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Adopt or Buy – Pros and Cons to getting an ESA

October 28, 2019
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Whether to buy a pet from a breeder or to adopt from a shelter? This debate is ongoing and emotionally charged. Although, the stakes are even higher when you’re looking for a pet to act as an emotional support animal. With that in mind, here we have come up with some pros and cons. Further on, we discuss purchasing an emotional support animal from a breeder versus taking a trip to your local animal shelter to adopt.

Buying an Emotional Support Dog From a Breeder


  • You have the opportunity to train your emotional support dog from puppyhood:  This can be key. It offers you the opportunity to mold your new puppy into the support animal that you can rely on.
  • You’ll know exactly what breed you’re getting: Some dog breeds are better suited for being an emotional support dog than others. Going to a breeder ensures that you get exactly the breed you’re looking for.
  • Trustworthy breeders take temperament into consideration when breeding: It’s not just breed conformation that good breeders are concerned with. If you go to a trustworthy breeder, you can be confident that they’ve taken temperament into consideration. Also, when breeding this helps to increase the chance that your new puppy will grow into a steady adult dog.

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  • Buying is almost always more expensive than adopting: When you buy from a breeder, you will easily find the prices usually are thousands of dollars. This does not count the costs of vaccinations, micro-chipping, spaying, neutering and more.
  • Training a puppy can be a lot of work: Not every pet owner is cut out for the rigorous routine of properly training a puppy.
  • Purebred dogs can be at risk for a host of genetic disorders: While it can be tempting to assume that shelter dogs are more prone to illness, purebred animals have actually be shown to be more susceptible to costly and difficult-to-manage genetic disorders.

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Adopting Your Emotional Support Dog From a Shelter


  • You’ll save a significant amount of money: The average shelter charges approximately $150 in adoption fees; since most shelter dogs have their vaccines and spayed or neutered, you can save on those costs, too.
  • Many shelters evaluate animals for temperament before adoption: Shelters want to make good matches between pet and owner. So many shelters perform temperament evaluations. They can recommend the right animal to match what you’re looking for in an ESA.  
  • Adopting an adult dog saves you the pain of training: The stress and time that involves training a puppy is significant. Adopting an ESA that is grown, can avoid much of this.


  • Your adopted pet may come with hidden temperament issues: Unfortunately, it is true. Dogs that end up at shelters sometimes have emotional scars from abuse or abandonment in their past. Additionally, this can lead to temperament issues. This is important to note because, while there are no firm requirements for ESAs, you will be responsible for your dog’s actions–even with an ESA letter
  • You can never be certain exactly what breed you’re getting: While no one breed is objectively better than any other and mixed breed dogs can make wonderful companions, certain dog breeds may make better ESAs than others–and you can never guarantee what breed your dog is if you adopt from a shelter.

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In short, there’s no right answer as to whether you should adopt or buy your emotional support animal. Take your time to weigh the pros and cons of each. However, this will increase your chances of finding just the right pet to become your new emotional support animal. 

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