Buying, Adopting, or Rescuing Pets, What Does It All Mean?

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Buying, adopting, and rescuing are three words used and misused in the pet industry. People use these terms to get sympathy or to mislead buyers.

Buying, Adopting or Rescuing. These three words are often thrown around somewhat loosely in the pet industry, and the last two are often used to play on peoples senses and emotions, when in fact pets are being sold. Some times well meaning owners use the terms incorrectly on themselves, I have heard somebody say they “rescued” a “golden doodle” for $1200.


Buying is when you purchase a pet from a private seller or business. Money is exchanged, either all at once, or in payments. Its really rather straight forward. There are many types of sellers, from the reputable breeder (who only sells registered animals, and breeds only to better the breed, taking animals to shows to prove their worth as breeding animals, and so forth), to owners who can no longer keep their pet, to back yard breeders, who breed their unproven dogs and sell the pups, to accidental litters, to the worst seller, the pet store.*

*If you don't understand why pet stores are the worst sellers, read the link at the bottom of the article.


Adopting is done from an non-profit animal shelter, or charity run pet rescue group (this can be from kill, or non-kill shelters). Money generally changes hands, and contracts are always involved (they may or may not be involved with sales). The pets are adopted out at a relatively low cost, reflecting the fact that the animal shelter is non-profit. Adopters are screened (as they are from reputable breeders too), and go through a process of qualifying. Adoption contracts generally require the pet to be returned to the shelter if the adoptive owner cannot keep it.

sleeping cat

One of my own cats, obviously happy doing what cats do best, sleeping.


There are four types of rescue, one is an adoption from a non-profit animal shelter, as mentioned above, with the addition that the shelter euthanizes pets when they are full. As such the animal is truly being “rescued”, its life being saved. It is considered acceptable to use the term “rescue” when adopting from a no-kill shelter as well, although its not a true rescue.

The second type of rescue is when an animal was in distress, such as a dog hit by a car. Every attempt is made to find the dog's original owner, but none is found, and the finder of the dog offers to pay the veterinary costs, and keep the dog. Sometimes shelters will pay for vet expenses, but then, to be fair, the person is adopting the dog from the shelter, as the shelter is paying the bills they are acting as the dog's owner for a period of time.

Another type of rescue is when a person has to take over mothering duties of a litter when the mother has died, or been killed.  This type of rescue is expensive and hard work and should only be done by somebody who knows what they are doing.

The other type of rescue is when a person buys an animal (often a horse or cow) that is being sold at the low end auction markets, where meat buyers attend. It is only considered a rescue when the final price is lower so that only the meat buyers were other bidders, beyond that, purchasing an animal this way is a sale.


Shannon Richey
Posted on Jun 14, 2010
Richard Wing
Posted on Jun 5, 2010
lisa leverton
Posted on Jun 3, 2010
Susan Kaul
Posted on Jun 3, 2010