By Natalie Mack, News Editor

Those of you who know me will not find it surprising that I am writing this article. For those who don’t, you should know that one of the things I care about most is animals. Not only do I think they are fascinating creatures, I feel that life can be extremely unfair for them, since they do not have a voice and they cannot advocate for themselves. That is why I have decided to be their voice and encourage others to do the same.

I would like to disclaim that the intention of this article is not to shame anyone who has gotten an animal from a pet store or breeder. My intentions are to enforce adoption as the best and only option for anyone looking into getting a pet. For many years now, I have fostered animals and volunteered at Nantucket’s only animal shelter, the Nantucket Island Safe Harbor for Animals (NISHA). By doing this, I have had the opportunity to help animals with their “second chance” at happiness. Fostering is an incredibly rewarding experience to be a part of. If you aren’t looking to adopt an animal, but want to help, consider applying to foster at your local animal shelter. 

When considering a pet, the most common options are adoption, breeders, or pet stores. Adoption is the best option. Unlike Nantucket Island Safe Harbor for Animals and many other safe shelters around the world, “kill shelters” also exist. A kill shelter is, unfortunately, exactly what it sounds like. A shelter which takes animals in, but after a certain amount of time passes and they have not been adopted, euthanizes them because of overpopulation. Put simply, breeders are creating litters of animals while animals are being killed because there are too many of them.

Call me crazy, but it seems there is a simple solution to this problem.

There are too many animals wandering the streets, cold, hungry, and dehydrated. Too many animals sitting in cages in shelters all day, just to be killed after a certain amount of time. Too many animals are not getting the life they deserve. Too many in need of loving homes to be breeding dozens of new animals.

In addition, animals from shelters and rescue groups are wildly less expensive than dogs from breeders and pet stores. At most shelters, including NISHA, the animal is spayed or neutered, micro-chipped, and has received their rabies vaccinations, their Heartworm and Heartguard tests, their parasite test, as well as their Frontline and Wormer prior to being adopted. In most cases, breeders do not provide any of this, and the price for the actual animal is significantly lower at a shelter. In addition, most shelters will support you and your pet throughout their entire life. Whether you need help training them or you can no longer keep them, they will be there for you. 

The three main concerns brought up by skeptics when I explain this argument are all about dogs. And, you guessed it, I have answers for all of them.

Oftentimes, someone looking to adopt needs a hypo-allergic dog, which is totally understandable. People should have the privilege of having an animal even if they are allergic! It is their understanding that those types of animals can only be found through a breeder. Wrong. More often than not, hypo-allergic animals come through shelters. Just on Nantucket, I have witnessed it numerous times. 

The downfall to this, however, is that it may take a while and as some may know, the time to get an animal has to be on your terms. What I recommend doing is researching rescue groups or shelters that specialize in certain hypo-allergenic breeds. For example, the breed Yorkshire Terrier is hypo-allergenic. There are thousands of rescue groups—that you can find online—who specialize in rescuing and or rehabilitating certain breeds. And yes, they rescue purebred puppies.

The second concern, linked to the first one, is that they want a certain breed. But, according to Breeding Business, mixed-breed dogs are generally healthier than purebred dogs and tend to live longer due to stronger genetic diversity. In addition to being given a second chance at their lives, they are also known to have better personality traits than purebred dogs, again due to the combination of breeds. I understand that some people don’t want that; perhaps your family has had the same breed of dog all your life and you’d like to continue that. But wouldn’t you want to do that while saving a life, and the lives of many other dogs?

Another comment I often hear is again, largely about dogs. Some have mentioned to me they are concerned about the dog’s past. Were they abused? Will they have flashbacks from the abuse? Will they be too shy? My answer to them is— usually, it depends.

I adopted a dog a few years ago who was found in someone’s backyard with a chain embedded in his abdomen. Yes, embedded. It seems his owners tied him up and left him to die. Luckily, Little Mountain Rescue in Mississippi found him. When I was 12 years old, I saw his horrifying pictures and story on Facebook. That’s when I knew I had to adopt this dog and give him the life he deserved. When he came to Nantucket, he was still scarred, both mentally and physically. He was fearful and aggressive towards people. Thankfully, he was a small dog, so preventing him from injuring anyone was fairly easy.

I took time and worked with him through his fears. I helped him realize nobody was ever going to hurt him again. Yes, it took time. Yes, it was hard sometimes. But it was all worth it to see the look on his face when he was running free along the beach, never to be harmed again.

On the other hand, I’ve seen people adopt adult dogs who weren’t abused, just simply surrendered to the shelter/ rescue or found wandering the streets, and they can find just as much joy in adopting. They also didn’t have to put as much work into rehabilitation as I did with my rescue. This opens up adoption to people who may be scared by the commitment of coaxing a traumatized dog out of their shell.

Furthermore, if you are looking for a puppy, look no further than any shelter. Often, dogs and even cats that are being rescued are litters, created by peoples pets who aren’t spayed and neutered and are roaming free. Other times, thousands of animals, usually puppies or dogs, are found in something called a puppy mill. A puppy mill is essentially a farm for dogs. It is known to be a commercial breeding facility that is not ethical in the slightest. Animals are often kept in small wire crates, too crowded to move, starving.

By buying an animal from a breeder or pet store, you are lowering the chances of these poor animals having the chance to be rescued and brought to a shelter. Perfectly good animals should be given a loving and safe home before breeders and mills can breed new animals. 

So, after hearing that puppies, kittens, hypo-allergenic animals, pure-breed animals, and animals with no traumatic past can be found and adopted in shelters; that animals from shelters are significantly lower in price and in most cases come with a life-time support system as well as all their vaccinations, that there are animals being starved and mistreated each day waiting to be rescued, that animals are killed each day in kill-shelters because there are too many of them, what do you think now? Are you ready to support adoption?

As I’ve mentioned various times throughout this article, by getting an animal from a pet store or breeder, you are encouraging the birth of new animals while sweet lives are sitting in shelters waiting for their forever home, sitting in kill shelters waiting to be killed, or homeless on the side of the road. Adopt, don’t shop. Spay and neuter your animals to prevent unneeded litters. Be the voice for the animals, and inspire others to do the same. 

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments regarding anything in this article! Thank you for taking the time to read it! (mack_nk@npsk.org)

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