time and more than one breed you’re probably looking at a puppy or kitten mill. Good breeders only work with one breed and usually only have one or two litters at a time so that the babies get plenty of attention and social interaction without being overwhelmed by the environment.
How old will the puppy or kitten be when you get her and will she be fully vaccinated? Responsible breeders don’t let puppies or kittens go before they are eight weeks old and some even keep them until they are 12 weeks old – especially pedigree kittens. Remember, however, that the longer the breeder keeps puppies the greater their responsibility regarding socialisation. So you need to know what the puppies will be exposed to, will they get off property, will there be basic training, how many people will the puppy meet and will the puppy meet different animal species? The wider the experiences the better socialised your new puppy will be.
Kittens also need socialisation so that they are more tolerant of handling and less fearful of new stimuli, like other animals in the house and children.
Puppies and kittens should have at least their first vaccinations and deworming treatment before you take them home – with their veterinary card or health certificate.
What happens if things don’t work out? Responsible breeders usually insist that if, for whatever reason, you can no longer keep the dog or cat, you bring them back to their original home. You won’t get your money back, but you won’t have to take the poor thing to a shelter either.
Pros of buying
- You can be sure of your new pet’s pedigree, so you can show it if you want to.
- You can be reasonably sure of temperament and health characteristics based on breed tendencies.
Cons of buying
- It’s very expensive to buy a pedigree breed.
- Using breed to gauge temperament is not always reliable – each dog, cat, rabbit is an individual.
- Some health problems are genetic and more common in some breeds than others.
- Reputable breeders aren’t easy to find.
We’ll take a look at rescuing in a future post.