Professor's House

Don’t Judge Me for Not Wanting to Adopt a Shelter Dog

True dog lovers talk enthusiastically and endlessly about their dogs. They’re eager to share their dog stories, where they come from, what their habits are, and how wonderful they are with children.

Many of the world’s interesting conversations almost always involve a dog.

Let’s face it. Dogs are creatures that awake a sense of compassion and friendship – even in people who don’t own a dog. One curious aspect of “dog conversations” however, is that when you tell people that you’re looking to acquire a dog, they immediately say, hope you’re going to get a dog from a shelter.”

Here’s the thing: I am not against adopting dogs from a shelter. My wife and I took that route twice, and we ended up with wonderful dogs. We feel we’ve done our share. All through our lives, we’ve had dogs. There was never a prolonged period of not sharing our home with a dog.

We are, to put it briefly, genuine dog lovers!

But before you judge me for not wanting to adopt a dog from a shelter, hear me out. After taking the shelter route, we feel we’re now emotionally ready to do things a little differently.

Before you judge…

While we’ve been fortunate with the two dogs we adopted from the shelter, most experienced dog owners are aware of the potential risks relating to shelter dogs. Knowing about these risks, we adopted them anyway and were prepared for the responsibility – indeed the unpredictability – of shelter dogs. Except for a few minor issues, we enjoyed their companionship immensely.

Saving a dog’s life is probably one of the greatest acts of human kindness. Welcoming “orphaned” dogs into our home gave our lives profound meaning, and they have helped nurture our mental and physical wellness.

A veterinarian once said, “a dog should never be an impulse buy.” When people walk around a shelter, feelings such as “his eyes are adorable” or “his coat is impressive” or “his demeanor is endearing” fill their hearts.

In the past, we were also taken in by appearances, not so much thinking about whether or not a dog was going to be a good fit. When we liked what we saw, our decision was more impulsive than one based on reason.

You might ask, since you had such a positive experience with the two dogs, why not do it again?

No. And don’t judge us. Like I said earlier, we did like many other dog lovers did – saved two dogs from the likelihood of death as they were senior dogs.

But this time we’re not going to grapple with the uncertainty and unpredictability of shelter dogs. Unpredictability, in fact, is one compelling reason why we’re not going down the same path as before. Too many “what ifs” loom large.

Shelter Dogs: why we said no

  1. Unpredictability – many people who adopted dogs from a shelter didn’t realize that some come with behavioral problems. Fear of the unknown is an unpleasant sentiment. What if the dog was abused or neglected by the former owners? What if the dog had health issues that required numerous visits to the vet? Why does the dog seem lethargic or indifferent?
  1. Shelters do their due diligence, but they could have missed something. They “prep” a dog for the new owners, and they can identify a dog’s problems. So what you see or notice in the shelter is not the complete picture, because you begin to notice the problems only after you bring the dog home, and he’s lived with you for weeks and months. Some mental or physical problems have a way of creeping up and taking people by surprise. And we’re not blaming shelter staff for this. There are just some behavior patterns that don’t manifest themselves in the short term. Shelter staff can’t possibly know it all.
  1. Do you think that like abandoned kids, dogs that change homes too frequently may suffer some type of depression? Dogs have been known to fall seriously ill or even die when their masters go away for long periods of time. Too many instances of separation anxiety can wreck havoc on a dog’s mind. It’s disruptive. It’s unsettling.

We read the story of a person who adopted a dog that had been returned by the owners because they were moving out of town. There were clear signs that the dog was depressed. It took the new owner a full year before he realized that the dog had been treated badly. Noises disturbed her, she flinched a lot, and did not want to be around people. The healing process lasted a year. It was obvious that the dog experienced severe trauma. The dog tried to adjust after being taken away from the shelter only to adjust again to shelter life because it was returned.

