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Adopt, don’t shop: Why aren’t more animal lovers choosing to rescue pets?

In the lead up to National Rescue Dog Day, we lift the lid on the UK’s animal adoption concerns, revealing the problems with bad breeding practices, and discussing why we believe prospective pet owners should adopt, not shop.

Updated 10 May 2022  | 5 min read

Adopting a rescue cat or dog is a wonderful way of welcoming a new pet into your home. It means giving a second chance to an animal that really needs one and helps to prevent unnecessary breeding.

However, the percentage of Brits who have chosen to adopt remains at a similar level to those who’ve taken another route to get their pet. So, ahead of National Rescue Dog Day 2022, we asked [1] pet lovers about their concerns around rescuing, and discuss why we feel more of us should adopt, not shop.

What do pet owners think about adoption?

While many Brits are still opting to buy their pets, they are beginning to reconsider how they find their furry friends in the future. Our recent research has revealed that nearly one in 10 (9%) UK pet owners who chose to purchase a cat or dog now regret that they didn’t adopt their animal companion instead. Interestingly, it’s younger owners who were the most likely to feel this way, as 15% of 18 to 24-year-olds said they regretted the decision to buy their pet.

In fact, our survey results show that most pet owners haven’t ruled out rescuing as an option for them. A massive 82% of those who previously bought from a breeder, online seller or family member/friend said that they would consider adopting next time. However, many admitted to having concerns about it, too.

It seems as though adoption is more appealing to younger generations. Incredibly, 100% of 18 to 24-year-old pet owners said that they would consider rescuing in the future. This figure fell to around three-quarters (76%) of those aged 55 and over, suggesting that older pet owners are more apprehensive about the process.

In addition to this, we found that the main cause for concern held by those who haven’t yet chosen to rescue a pet was that an adopted animal could have behavioural problems. Almost half (49%) of those who previously bought their cat or dog selected this as one of their worries.

The second most common factor putting people off rescuing was the need to consider their other pets at home. On the other hand, a quarter of those who previously purchased their four-legged friend said they had no concerns about adopting.

How can we combat these concerns? 

It’s important to factor in how a new addition will fit with your family, so worries over how an adopted animal will behave or get on with other pets are valid. However, rescuing a dog or cat from a reputable shelter often means you’ll find an animal that is matched to your exact needs.

Esme Wheeler, a pet welfare expert at the RSPCA, says: “Sadly, due to the way that some animals end up in our care, sometimes we may not have much history on that individual animal and their background. However, all RSPCA animals are fully vet checked, behaviourally assessed, and matched with adopters who we believe will be right for them. Reputable rescue groups will help with any questions and will provide ongoing support once your new pet comes home.

“While breeders may provide history in terms of a pet’s parentage and breeding, they are unlikely to spend as much expert time assessing a pet’s needs behaviourally or spend time trying to match a pet to an adopter and their lifestyle.”

Many prospective owners also choose to purchase a pet because they’re keen to bring home an animal that’s of a specific breed, age or background and don’t believe they will find this if they adopt. Our research revealed that 5% of owners who got their pet via a friend, breeder or online seller were concerned that rescue animals are likely to be crossbred. Another 5% were also worried that it wouldn’t be possible to bring home a puppy or kitten if they decided to adopt.

“We’d ask that anyone looking to take on a rescue pet is patient and willing to wait until their perfect match becomes available. It’s really important that families are willing to be flexible and patient to allow rescue staff to do their job and match them with a pet who suits their lifestyle,” Wheeler continues.

Is adopting a pet cheaper than buying one?

On top of the other benefits of adopting, our research has revealed that it could mean saving money, too. In fact, pet owners could save close to £1,000 if they decide to adopt a dog rather than purchase one. Based on average costs, buying a dog from an online seller would set you back a hefty £1,419, whereas adopting one could amount to just £498, saving you a huge £921.[2]

Animal lovers who choose to adopt a cat will only pay an average of £182. On the other hand, buying a cat would cost you an additional £538, with an average price of £720. This difference could cover the cost of your cat’s insurance policy and more. Based on our previous research, the average policy for feline pet insurance amounted to £196.40.[3] So, you’d still have plenty of cash left over to spoil your furry friend with toys and treats.

Similarly, you could easily cover the cost of the typical dog insurance premium price (£379.74) using the average amount saved by choosing to adopt, rather than pay for, your pooch. Even a policy for one of the most expensive dog breeds to insure, a Great Dane (which is priced higher than average at £821) would be covered, and you would still be left with a spare £100.

What are the problems with breeding?

The demand for pets has risen in recent years, which in turn has meant an increase in their value. This, coupled with trends for owning particular breeds, has also sadly resulted in an increasing number of irresponsible breeders looking to cash in.

The practice of selective breeding is when certain breeds of cats and dogs have been bred over time to have particular features that people like. Unfortunately, this is often to the detriment of the animals. For instance, popular flat-faced breeds of dogs, such as French bulldogs and pugs, are at risk of common health issues because of this, and can sometimes need surgery to help them breathe.

As these issues often impact the health of the animal, this also means you’ll likely pay a higher insurance premium. To find out more about the price of Britain’s pet insurance policies and what affects their cost, take a look at our latest research on premiums.

Even animals who have been bred by ‘good’ breeders can have serious health issues, some of which can be incredibly costly. Some breeds and health conditions could result in very high insurance premiums, or may not be covered by insurers at all.

There are several things that you should expect a reputable breeder to provide, including a contract of sale, information about your pet’s pedigree, its microchip, and its health (such as its vaccination record). Each of these details was selected by at least 80% of pet owners as something they feel breeders should provide. This includes an enormous 97% expecting information on the animal’s health, suggesting that this is one of pet owners’ main concerns, compared to the other factors.

Most pet owners said they would also expect to be asked some personal questions by the breeder before the sale, although 5% said they would not. Breeders that care about the animal and where they will be going will inquire about your family, your living situation, and whether you have any other pets.

About this data

[1] To collect the data used in this report, we surveyed 2,000 UK adults via YouGov. The survey ran on 4 April 2022 and all respondents were selected at random. All information related to pet owners’ opinions was taken from the results of this survey.

[2] Online pet marketplace Pets4Homes provided all pricing data relating to the average costs of adopting and buying cats and dogs, as well as a list of the most common dog and cat breeds.

[3] All the insurance prices were taken from previous research by GoCompare. We sourced data from our insurance partners taken between July and September 2021 to work out the average premium costs by breed and location. All information relating to average premiums throughout our report has been collected from our partners. Cat breeds with a sample size smaller than 10 and dog breeds with a sample size smaller than 100 were excluded from the cheapest/most expensive breeds list due to insufficient data.