The Ethics of Adoption

On 3 July, my wife and I adopted two kittens from the PetSmart in Greenbelt, MD.  For those of you who don’t know, these in-store cat adoptions are sponsored by Last Chance Animal Rescue, which acquires cats and kittens from 40 high-kill shelters in eight states.   Inevitably, in our highly judgmental society, two points prompt disapproval from some people.  Not only did we fail to adopt one of the oft-ignored older cats but we also failed to adopt one from in-state, like from our city or county animal shelter.  While I fully understand the reasoning behind both of these sentiments, I do not believe that either one of them is a moral imperative.

We wanted to adopt an older cat.  In fact, we had done it twice before.  But there are so many variables to consider when deciding to adopt a cat.  First and foremost, the age and disposition of any resident cats must be considered.  Our resident cats are well into their senior years.  They are set in their ways and not particularly amenable to meeting another mature cat, many of whom have already acquired a strong identity and sense of caution, if not a dislike for unfamiliar cats.  Kittens, on the other hand, are innocent and curious.  They approach everything, even other cats, with a sense of wonder.  Kittens make that barrier of suspicion and fear a bit less thick.  Second, the presence of any dogs must be considered.  We have two, both of whom are very good with cats.  But of course, not all cats are good with dogs.  Kittens, on the other hand, can be shaped to like them fairly easily.  Third, the presence of any children must be considered.  We have three young girls and we wanted them to experience the joy of growing up with funny, playful kittens.

Our decision to adopt an animal from PetSmart was not quite as well thought-out.  It wasn't an impulsive decision because we did sleep on it.  But we certainly did not go into that PetSmart looking to acquire another animal.  In fact, we had no intention of getting another animal anytime soon.  Last Chance Animal Rescue was both strategic and brilliant when it negotiated a contract with large commercial pet supply companies.  It appears to run its operation more like a business that a non-profit organization or government facility.  And that type of business model pays off, as evidenced by our susceptibility to an enticing display and great marketing.  But my flexibility with regards to where my adopted animals come from is mostly based on my own worldview.  While it is practically and politically appealing to "tend to one's own garden," I do not believe it is a sustainable practice when it comes to the environment, conservation, or animal welfare. 

The climate, ecosystems, forests, rivers, and animals do not recognize artificial, human-contrived boundaries like state lines and national borders.  A habitat in crisis or an animal in need is a tragedy and a human failure, regardless of where it is.  And resolution frequently requires a holistic approach that must ignore those boundaries to be effective.  I consider myself a universalist.  I believe in the universal experience of all sentient life and I strive to safeguard our shared consciousness.  In sum, the only ethical consideration when adopting an animal in need is ensuring that the animal you select is a good fit for your home - and that can and will provide for it in a very loving and responsible manner.