  1. Owners who drop their dogs in a shelter may not always want to reveal the real reasons for giving up their dogs. Was the dog displaying aggressive behavior at home, posing a threat to children? Was the dog a high maintenance pet in terms of health? Was the dog requiring a steady supply of antibiotics, does it have vision and hearing problems, and did the dog have major surgery or does it need a special diet?
  1. It is more difficult to find the exact breed of dog you want in a shelter.
  1. What if the shelter is not managed well? What if they’re short of staff or short of funds? Even if governments have budgets for animal shelters, some shelters are not receiving everything they need to run a viable organization. An article in the Toronto Pet Daily (February 2016) said that “Canadian rescued dogs are handled by volunteer organisations (Rescues & Shelters) across Canada and it’s estimated that these smaller rescues are responsible for more dogs than our larger Humane Societies and SPCA’s. These are non- profit non- salaried organisations existing solely by donations. All our shelters/rescues have a huge task and our numbers keep growing… 

The article continues to say, “Judging by the number of petitions, there’s a lack of regulations, requirements, guidelines for the welfare of pets in Canada. Our dogs and cats seem to be governed by volunteers with good intentions. We’d like to see everyone involved with animal welfare, Vets (CVMA & Provincial VMA’s), CFIA & Humane Societies & Rescues, working together – there’s a disconnect & confusion resulting in complaints from both sides.”

  1. A shelter is not a home – not by a long stretch. Dogs that live a long time in a shelter before they are finally adopted are lonely dogs. They suffer from stress and frustration because life in the shelter is regimented, with little or no freedom. Even the best-run shelters can be noisy and unpleasant for some dogs. For active, energetic breeds, life in the shelter can be confining and restrictive. The harsh truth is that a shelter is never going to be an exact replica of a loving home and family.
  1. Age – as one writer said, “some dogs are at the shelter simply because they committed the cardinal sin of growing old. They can’t get around so well… They’re just no fun anymore.”

Our home is ready, and our next dog will receive the love and care of a pet-loving family. But this time, we’d like a dog that has no “emotional baggage”, no sad history of abuse and neglect.

In short, we’d like a dog that’s healthy, inside and out. Now that we have a daughter who is soon going to be a teenager, we want our home environment to be worry-free. We want to be there for our daughter who no doubt will have issues of her own as she transitions into adulthood, and this we can do better as parents if we didn’t have to deal with a problematic dog as well.

To conclude, this is my message: respect other people’s choices when it comes to adopting a dog. Yes, taking a shelter dog is a generous, compassionate gesture, but if friends and family won’t go to a shelter, they have good reasons. They don’t have to defend their choices. Not adopting a shelter dog doesn’t mean they’re selfish, elitist or incapable of seeing the true value of pet ownership.

Freedom of choice is a wonderful privilege. It applies to all aspects of our lives – religion, career, financial, marriage, travel, and yes, even to pet ownership!

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Jillian February 18, 2018 at 12:20 AM

Honestly, this is the article of someone who is too lazy to care. Your first point states that shelter dogs are unpredictable. Wow. It’s almost as if shelter dogs are animals…all animals are unpredictable, seriously. The fifth point too also ticked me off. You can’t find the breed you are looking for in shelters? Who the heck looks for a specific breed in shelters?! That’s such an awful point and it seems like you are the problem, not the dogs. There is so much more wrong with this article but my complaints would fall on deaf ears as you seem to be too far gone already. Maybe if you google the word ‘dog’ you’ll actually learn something for once.

Brandi Garrison April 19, 2018 at 12:13 PM

???????????? yes slay

TLH April 26, 2018 at 1:16 PM

yes you have the right to judge who you want but you do not have the right to condone or say that someone is wrong because they’re opening is different than yours you can say it. But it doesn’t mean it’s true

MA Leverso April 27, 2018 at 4:22 PM

Good for you- you have done it twice- and have made an informed choice. Not every shelter has every size or temperament to fit a family’s dynamics. Be sure to research the breed(s) you select for your next pet and be sure they(breeders) are doing the testing recommended for that breed. Too many rescues tell sad tales- but are really perpetuating commercial and sometimes substandard breeding- note than many auction dogs are other than AKC registered. Good luck in obtaining a future family member.

Carolyn April 27, 2018 at 5:54 PM

Thank you for your response…this is the most ridiculous article I have ever read.

Lillie Newton March 25, 2018 at 8:17 AM

Your freedom to choose not to adopt shelter pets is the same freedom of choice that allows me to judge you as a short-sighted fool. A much shorter way to present your point would be this: My preference for the illusion of predictability is sufficient to justify the death of the homeless dog I would have adopted. Certainly it is your right to behave heartlessly and irrationally, but it my right to judge you as such.

