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Shelter vs Breeder: Should You Buy or Adopt a Pet?

Shelter vs Breeder: Should You Buy or Adopt a Pet?
Written by Irina Vasilescu

Congratulations if you are ready to add a new member to your family by taking care of a pet!

Whether it’s a dog or a cat, having that feline or canine companionship will definitely enrich your life. This is especially true if you have kids, to whom you can share the responsibility of taking care of a living, breathing animal. Let’s say that you are planning to have a dog as a pet. You basically have two options. First, you can buy a dog from a breeder or a specialty pet shop. Second, you can adopt a dog from a shelter. Read on to find out what the pros and cons of each option are, as well as the costs involved.

Buying a Pet


  • Your first option for pet ownership is to buy a cat or a dog from a pet store.
  • You can check out which establishments in your area specialize in selling animals, or you can get referrals for local breeders where you can get a cat or a dog.
  • You’ll build resistance from bacteria and allergies.
    Today, there’s almost this obsession by homeowners about keeping the house clean and 101% bacteria-free, so they purchase humidifiers, household cleaners, anti-bacterial sprays and similar products. Although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with maintaining the cleanliness of your house, your body cannot build immunity against germs if you don’t get exposed to them more frequently. When you have a dog or a cat, more bacteria will enter your home, and this is a good thing because your body’s immunity against germs will actually be given a boost.
  • You will be a lot happier.
    If you love animals, there’s no better reason than that to buy a pet. Caring for your canine or feline friend will boost your happiness. Dog owners, in particular, are less likely to suffer from depression as compared to non-pet owners. The interaction, love, and loyalty that you will receive from your pet will give you happiness like no other.
  • You can get more exercise and enjoy better health.
    When you have a pet dog, you are required to take it out for walks so you will get some much-needed exercise as well. The simple activity of walking the dog helps level your heart rate and stabilize your blood pressure. You will get a healthy dose of vitamin D from the sun as well!
  • Your security at home will increase.
    Big, scary dogs or small, noisy dogs are bound to scare would-be intruders in your home. Small dogs and cats are also known to alert their owners of approaching dangers like gas leaks or fires, due to their heightened sense of smell.
  • Your kids can learn the value of patience and be caring for others.
    If you have a pet dog in the family, it’s primarily your kids who will benefit. Being fully or at least partly responsible for caring for a dog will teach them just that: how to be responsible for caring for others.

Shelter vs Breeder: Should You Buy or Adopt a Pet?


There are plenty of advantages in buying a dog, there are a few downsides as well. Perhaps the biggest challenge is that pets rely entirely on the care of humans. Pets need to be fed, groomed and cared for by veterinarians when they are sick. If you have an outdoor pet, it is prone to acquiring infections, minor wounds or pest infestations. You also need to spend time in making your pets feel that you care for them.

Costs Involved

Now that you already know about the pros and cons of buying a pet, what are the costs involved?

Take a look at the following figures:

  • Buying a pet from a store can set you back anywhere from $500 to $1,000 or more, depending on the breed of dog or cat that you would like to have.
  • To get the best value for your money when buying a pet from a store, go for a mixed breed. There’s a principle called ‘hybrid vigor’ which indicates that a dog or a cat with a mixed breed is more likely to live longer and require lesser maintenance costs as compared to a purebred animal. Purebred dogs, in particular, are prone to developing heart problems, hip dysplasia, and similar health conditions.
  • Aside from the initial cost of buying a dog or cat from a pet store, you would also have to shoulder the additional costs of food, veterinary visits, grooming sessions, etc.

Adopt a Pet

Your second option is to adopt a pet from a shelter or an animal rescue center. Did you know that there are 2.7 to 3.7 million dogs and cats who are currently looking for a home? Instead of buying a pet from a store, you can simply visit your nearest animal shelter or rescue center and adopt a pet from there.

Shelter vs Breeder: Should You Buy or Adopt a Pet?


There are many advantages to adopting a pet, including the following:

  • With millions of cats and dogs in need of a home, you will be saving the life of one – or two animals – if you will adopt instead of buy.
  • It usually costs less to adopt a pet than buy one from a store.
  • You can do your share in putting an end to the unscrupulous business practices of puppy mills which are breeding facilities who quickly churn out one cute dog or cat after another.
  • You will know exactly what you are getting when adopting a dog or a cat. You can ask the staff if the owner surrendered a dog due to a move, or if it’s a stray. PetFinder is a site that you can use to check out the local animal shelters in your area. If there’s a particular breed that you like, you can even ask them to e-mail you when one is already available. 


