You will seldom meet a twenty-something (or thirty-something) these days walking their dog without hearing that they rescued their canine companion. Buying dogs from private breeders is becoming more and more passé in this generation.

Since the 1970’s pet ownership has more than tripled in the United States, and almost 30% of pets purchased in the first decade of the 21st century have been adopted through rescue homes and shelters. A recent study in 2014 revealed that nearly 70% of pet owners today now favor pet adoption over any other kind of animal acquisition. What has been the cause of this influx of purchasing pets from rescue homes? Aside from the increased awareness of unethical puppy mills, and the ever-extortionate purebred prices, there may also be generational reasons why more people are adopting pets than ever before.

Who Are These “Millennials”?

The young adults of this generation are often called millennials, and though difficult to define, they can be characterized by a number of traits. Millennials comprise the most culturally diverse generation that has ever existed in America. They are drawn to cities offering a vibrant community, with a variety of creative opportunities. They are generally sympathetic to progressive political views, and prefer to buy organic whole foods from healthy-option grocery stores (like Whole Foods or the less rigid Trader Joe’s) or better yet –the local farmer’s markets. Millennials favor unique music, and artistic expressions that are individual, honest and raw. They have creative and entrepreneurial spirits, seeking to pursue dreams and make opportunities in spite of an unstable economy and their sky-high student loans. Millennials reprioritize funds differently from other generations, opting to shop at local thrift stores rather than pay top-dollar for elite designer goods. (All the while somehow still preferring the highest quality of authentic and original products available, because they want to invest in quality materials.) However, in many cases, if a company or product supports a good cause, millennials will pay more to get behind the movement.

As the first generation to grow up with the internet and mobile devices, millennials are driven by networking communities and are always looking for the best “up-and-coming” place to socialize and connect with peers. They value small businesses that stand for ethical or environmental improvement. Local coffee shops that serve in-house roasted coffee beans, and offer furry friends in need of affection like cat cafes are a definite hit with hipsters and the millennial generation. Millennials are determined to use the educational and technological advances they’ve been privileged with to invest in a better society for humans, animals and the environment.

Why Are Millennials Adopting Pets?

Below are some of the reasons why people in this generation are adopting more pets:

1. Adoption Is the Right Thing to Do. Millennials love to stand on the soapbox and champion ethical issues. They are less enthused to pay thousands of dollars for an elite dog breed, when needy animals roam the streets or are euthanized every day.

2. Better Financial Investment: For the generation that is laden with loans, smaller pay-grades and more competitive job markets, they have to make better financial decisions to survive and achieve their goals. Pay less to rescue a lonely and unwanted animal, and you still end up with a loving pet? Everybody wins! The money-saving option of adoption appeals to the millennial mind.

3. Societal Improvement: Millennials are dreamers- bound to make the world a better place, staying as close to authenticity as possible. Whether it is supporting ALS, bringing awareness to human trafficking, or purchasing from local businesses, millennials are socially conscious and are inclined to decrease the human “footprint” on the world. Instead of contributing to the problem, millennials want to tackle and solve them. Adoption is the natural conclusion to fighting animal euthanasia and the over-population of pets.

What Adopted Pets Represent to Millennials

Ok, this is where it gets interesting. As a resident of Los Angeles (the city of millennial hipsters, have you heard?) I am going to venture a guess that the pet-adoption trend is about more than just choosing the sympathetic, greater good option. Millennials want a create world reflective of their own ideal experience. The millennial self-perspective includes most or all of these concepts, saying: “I am a young, creative artist or entrepreneur, stepping away from the predictable and limiting constructs of society and standards in which I was raised. I am an individual venturing out, orphan-like into this new world to make a lasting impression and effect positive change for the improvement of all.”

I would argue that the rescued dog is the same as the millennial. Shelter dogs are often undefinable mixed breed individuals, standing out as the unconventional choice. This is not a perfect-purebred puppy with a bow around its neck, but rather raw undefined creature and bringing its own unique story and scars to the table. The rescue dog is in search of connection, significance and affection, just as his human counterpart does. By rescuing them, the millennial affirms the dog’s basic need, and accepts their own coming-of-age ability to responsibly nurture another creature. Adopting or rescuing a dog becomes about a millennial’s individual’s identity, and a reformation of the society in which they live.

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