Rachel April 26, 2018 at 11:48 AM

Lilly, judge all you want. All you are doing is pushing more and more people away from wanting to rescue dogs. You militant rescue people are like the angry vegans of the dog world. You are actually doing the opposite of what you really want because you are so bitter and judgmental. People can’t stand it. So judge all you want. You are only hurting the animals you claim to love by pushing potential homes away with your hatred and judgment. Maybe it’s you who is really the shortsighted one.

TLH April 26, 2018 at 1:18 PM

You can judge all you want. But a responsible owner knows what they are capable of and what they want in an animal. Nothing wrong with that in fact when people come to our shelter that’s one of the first things we asked what do you want to do with the dog. A responsible owner would make sure that they are aware and are ready to deal with it. And I can promise that a person who buys from a breeder

Carol April 26, 2018 at 2:51 PM

Sorry Lilly, it is not your way or no way. Many people want a purebred animal and good for them sticking to it!

Carol April 26, 2018 at 11:08 AM

Good for you! Your choice! Find a reputable breeder of the breed of dog you wish to have!

Crystal April 26, 2018 at 11:28 AM

Kudos on the great article and for acknowledging all the great things about purpose bred dogs. Things they keep them IN forever homes and OUT of shelters. If everyone put as much thought as you into their next pet there would be little to no need for shelters.

Angel April 26, 2018 at 11:31 AM

People that choose a dog that is best suited to their lifestyle tend to be the best owners whose dogs do not get put in a shelter ever. That is the beauty and advantage of purebred dogs. Breeds come with certain predictable characteristics (high energy, low energy, independent/highly attached, etc.) and these predictable characteristics are a good reason to go with a purebred dog, lovingly raised from day one by a caring breeder. These dogs have the best chance of never winding up in a shelter ever.

Wouldn’t it be nice if more people got the dog that was the best fit for their family and more dogs never had to be put in a shelter at all?

al smith April 26, 2018 at 11:48 AM

You knew it was coming.. the rescue trolls are out in force.. I think you are correct. Do your rsearch and find the breed of dog right for your lifestyle and a good breeder you can work with.. there is a reason that working dogs work and herding dogs herd. etc..We have done your part you took two dogs out of the shelter that might not have lived otherwise.. probably more than these posters have done.and don’t believe a shelter dog died becaseu you made a sensible choice .. that’s PETAphile speak..the very idea that anyone would judge you by you making a choice of wher to obtain your next pet say much about the posters themselves.. good luck with you next pet and thanks for being honest

Curtis J Livingston, III April 26, 2018 at 11:55 AM

To the people commenting, you’re being judgmental because she chose to not get a Pet from the Retail Rescues. I’m sorry, but she has a right to get a Pet Free from ticks. (Unlike the Rescues That got imported to be in the shelters to please you Rescue Fanatics!)

You Judgemental Breeder Bashing Rescueboos should just READ the article and try to see that she isn’t YOU. Not everyone is a Beeeder Bashing Rescueboo like some of you commenting!!!!

GorillaGlue October 12, 2018 at 12:45 PM

Your argument is flawed. You say all rescue dogs have ticks. I’ve had a pure bred Labrador Retriever and currently have 2 rescue hounds whom where malnourished when I adopted them. I loved and love them all. None of them have had ticks, and they all have had a dynamic experience.

TLH April 26, 2018 at 1:14 PM

We have the right to buy our dog from whoever we choose. Be it a breeder shelter rescue or pet store. I would hope that everyone that owns an animal wood shop around and make sure the animal fits their lifestyle. An animal that does not fit a person’s lifestyle is bound to end up euthanized or in a shelter. I have had all sorts of animals from all sorts of different sources during my life. I make no apologies for buying a dog from a shelter and I make no apologies for buying a dog from a breeder or a pet store. It’s my choice to bring an animal into my family’s life that will fit our needs and that we can meet the needs of that animal. One should never buy it animal without knowing and understanding that this is a commitment responsible owners understand this and respect it regardless of where they buy their animals from.

