10 Pets You Should Adopt, Not Buy
Before you undertake the long term commitment of caring for a pet, research, research, and RESEARCH this decision. Aside from this important aspect of pet care, please consider adoption for certain animals.
When it comes to keeping pets in an ethical manner, it is just as important to consider where you will obtain your pet as it is having the proper husbandry standards. Many common species of pets, both domesticated and exotic, are over-bred because of the demand created by impulse buyers. It is no coincidence that the top 5 animals on this list are invasive species in the United States.
Note: This list only applies to animals in the United States, and not all regions may have certain animals available for adoption. Be sure to check Petfinder.com for many adoptable pets in your region.
Experienced bird/exotic pet owners only. Parrots are probably the most common relatively high-maintenance 'exotic' pet you can come across; so common in fact, they are often not even seen as non-domesticated animals. But all parrots are basically wild yet tame pets, and their owners face the same challenges as the unfairly stigmatized owners of less common exotic pets.
Because parrots possess absurdly long lifespans, even well-cared-for birds will end up in bird-specific rescues and shelters when they outlive their owners. A human only needs to be around 40 years old for a macaw, African grey, or Amazon parrot to likely exceed their owner's remaining time if they are cared for appropriately and purchased at a young age.
Why you should adopt: If you have a decent understanding of a parrot's often overlooked requirements, such as extensive social stimulation, environmental enrichment, nutritional requirements for long term health (no seeds), and sunlight exposure, a rescued bird really needs you.
Bird-specific rescues are often very finicky in selecting adopters to take home their fostered birds, and perhaps this is rightfully so—birds, like many exotic mammals, experience a lot of stress when moved from the environment they were raised in.
Moving from one home to another is more emotionally tolling for certain animals, and stress can induce a compromised immune system. Knowledgeable bird owners with no specific preference for an uncommon parrot species or a hand-raised baby should check out local rescues for a possible avian match.
- 10 Things You Need to Know Before Adopting a Bird - Petfinder
Thinking of adopting a bird? Read the ten things you should know about birds before doing so.
9. Starter Snakes
What are 'beginner's snakes'? Basically, the species that most snake keeping novices start out with. When most people look into getting their first snake, they generally don't have requirements for uncommon or expensive species. Most people seek small colubrids such as garter snakes, corns snakes, king snakes, and typical larger easy-care species such as ball pythons and red-tailed boas.
Because of their popularity, they can be found in animal shelters. In the case of ball pythons, serious hobbyists produce hundreds of 'cheap' snakes in clutches hoping to hit the 'genetic lottery' and hatch out animals with recessive traits such as albinism and pied coloration. The other snakes in the litter are called 'normals' and are not so desirable. Despite all this, normal ball pythons are sold in chain pet stores for outrageous prices, while breeders are nearly giving them away (I acquired a normal ball python for free this way).
Why you should adopt: If you are looking to adopt a snake without specific preferences for the species or morph it is likely that you can locate one for free (or near). Snakes are produced in high volumes and need caretakers (luckily snakes are easy to care for and probably are the most space-efficient pet you can own, so keeping multiple snakes is not obscene). If there are no reptile rescues in your area, a good site to find adoptable snakes is FaunaClassified.com or Kingsnake.com.
8. Small Rodents
Small 'pocket pets,' hamsters, mice, rats, gerbils, guinea pigs and even lesser-known species like degus, fill animal shelters and rescues routinely. Why? They are typical 'throw away' pets that are sold in every popular chain pet store which encourages impulse buys.
They are not very difficult to care for in terms of keeping them alive, but this ease of husbandry can often mislead people into thinking they won't have to involve themselves with these animals much, while the cages rapidly accumulate smelly urine and droppings (especially in the undersized cages they are normally kept in). Small children that rodents are often bought for also tire of these animals and they are commonly dropped of at shelters with little concern.
Why you should adopt: Before buying small pets from pet stores, be sure to check your local rescue to help alleviate the facility of increasing mouths to feed. Small pets usually have perfect pet quality (or at least anything you'd expect to get from Petco) and are not 'problem pets.'
