#BSLbytes 151: Problems with "adopt dont shop"

Posted by Chantelle Mackney on

#BSLbytes are back, baby! Did you miss us?

What comes to mind when you hear “adopt don’t shop”? Many people in the advocacy community are also involved in rescue. They encourage adoption and aim to dispel myths about rescue dogs being undesirable pets. This is great work and often it's where people are coming from with the "adopt don't shop" messaging.

But while “adopt don’t shop” comes from a positive place, it can also cause division in other areas of our work, and cause people to feel alienated when we should be working together.

Dog breeding is a contentious subject, and if we can post this byte without five people threatening to defriend us we will be surprised. Please bear with us and keep an open mind. 😀


On one end of the spectrum is the belief that all breeders are the bad guys and are ultimately responsible for unwanted pet populations and breed specific legislation.

In the middle are people who believe that pet owners should have the right to choose between an ethical breeder or ethical rescue, and that both can and should exist.

On the other end of the spectrum there is a belief that rescues are so focused on “saving” dogs that they are simply recycling poorly bred, unhealthy, and dangerous dogs into the community, and contributing to breed-specific crackdowns.

Our position is that the world needs a healthy balance of ethical breeders and ethical rescues. Both should be held to high standards with respect to the dogs they are placing in the community. Both should work hard to set their dogs up for success and ensure they don’t end up in the shelter system or causing harm to the community.


Ethical breeders aim to produce dogs with outstanding accomplishments, health, functionality, and temperament. They will screen all new owners thoroughly, support them in providing for all their training and care needs, and take the dog back if the placement doesn’t work out.

Ethical rescues aim to make a good match between a dog and family. The dog should have adequate an temperament assessment, foster hold, and veterinary screening before being placed in a home, and the rescue should offer ongoing support to the adopter. The rescue should take the dog back if the placement doesn’t work out.

See how maybe – just maybe – we may have more in common than we think? Both ethical rescues and breeders do this for the love of dog and that should be the only focus.


At the end of the day, consumers need to take responsibility for their decisions. If people support unethical rescues because they didn’t do their research or only paid attention to a sad story on a website, they are part of the problem. If people buy dogs off Craigslist out of convenience, or take home a pet store puppy because they feel sorry for it, they are part of the problem.

If we cut off the demand for poorly and unethically bred animals, there will be less financial incentive to keep producing them. The result? Fewer unwanted litters, relinquished pets, and pets that take up considerable resources as they are recycled back into the system.

We all care about animal welfare and advocating for breed-neutral legislation. When we talk about these issues, we suggest that judgements about rescue vs. adoption be largely left out of the equation. Legislators paint all of our dogs with the same brush anyway: BSL rarely makes a distinction between well-bred, poorly-bred, ethically rescued, or unethically rescued dogs.

Let’s keep our conversations constructive and focused on our common goal!

#endBSL #notoBil128 #Canada150 #BSLbytes

#BSLbytes is a joint initiative of Hugabull Advocacy & Rescue Society and Justice for Bullies.

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