Vicki Kubic April 26, 2018 at 3:25 PM

Thank you for a wonderful article and a very truthful perspective. There should be more to dog ownership than feeling good about yourself based only on the source. Freedom to choose the dog and breed that works for your lifestyle and family is what actually promotes responsible dog ownership and reduces shelter surrenders. We don’t shame and guilt people that choose to have their own biological children when there are children in need, why on earth would people feel they have the right to tell you where you should or shouldn’t get your next family pet? My home, my life, my dog, my choice!

Nonny Darnell April 26, 2018 at 5:01 PM

Good for you. Shelter dogs are the products of laziness and neglect. I had some mutts when I was a kid. There were nice pets, but generally useless for anything other basic companionship. The ease of training of pure bred dogs, and the payoff of doing so, is astounding when compared to those mutts. If I am going to dedicate the time and resources to properly care for a dog, it will always be one from a skilled breeder of a dog that suits me and my purposes.

And, really, if you care enough about your dogs to want the best for them, then you want the best breeding for them as well. The existence of poorly bred, crossed up accidents needs to stop for the good of dogs and their owners. Taking accidents from dog shelters promotes obtaining and monetizing bad and accidental breeding.

Carolyn April 27, 2018 at 5:51 PM


Jenny May 10, 2018 at 11:44 AM

Oh my God…the ignorance. Just…wow.

Chris November 22, 2018 at 11:49 PM

Ugh. That moment was just gross. That attitude is exactly why people judge you puppy mill lovers so much.

DAllan April 26, 2018 at 7:28 PM

It is not your family, your commitment, your time to raise/train, nor your money used to purchase. Therefore it is not your choice on when, where and what anyone else purchases or chooses to purchase. If it is your right to choose and select what is best for you, then respect that this also applies to everyone else.

Kim April 27, 2018 at 2:53 AM

BRAVO to anyone who chooses a shelter dog. Good for you. BUT likewise to anyone who chooses a reputable breeder that health test their breeding stock, who takes back anything they produce (and often what other people produce in their breed), who PROVES the quality and temperament of what they breed (with titles) and preserves their chosen breed.
I like the confidence of knowing that retrievers will indeed retrieve (as their ancestors have PROVEN to do so) or a herding dog will willingly work sheep or cattle,etc etc…. ALL while knowing that you have the best chance of many years with your companion.
FAR too much time, effort, and money is spent on training my hunting companion for me to worry about health, temperament, and ability…

Carolyn April 27, 2018 at 5:50 PM

This writer literally made me nauseas…as do so many of the comments…ugh ugh ugh…and being an “abandoned child” as well-this person and their supporters will I’m sure became familiar with karma…

Carol McElheney April 27, 2018 at 6:44 PM

I worked at two shelters, and adopted a fine Chesapeake puppy at one and numerous cats. The Chessy was a fun dog but she destroyed my house. I’m sure that’s why she was turned in. Nowadays about 80% of shelter dogs atre pit bulls and 20% chihuahuas in Northern Ca. I work Rescue for my breed club and have rescues many homeless purebreds and kept several. I just don’t want a pit bull or chihuahua.

AJ April 28, 2018 at 2:55 PM

The author left one important fact out: shelters today are being run by pit bull fanatics, who often will deceive potential adopters about not only the dog’s past and behavior, but also its actual breed! They will call a pit bull mix a “lab mix”, “collie mix”, ANYTHING that doesn’t say what it actually is. This has sadly and tragically resulted in attacks and maulings, and even deaths of naive adopters and their family members. As a former shelter worker and founder of a small animal rescue, I have had many dealings with this situation and its one reason why in our rescue, we are brutally honest at all times about the small animal’s past and medical history.

Shelters are full of largely pits and their mixes, and Chihuahuas. Anyone wanting any other type of dog should go to a rescue organization specializing in the breed they want. Pits and their mixes are unpredictable dogs, and you should never be made to feel you must adopt one if you don’t want to.

AJ April 28, 2018 at 2:57 PM

Shelters today have mostly pit bulls and their mixes, though many shelter workers will lie and claim they are something else (“lab mix”, “collie mix”, “boxer mix”, etc just to get them out the door and not euthanized.)

