National Puppy Day is March 23, and its message to “adopt instead of shop” is an important reminder that we can save a life by opening our hearts and homes to an animal from a shelter, instead of from a pet store or breeder. More than 6 million animals arrive in shelters every year, and because there are not nearly enough good homes for all of them, roughly half must be euthanized.

The overpopulation crisis is compounded by puppy mills, which supply dogs to pet stores. Puppies raised in these mass-breeding factories are confined in anything from small cages made of wood and wire mesh to tractor-trailer cabs and, like their mothers, often suffer from malnutrition, exposure, and a lack of adequate veterinary care. Females are bred until they can no longer produce litters, then they are usually killed or abandoned.

Constant confinement and neglect often result in unhealthy dogs who are difficult to socialize, and many are abandoned within weeks of being adopted. But puppy mills aren’t solely to blame for the surplus of homeless dogs. All breeders exacerbate the crisis: Every puppy purchased from a breeder or pet store denies a home to one waiting in a shelter, one whose life may depend on being adopted.

Craig Shapiro

PETA Foundation