Our mission: To protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.

Alternatives to buying pets online or in pet stores

If you’re considering adding a new pet to the family, we urge you to adopt instead of buying a pet from an online retailer or pet store. By adopting from a reputable animal shelter or rescue group, you are ensuring that you are not supporting and endorsing the inhumane commercial breeding facilities that supply pet stores and sell pets online. As an extra bonus, you are doing your part to fight pet overpopulation and save homeless animals from euthanasia. Here are some ways to adopt:

  • Visit your local BC SPCA community animal centre: Every cat, dog and rabbit available for adoption at the BC SPCA is spayed or neutered and comes with a free health check from a local veterinary clinic (where applicable). Cats and dogs are vaccinated, dewormed, microchipped, receive flea/tick protection and come with six weeks of free Petsecure pet health insurance and a bag of food. Adopters of small animals receive handouts for general care and feeding/housing requirements.

  • Find your adoption match online: Go to our adoption page or The listings on these websites include photos, videos and descriptions of adoptable animals. Adoptable animals on the BC SPCA’s site are updated every hour.

  • Contact a breed rescue group: If your heart is set on a particular breed or species that you couldn’t find at a shelter, there is probably a rescue group out there dedicated to taking in and rehoming that type of pet. To find breed rescue groups, search or do a Google search (type in your city or province name, the breed or species you want, and the word “rescue”).

  • Additional tips: Some progressive online classified websites prohibit ads for the sale of pets and animals on their sites, but they do allow people to post ads to rehome or adopt pets. If you respond to such an ad, ask if you can visit the animal in his/her existing home. You want to make sure you are adopting from a rescuer or an individual attempting to rehome a pet rather than a breeder. If someone is “adopting out” several litters of purebred puppies, has “more on the way,” and doesn’t seem to have adult animals in need as well, this person may be a breeder. Suspiciously high “adoption fees” can also be a red flag that someone is an intentional breeder.

What makes a shelter or rescue reputable?

  • They have an application process that helps to ensure the animal is the right match for you and your lifestyle.

  • The animal has been temperament tested and they know whether or not it is a good fit for a household with cats, dogs and young children.

  • The animal has been provided with adequate veterinary care prior to your adoption. You should expect the animal, if a cat, dog or rabbit, to be spayed, neutered, vaccinated and given permanent identification.

If adoption is simply not an option and you choose to purchase from a breeder, please do some research to make sure that you are working with a reputable breeder. Search their name, phone number and kennel name online to see if there are any reviews or complaints. Visit their home or facility and use this print out to guide your questions and conversations.

Signs of a Reputable Breeder

  • Has no more than two or three breeds or species.

  • Has a clean and spacious home or facility with the opportunity for the animals to receive regular exercise outside of their kennels/cages.

  • Gladly shows you their entire home or facility where animals are kept and introduces you to all their animals — both adults and offspring, including the mother of the pet you are considering purchasing.

  • The breeder is able to provide veterinary records which show that the animals are healthy.

  • Openly discusses positive and negative aspects of the animal/breed.

Specifically for Puppies and Kittens:

  • The breeder does not breed females who are too young or too old. Generally dogs and cats should not be bred at less than 18 months and should only be bred once in every two heat cycles. The maximum breeding age for female dogs ranges from five years in giant breed dogs to 10 years in toy breeds, but breeders should be attentive to the overall well-being of the breeding female and not just to her ability to breed.

  • Puppies or kittens are raised indoors (not in barns or outbuildings), where they are exposed to various household noises, are handled gently by many different people and are kept clean, warm and well fed.

  • Won’t let puppies go to new homes before eight weeks of age and not less than 10 weeks for kittens.

  • Asks you many questions about your lifestyle and experience with animals to ensure you are a good match for one of their puppies or kittens.

  • Is a member of a breed club (where possible); many breed clubs require members to comply with a code of ethics.

  • Is knowledgeable about heritable disorders in the breed and will discuss how they breed to avoid such disorders.

  • Provides, at no extra charge, valid paperwork for registration and vaccine certificates for the puppy or kitten you are purchasing.

  • Never sells puppies or kittens to a companion animal dealer or pet store.

  • Has a contract for you to sign that lists your responsibilities to the animal you are purchasing as well as their responsibilities, and outlines their health guarantee for the animal. The guarantee should offer more than simply a replacement animal.

  • Reputable breeders often will require you to spay or neuter the puppy or kitten and will require you to return the puppy or kitten to them if it does not work out.

If the breeder requests to meet you in a shopping mall, parking lot or somewhere else away from their breeding facility to get your new pet, DO NOT purchase from this person. This is a clear indication you are dealing with a disreputable source.

Some common characteristics of a bad breeder:

  • Agrees to sell you a puppy or a kitten without meeting you (e.g. over the phone)

  • Doesn’t allow you to come and meet them and/or their animals before purchase

  • Sells their animals to pet stores or brokers

  • Does not ask you questions about your lifestyle and experience with animals

  • Has run-down or crowded facilities

  • Is reluctant to show you their facilities

  • Has dirty, unhealthy and/or unsocialized animals

  • For dogs kept in cages, is unable to show you their outdoor exercise area in use

  • Sells animals without vaccinations, veterinary check or guarantees against health problems including genetic defects

  • Charges extra for kennel club registration and/or pedigree

  • Will not take the animal back should a problem arise or will try to simply offer you another animal should the first one get sick, rather than helping with your vet bills

(content credit: some content used with permission from the CFHS)

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