Where Should You Buy Your Dog?

Even during an era when people are spending more on their pets than ever before, it's important to be economical about the biggest purchase you'll make in your life as a dog owner: actually buying an animal. Even if your family's heart has been captured by a cute little pup in a pet store window, it's important not to make any rash decisions. There are several financial and moral benefits to adopting from an animal shelter or a rescue group, and these should be thoroughly considered before buying your pooch from the nearest pet store.

"When you adopt from an animal shelter or a rescue group, the outlay of cash upfront is a fraction of what you would spend at a pet store," says Joanne Yohannan, senior vice president of operations at the animal rescue and adoption organization North Shore Animal League America, based in Port Washington, N.Y. "Most animal shelter adoption fees range anywhere from $100 to $400, while you can spend anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 at a pet store."

Yohannan also notes that the animal shelter fee will often cover such medical expenses as vaccinations and neutering. Pet stores may also include initial vaccinations for puppies in their upfront fee, but at a considerably higher cost.

And that's not to mention the disparity in the cost of subsequent medical fees between shelter animals and pet store dogs. "When you adopt from a shelter or a rescue group, you're usually getting a mixed breed dog, which has far fewer breed-specific illnesses than a purely bred dog," says Yohannan. Pet stores, on the other hand, usually sell purebreds, and those dogs are more likely to get sick down the line.

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