There are also a few downsides to adopting a pet. For one, you would have no idea about the kind of puppyhood that the animal had. If it was mistreated, retraining the dog could be needed. The good news is that most kennels evaluate incoming animals for behavioral and health issues, so they would have a record of exactly what you will be getting.

Costs Involved

According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, about 65% of pet owners in the US got their canine or feline friends for free, or at a very low cost. Out of this figure, about 39% are surrendered to shelters if they are acquired from friends. If you think that adopting a pet is a much better option for you, here is a breakdown of the costs that you would have to shoulder:

  • The cost of adopting a pet ranges from $50 to $200, depending on whether it will come from a city shelter or a rescue group.
  • It is possible for you to simply ask a friend, a neighbor or a co-worker for a free pet. However, you would still have to shoulder the following costs:

Distemper vaccination = $20 to $40
Flea/tick treatment = $50 to $200
Heartworm test = $15 to $35
Microchipping = $50
Rabies vaccination = $15 to $25
Spraying/neutering = $150 to $300

These costs do not yet include the money that you would have to spend for food, grooming and regular visits to the vet to ensure the health of your adopted pet.

Researching for the costs of adopting versus buying a pet will help you come up with an informed decision as to which one is better. No matter which option you end up choosing, what’s important is to take full responsibility for the animal that you will be caring for, and consider it to be part of a loving, caring family.

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Shelter vs Breeder: Should You Buy or Adopt a Pet?

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About the author

Irina Vasilescu

Irina Vasilescu is our money-saving and DIY expert and also the editor-in-chief as she's always on the lookout for the latest online deals.


  • Our cat was a stray, and we took her home and got her healthy again. She was starving and quite weak. Now she has a good home. I think if we decided to get a dog or cat later on we would choose a shelter. Our local one is often crowded and I always connect well with animals and would love to give them a 2nd chance at love. I think shelters are cheaper as well.

  • I think that you should always get a rescue animal if you possibly can, but only if you know the full history of the animal, and if you’re sure that it would be happy (and safe) in your home. There are so many dogs in shelters that need to be loved, and there is no need to have a dog from being a puppy. You are certain to love whichever dog you get regardless of how old it was when you got it, so it should certainly be something that you think about carefully.

  • Adopting a dog from a shelter is almost always a better choice, knowing how sad their life has possibly been until then: however, I think that the biggest risk here is to adopt a dog who is already ill. Bred dogs (assuming their owner is reliable, of course) have their health continuously checked, and it’s unlikely they’ll face any genetic deseases.
    Also, shelter dogs are usually older. I know this might sound selfish, but adopting a dog and having it die on you because of age after just a few years can be devastating. Ask yourself if you’ll be able to handle something like this before adopting an old dog.

  • Admittedly, I’m often conflicted as to what’s the better choice. Of course, from a breeder you pay a premium, but the likelihood is that your pet will be healthier over the course of its life. It’s temperament may also be a bit more predictable and you can figure out something better suited. Whereas with a shelter animal, you’re obviously taking a perfectly lovable animal and adding it to your family, but it’s hard to say what forms of abuse or neglect it may have faced, not to mention any potential illnesses in the future. Realistically, you also have to factor in that shelter pets could possibly be pet store or kennel animals.

    What I’ve been mulling over recently though is how important it may be to have multiple pets of the same type in your household. I’ve really opened my eyes recently to how social most animals can be and while we as people may serve some semblance of that in terms of our interactions with them, I have to wonder what say having 2 cats, or 2 dogs may do for them.

  • Awareness of the pros and cons of having a pet is important and this post lays out both sides of the argument. The ideal is to gives a home to an animal from a refuge. Four of the 5 dogs I’ve had in my life came from a refuge. The one I bought from a breeder was a pure breed and as she got older developed a health condition particular to her breed. Most pure breeds have genetic health problems – even if not every dog develops the condition.

    Of the four I got from refuges I had no problems at all with three of them. Sadly, one did develop cancer at age 5 the sweet boy.

    The one I did have problems with was a wee little scrap who had been fending for himself on the streets from about 4 or 5 months old. The main problem was his barking at other dogs. I can only imagine that he had had a rough time with bigger dogs – part of his tails was missing and the vet said ut had been bitten off.

    The other problem was the intense attachment he developed for me. He wasn’t aggressive with other people around me, but very anxious when I wasn’t with him.

  • Glad you have opinions about what everyone else should do. I like buying my puppies from a breeder. I have watched pet rescue advocates attack breeders more and more with some places now passing laws advocating for this. I wonder if eventually we will get to a point where no one can legally raise a puppy anymore……I also wonder about some of the rescues and the fees I see them charging, not so much different than a breeder these days. Very self riteous and judgmental they are. You can bet your bottom dollar I will never be adopting any of there misunderstood nanny dog pit bulls.

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