The Adoption Option:
Rescue the Old-Fashioned Way
© Ren Weeks
Pictured: Adélie, a disabled betta adopted from a breeder
___Adopting unwanted dogs and cats rather than purchasing from a pet store has become a popular practice in the United States and other countries. Yet this practice is slower to catch on when it comes to less traditional companions, such as pocket pets, exotics, and fish. Perhaps it is because they have fewer advocates, fewer rescue organizations, or are less appealing to the general public. Perhaps the owner-to-owner rather than owner-to-rescue transfer of such animals makes determining the scope of the homelessness problem more difficult. Regardless of the minimal attention the plight of these animals garners, make no mistake: there are many bettas out there who need adoptive homes, and will otherwise suffer neglect or perish.
___Let's face the facts: bettas are mistreated in pet stores because they have been commodified. When you turn living things into products, the same bottom line - profit - still applies. And with bettas costing stores literally pennies but being sold for dollars, low-quality care is typically cheaper even if it does cost a few lives along the way.
___Even if advocacy can remedy in-store care, or if the store maintains a minimum standards of quality husbandry, pet stores tend to rely on the impulsive purchase of animals along with the gimmicky (and often inappropriate) products that accompany them. This means living in a small cup, which should be a temporary condition of the sales world, can turn into a lifetime in about the same volume of water as people are encouraged to buy little tanks with big price tags for the sake of store profits.
___For many betta advocates, this makes the current state of affairs in pet stores one not worth supporting. For those who purchase from breeders, the alternative is obvious, but those who only want a pet quality animal but do not wish to support a store, or alternately those who want to help bettas in need, the options are less clear.
How & Where to Adopt
___Thankfully, adoption is an increasingly popular and available option. In the betta world, there are basically three major types of adoption to consider: adoption/rescue from a prior owner, adoption of a breeder cull, and adoption from a foster home or rescue. Below is detailed information on each.
- Rescue/Adoption From Prior Owner: This form of adoption covers bettas who are unwanted or neglected in their current homes, usually locally. The fish may come from any variety of situations; perhaps they were a well loved pet and their owner simply can't keep them due to circumstances. Perhaps they are unwanted due to a child's waning interests. Some may be the unlucky victims of live animal prizes, wedding centerpieces, or other exploitative uses of the species. And in some cases, you may simply notice a friend or co-worker neglecting their betta and ask if you can take it home. Remember that fish coming from private homes were often improperly cared for or neglected, so one should be prepared to deal with issues like fin rot, emaciation, parasites, etc. before adopting.
If you are interested in adopting a betta from an owner who does not want or can not keep their fish, here are a few places to start:
- Adoption of Breeder Culls: A "cull" fish is a betta that is not desired by its breeder but is not a good candidate to be sold. These animals may be disfigured, disabled, undersized, poor quality, or simply surplus. Traditionally, such fish were culled - killed - but many breeders now use adoption as a humane alternative. Anyone looking to adopt a cull should obviously be well prepared to deal with any potential special needs if they exist, and pricey shipping is often involved unless the breeder is local. Still, these wonderful fish are truly a rescue as they would otherwise be destroyed, and many are no more complicated to care for than any other betta. Many breeders post their culls in the adoption section of this site; other betta & tropical fish forums sometimes have such animals available for adoption as well.
- Adoption from Foster Home/Rescue: While there are no known betta-specific non-profit rescue organizations, bettas are sometimes available through other rescue groups, such as animal shelters, or from private foster homes that have rescued the animals and are now working to place them. Petfinder has added a "fish" sub-category to its "reptile" category, and bettas are occasionally available there via traditional animal rescue organizations.
Private betta rescuers and foster homes are easiest found through betta forums like this one, though a word of caution - because private individuals are not actual non-profit organizations, it can be difficult to determine if they are legitimate, or if they may be hoarders or scammers. If you don't know the reputation of the individual you're adopting from, always make sure you have full contact info before sending shipping money and can see a photo of the fish before you adopt it. Also be leery of individuals who will not show their facilities, charge a high adoption fee, do not have any adoption stipulations to ensure a good home, or who adopt out sickly animals without informing adopters.
___Unwanted bettas are more prevalent than one may realize; while they many not have a homelessness crisis of the same magnitude as other animals, there are plenty of bettas out there who could benefit from an informed adoptive home. Adoption is a fulfilling and compassionate way to own bettas without supporting pet stores (especially if breeders are not an option or not preferred). It gives bettas who are unwanted, homeless, or who would otherwise perish a second chance at living a long, happy life with a compassionate owner.