Adding a dog to your family can be one of the most joyful and rewarding decisions that you’ll ever make. In fact, the only regret you’re likely to have is that you didn’t get a dog sooner. They’re not just incredibly loyal companions, but they’re also insanely forgiving (like if you’re too lazy to take them out for a walk in the winter, they won’t hold it against you — although they might hold it against your carpet, if you know what I mean). Plus, studies have shown that dogs are therapeutic and improve emotional well-being. How’s that for the gift that keeps on giving?

However, there’s a dark and nasty side to this story as well, and it’s about puppy mills. In case you aren’t familiar with these awful, immoral and in many jurisdictions illegal businesses, they are mass-breeding operations that “engineer” cute and cuddly puppies for sale in pet stores, or through online ads.

To say these dogs are abused is an understatement. And it’s even worse for the poor animals who are designated as “breeding stock.” They essentially spend their entire lives in small cages, and are injected with artificial hormones so they keep breeding far beyond what their natural biology would otherwise allow. When these dogs can no longer give birth, they’re killed, abandoned, or sold to another mill.

This means you 100% should never, ever buy a dog from a pet store — period! You should also be very, very wary of ads, because many of them are from puppy mills posing as legitimate dog breeders, or they are from intermediaries who buy and sell puppy mill dogs to make a quick buck.

Instead, you should find a reputable rescue shelter in your area — and there are probably several — and find a puppy or adult/older dog who can be part of your family. Rescue shelters aren’t funded by the government. They rely on donations of cash and other products and services, such as food and veterinary care. They also charge adoption fees, but these are typically to cover actual incurred costs and not to generate a profit.

Here are the 5 reasons why adopting a rescue dog is an AWESOME idea:

  1. When you adopt a rescue dog, you free up space and resources for the shelter to save another dog. You won’t just save one dog — you’ll save two!
  2. If you’re approved for adoption, then you’ll have the chance to bring the dog home to verify that everything is OK. If there are behavioral or health issues, you can take the dog back to the shelter.
  3. You can be assured that every dog in a shelter has been given a thorough exam, received all necessary vaccinations, and has been spayed or neutered. You’ll also be given all of the paperwork to give to your veterinarian.
  4. There are all kinds of dogs in rescue shelters! From small puppies to larger adult dogs, and everything in between. You’ll have plenty of choice, and the cost will probably be less than you expect. Instead of spending $500-$1000 or more at a (so-called) breeder, you can likely get a rescue dog for $50-$200 (depending on where you live, the age and breed of dog, and how much veterinary care the dog required after being rescued). You’ll have enough money left over in your budget to buy all kinds of dog supplies, and celebrate by renting a party bus (check out the link to learn more about the cost of a party bus).

…and last but certainly not least:

  • If enough people like you stop (unintentionally) supporting puppy mills, then eventually they’ll be forced out of business because it won’t be profitable.

Hopefully, these reasons give you more than enough motivation to check out local animal rescue organizations (most of them have websites), and ideally find a dog who is as happy to be part of your life, as you are of theirs.