Rabbits reproduce like, well, rabbits. And they are often bought for children like other small pets. An unfortunate trend involves them being purchased as exciting additions to Easter baskets, and they are often condemned to a small hutch in the backyard after the initial excitement wears off.
Rabbits are perceived as low maintenance animals, and are kept in unsuitably small quarters for their size. Rabbits are some of the most popular pets after cats and dogs and, assuming that they are not to be eaten, are overpopulated. Animal shelters that have dogs and cats usually have a rabbit or two available for adoption.
Why you should adopt: Rabbits are one of the most frequently surrendered small pet animals and since most people do not have breed preferences when searching for one as a companion, why not help your local pet shelter and search for your new friend there?
Most ferrets that you see being sold in pet stores come from Marshall Farms, a "commercial breeder of dogs and ferrets for pets and scientific research." The animals, as you may have guessed, are said to be raised in factory farm-like conditions. Ferrets from this large-scale breeder are said to be prone to certain illnesses.
Why you should adopt: Ferrets end up in shelters because many people do not anticipate their rather 'special' dispositions or their smell, which is often at its worse when the animals are fed low-quality commercial ferret foods. Adopt ferrets to offset the presence of the animals in shelters. If there are no ferret rescues in your area (some dog and cat rescues may get small animals in), while they are not generally thought of, some hobby breeders produce ferrets in a humane fashion and should be supported over the conditions at Marshall.
5. Red Eared Sliders
Red-eared sliders (and other water turtles) are common 'throw away' pets that are sold in stores and purchased by people who do not expect them to be high-maintenance pets. These turtles grow large, are messy eaters, and need plentiful swimming room. They are often sold as silver dollar-sized babies, and while turtles under 4 inches are illegal due to the outbreak of Salmonella resulting from small children putting the animals in their mouths, these animals are still available illicitly in some shops (such as shops in China town) and even as prizes at fairs. Due to their size and messy eating habits, they require (but often don't receive) a very large tank or pond, around 55 gallons, with an external canister filter, and these can run upwards $200+.
Why you should adopt: There are far more turtles in the exotic pet trade than suitable owners for them. Ideally, the turtles should have a pond-like environment. Adopting turtles frees up more space at the shelters that rescue them, possibly providing an option for irresponsible owners to dispose of their unwanted pets instead of releasing them into the wild (which has led to an invasive species problem).
One trademark quality of most domesticated animals is ease of propagation, and horses are no exception. With the influx of backyard breeders, unwanted pre-owned pets whose owners are in financial straits, and even feral 'wild' horses that roam many parts of America from the far west to the beaches of North Carolina, horses are everywhere. The overpopulation of horses has led to great controversy on how to control them, and horse slaughter is a hotly debated topic that many find to be a cruel way to dispatch the unwanted equines.
Why you should adopt: Many horses reside in rescues, from non-rideable 'companion horses' to potential sporting show horses. The fact that there are so many unwanted horses that they may be sent to be brutally slaughtered should be enough incentive to rescue one. Since they are expensive to maintain, you would be contributing an immeasurable relief to a good cause by providing a home to these troubled animals instead of supporting their continued breeding.
We all know that millions of dogs are euthanized each year in pounds and dog adoption is thankfully heavily promoted, so why are they only number 3 on this list? Because dogs vary tremendously, in size, demeanor, aesthetics, and suitability for certain lifestyles.
Unfortunately, many people prefer puppies, even though this stage lasts for a brief 6 months and isn't required for social imprinting, unlike with parrots. 8-week old puppies of the more 'desirable' breeds are less common, and when they do arrive at shelters, are often adopted out immediately. If you really desire a specific breed and a baby, you would likely have to do some waiting or traveling. But most people feel the need to get purebred dogs because they feel they are supposed to, and I urge such families to think twice about that.