Jack Russell April 30, 2018 at 10:33 AM

This is a good article. By reading some of the comment it proves that if you don’t have the same opinion as some you will be bullied and ridiculed. This is blatant all over social media. Only thing I would add to this is the statistics of profits that are made on shelter/rescue groups (I have seen them and they are astonishing). Also, the rate of return on shelter dogs compared to buying from reputable breeders. And, finally the studies that show how shelters/rescues actually are the ones who keep puppy mills in business rather all while condoning them. Yep, look it up it is true.

Now I’ll wait for the bullies to come out in force.

Patricia Stephens May 9, 2018 at 3:49 AM

Hooray for this article. I have never abandoned a dog. I look after my dogs well and they live into their old age. Why shouldn’t I buy the dog I want? I am not causing the abandoned dog problem. Irresponsible owners who don’t desex their dogs, and people who let dogs irresponsibly breed cause this problem. People who couldn’t be bothered looking after their dogs cause this problem. Rescuing dogs is not the answer. Stopping idiots from owning and breeding dogs is. If I only buy one dog every 15 years or so, how can adopting one dog help when there are people who let their dog give birth to a whole litter? The numbers don’t add up. Also, the rescue places often have dogs that are crossed with mastiff/bull arab/staffy etc. I don’t like these breeds, so I choose to responsibly buy a pedigree dog with papers, from a registered breeder. I check the parents and see the property to make sure the parents are well looked after and that it is not a puppy farm. Before you all howl me down … go an rescue a dog if you like, but don’t look down on me because I don’t want to take on a problem of someone else’s making.

Tb May 13, 2018 at 6:06 AM

These are all asinine reasons. You can’t predict the temperament or personality of a pure breed. They are also more likely to have painful and expensive genetic problems because of too closely breeding and/or over bred mother. You will have a dog that looks like every other dog of that pur breed, there will be nothing special about it. The fact is, as long as millions of animals are put down every year in favour of pure breeds, you should and will receive judgement every time you buy a dog. It’s fine to like a pure breed for the way it looks, or like a breed specifically. But to say “I’ve done my due!” is like saying “I said two nice things to two people not of my race, so I can say a mean thing to the next one. I’ve done my due!”

Yes, you are free to chose to buy an animal instead of adopting a dog that will probably be put down. But you are not free from the social consequences of those actions that you chose to do. Maybe don’t get so stuck on having to have a dog that looks a certain way.

Chiara vietti August 2, 2018 at 1:20 PM

Of course you are free to do whatever you want, but what you said about shelters dog is absolutely untrue. I have one dog that my husband got from a breeder and she is a sweethear, but she is scared of loud noise, doesn’t like to be pet by strange people and kids and will bolt to loud noise, she was so scared that we had to adopt a good old hound from the local shelter just to make her feel safe..and she loves him.
Now my husband wants to separate and the dogs will be split and for sure they are going to miss each other..It was like the lady and the trump story, I hope that my little Lady would be ok …I tried all I could to keep us together..
I am going to miss her

mary jackson-peters October 14, 2018 at 7:51 PM

There are breed specific rescues that have puppies, adults and senior dogs. There are shelters and rescues which have mix breed and pure bred puppies, adult and senior dogs. There are reputable breeders who care where their dogs go, they want to be sure the dog has a good home and will take the dog back if it doesn’t work out — at any time– at any age. They do not want their dogs to end up in a shelter.

If someone really wants a specific breed they can contact the AKC to get breeders in their area, visit the breeder and the parent dogs. Most ‘puppy store’ purchases are on a whim, you see the cute puppy, feel sorry for him and buy him. no research, just an impulse, then ‘oh my gosh, what have I done’. They get too big or too much hair or too much energy or too many vet bills. then the cute puppy who is now a dog ends up at the shelter. Not the dogs fault, not someone elses problem dog. the problem was the owner really didn’t look into what was best for them, they just bought a cute puppy. It didn’t work out, now the dog is in the shelter.

Breed specific rescue, mix or breed specific rescues and shelter, reputable responsible breeders who meet their clientele to be sure they are a good match for the dogs. Any other way is not good for the owner or the dog. and especially not good for the parent dog who is repeatedly bred in horrid conditions behind the guise of the ‘pet store puppy’.


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