January 6, 2014 by Julia West
Every so often an animal-loving Facebook friend posts a meme or shelter image with the plea to “Adopt, Don’t Shop” and it makes me cringe. This might seem strange to some people because I love animals and support rescue. I’m a dog walker for our local shelter, the Animal Refuge League, and I’ve been involved with other rescues in the past. In many ways, my life is “all around dogs”, so why wouldn’t I support this popular animal welfare slogan and others like it?
#1: They are divisive
Any slogan that points to one “correct” course of action is saying that other options are wrong. Sometimes this is implicit (Opt to Adopt) and other time it is explicit (Adopt, Don’t Shop), but I can’t get behind a slogan that lumps people into “right” and “wrong” categories.
#2: One size does not fit all
Very few people have no criteria for choosing a pet – even a laid-back home is going to have some requirements. In some cases, that criteria can’t be reasonably met by a rescue dog. Taking an animal into your home is a very personal decision and you have to feel comfortable with it. If you have a particular goal in mind (like I did with Delta) or you have concerns about temperament or unknown histories (such as the mother of a young child), you may not be able to find the right fit with a rescue. It isn’t impossible – there are some great family dogs and performance dogs who came from rescues – but that doesn’t mean it is the right choice for everyone.
#3: Directives don’t teach
Similar to #1, these slogans say what to do but they don’t tell you why. Acting without understanding does not create real change. Perhaps they think it is obvious and you should know that buying from breeders is wrong. Is it? These slogans lump *all* breeders together. But there is a big difference between a responsible, ethical breeder who has very few litters and a commercial breeder that is putting out thousands of dogs a year.
“Educate, Don’t Deprecate”
The problem with slogans is that they are short by nature, so you don’t really get any information. Pithy statements are what make the rounds – an easy quote to toss out or meme to post. But they don’t really serve anyone in the long run. So while I will continue to opt for catchy titles to my posts, I hope people will consider the content. I may not teach you anything new, but maybe I’ll get you thinking. And thinking is good.
Until next time, stay warm my friends!