So the kids have harassed you non-stop and done everything they can to convince you it’s time to get a dog. And you’ve finally agreed. But your work has only just begun; you have to decide where the best place is to get your future puppy. Before you set foot in an unreliable and unethical pet shop, look into adopting a dog. It’s a great chance to give an otherwise forgotten pet a new chance at life.

I know from first hand experience how great adopting a dog can be. My family dog, Bailey, is a rescue. He was originally in a dog pound in New York City, on the list to be euthanized, when the woman who runs my local no-kill shelter came and took him back with her. From there he landed into my family’s waiting arms.

Bailey is a mix of Labrador, Pit Bull and Pointer, a true mutt. There are actually some great reasons mutts make excellent pets. They tend to have well-rounded temperaments thanks to their variety of backgrounds. Mutts also have stronger genes than purebreds, making them live longer lives. Dogs in shelters tend to get examines and vaccinations when they arrive. Shelters also spay and neuter their dogs, which is another way to help reduce the number of homeless dogs out there. Shelter volunteers know their dogs personally and have had plenty of one on one contact. They have information a pet shop owner won’t have about the dogs in his cages.

It’s a sad fact that up to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized each year in America due to overcrowding in shelters. Combine that with the fact that puppies from pet stores are usually born in “puppy mills” and it’s easy to see why promoting pet adoption is so important. The more people that choose to adopt, the less dogs stuck in shelters, and the less puppies born in atrocious puppy mills. When you adopt from a private animal shelter or local animal control agency you also free up space for another dog to be rescued. You’ll walk away from a shelter with your new pet feeling like you’ve helped a greater cause, and you have!

If money is an issue when considering a dog, adoption is a great choice. Purebred dogs from breeders can run into the thousands of dollars. Dogs from animal shelters are far cheaper, and they are already spayed or neutered and vaccinated, for free! If you want to test the waters before making a full commitment to a new family member, fostering a dog is another great option. Foster families help a dog get acclimated to a home environment while they wait to be adopted. You also help free up shelter space by housing a dog. You can truly change an animal’s life when you adopt. I know my family not only changed Bailey’s life, but also he’s provided us with countless wonderful memories!