By: Hannah Lewis
This year, Humane Action Pittsburgh has been working hard to raise awareness about the conditions under which some commercially bred dogs are bred, born, and raised, building on previous work on a Puppy Mill Ban Ordinance. Earlier in October, Aimee wrote about the horror of puppy mills and the ways that some commercial breeders treat the dogs they raise, with little regard for their emotional, physical, or intellectual health.
Knowing how breeders can mistreat dogs and other companion animals doesn’t have to stop loving families from bringing companion animals into their homes. I asked several people from the greater Pittsburgh area to tell me how they made their decisions to adopt, not shop. These are their stories:
Shelley and Max; Connellsville, Pennsylvania
Max, photo courtesy of Shelley Meyers
Shelley is a loving caretaker to dog Max. She writes:
No one can say where Max would be if he hadn’t been adopted, but we can say where he is now--in a warm, loving, and happy home where he enjoys views of the Youghiogheny River and the company of his foster-brother, Reggie.
Bill and Reggie; Connellsville, Pennsylvania
Reggie, photo courtesy of Bill Meyers
Shelley's husband, Bill, shared the following about Max's younger brother Reggie:
While it’s heartbreaking to think that otherwise-healthy animals are sometimes euthanized, it’s important to remember that adopt, don’t shop campaigns have significantly reduced the number of such shelters and have reduced the numbers of animals euthanized each year, as documented by the ASPCA. The more of us make the choice to adopt these shelter animals, the fewer animals will be subjected to euthenasia or even just extended, lonely shelter stays.
Ellen and Rosie & Moo; Carnegie, Pennsylvania
Rosie and Moo, photo courtesy of Ellen Lewis
Ellen and husband Josh care for two delightful canines, Rosie and Moo. Both were adopted from shelters and both bring them immense joy. Ellen writes:
Moo and Rosie in bandanas, photo courtesy of Ellen Lewis
Ellen also noted that she and Josh had no idea what they were going to get when they adopted these pups, explaining that it’s hard to know a dog’s breed or even how the dog’s personality will come across when you get him home and he spends time around the family, including other animals.
Based on this variability, it’s important that, when you adopt a dog, you don’t go in expecting the dog to be a certain way, but that you are prepared to love him and to be patient as he adjusts to his new home.
Dogs aren't the only companion animals!
Freyja and Loki
People often say that dogs are “man’s best friend,” but there’s no better friend than my cat, Freyja--except maybe Loki, our cat who passed away last year. Besides being adorable and low-maintenance, there are tons of great reasons to adopt a cat.
For one thing, did you know that house cats are not indigenous to North America? Yep, and a 2013 study published in Nature Communications tells us that domestic cats kill somewhere between 1.4 and 3.7 birds in the lower 48 states each year. The Audubon Society recommends keeping domestic cats indoors as much as possible. I know, when I look into the eyes of my sweet, clumsy, apparently-helpless Freyja, I don’t see a killer staring back, and yet…
Photo courtesy of Claire Kmetz
While the question of how to minimize the damage posed by feral cats is obviously fraught, the very best way I’ve found to make a difference is to get feral cats off the streets (and out of the back yards and local farms and forests where they can decimate local bird populations), spay or neuter them, and then bring them into my home where they can live long, happy lives in a warm environment with plenty of food and veterinary care, without damaging the local ecosystem.
If you haven’t considered adopting a cat before, I highly recommend you think about it! They are great for young people who don’t spend a lot of time at home, people who work long shifts, or elderly people who struggle to keep up with dogs’ exercise and socialization needs. They don’t need to be housetrained and they are independent. And look at those faces! It’s impossible to resist these beauties.
At the end of the day, companion animals bring us tremendous joy, especially in times of increased loneliness that many of us are experiencing or have experienced in 2020. We can help other living beings by bringing them into our homes, and the animals at your local animal shelters will bring you as much or more joy than any bought from a commercial breeder. If you have the resources to care for an animal and the local shelter near you has animals that need homes, it’s a great idea to adopt, not shop!
Aimee Douglass is the Lead Blogger for the HAP blog, as well as HAP's Strategic Analyst, and has been a volunteer with HAP since 2018. She is an active participant in the Compassionate Living campaign and in 2019 tabled at her first event for HAP. Aimee works in the healthcare industry and has a bachelors degree in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and a masters degree in Communications with a health care focus from Southern New Hampshire University. She lives in Penn Hills with her husband and their three dogs.