Many say that choosing a purebred dog is the right choice for most people because they have a good understanding of what the dog's personality will be like, but many shelter dogs, being already at an adult age, can give their temporary caretakers some idea of who they are. Knowing your dog's breed doesn't actually guarantee its behavior. Millions of successful adoptions taking place each year with owners proclaiming that they've found their irreplaceable best friend reveal the success of dog adoptions across the country, and a few purebred dogs are also available.
Common purebreds in shelters typically consist of:
- Siberian huskies
- 'Pitbull terriers' (and Staffordshire terriers, American bulldog mixes, etc.)
- Border collies
- German shepherds
- Labradors (due to sheer popularity)
- Large black dogs (if you like black dogs, be aware that they are often overlooked and are in need of homes more.
For uncommon dog breeds, there are breed rescues, but be careful, they can be stingy or even elitist over who they adopt out to.
By the way, do not encourage people to try to re-home puppies by adopting them from 'free to a good home' boxes. Displays like these are magnets for people with foul and sadistic plans for the easy to obtain animals.
Green iguanas are in a crisis situation as pets in the United States. Sold as small, cute, and seemingly innocuous juveniles, they are extremely cheap to purchase (about $15) and can be maintained in improper, inexpensive starter setups (20-gallon aquariums). But if they survive, they can grow up to 6 feet in length, and they absolutely require a large arboreal cage set up. An iguana in a 6x6 cage is not 'living in luxury,' this is the recommended minimum size, and some people prefer iguanas live in larger cages! Most iguana owners, and even halfway decent owners that care about their pet's welfare have enclosures that are the wrong shape, length, or don't provide multiple basking spots.
Why you should definitely adopt: If you have the means to care for an iguana properly, please, please, please adopt only. Reptile rescues are overwhelmed with the commonly surrendered reptiles, and many even turn them away. There are probably far more iguanas than suitable homes available, and most households don't have the space for more than one iguana (many owners of multiple iguanas often 'bend' the recommended husbandry guidelines to accommodate this). Therefore, buying an iguana is not very ethical, and breeding iguanas has a drastic impact on this sad situation. What's worse, iguanas are an invasive species in Florida. Without a home, euthanasia is recommended if they are caught.
Cats are everywhere—millions of adults as well as babies flood animal shelters annually, strays, ferals, and all in between roam the streets, and people often let their unaltered cats reproduce so they can witness the 'miracle of birth' and raise cute kittens before dumping the litter on random strangers; the requirements for 'adoption' often being having a functioning pulse.
Once, a litter of black and white kittens showed up in my neighborhood. I worked with neighbors to catch them and adopt them out. It surprised me that people would be checking ads for cats when shelters are chock full of cats and kittens.
Why you should definitely adopt: Why buy a cat? Animal shelters are always bursting at the seams with cats of different coloration, breeds, temperaments, and ages. Unlike with dogs, cats are generally very similar to each other, and unless you are seeking a canine-like hybrid Savannah cat, there is something for everyone at most reasonably-sized local animal shelters. There really is no way around it, buying or breeding a typical cat is highly unethical. Supporting people who carelessly allow cats to breed is also not a favorable way of obtaining a feline companion. You should support and reward the animal shelters that house these animals and desperately need to re-home their animals for a minimal adoption fee.
Adopting vs. Buying
Adoption is just a regular cycle in our cultural decision to maintain animals as companion pets. There will always be people who can't keep their animals and may have to use the essential service that dedicated individuals provide. Animal shelters however, shouldn't be exhausted to the point that they have to turn away animals or euthanize them. So I do believe it is our obligation to adopt a pet if the species being sought is present in shelters in high numbers. When shelters are full or are euthanizing pets, that is a great sign that adoption is ethically mandatory.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
I love reptiles and would love to get one. Where would you recommend adopting a snake or lizard?
Go to Petfinder.com to see if any are listed for adoption in your area. Then search for local reptile rescues. They will likely be flooded with iguanas and other common reptiles.Helpful 1
© 2014 Melissa A Smith