Where Can I Adopt a Dog?

by Sundays

Happy mixed breed dog with chain collar

You may have slightly different options depending on where you live, but here are the general types of places to consider when adopting a dog.

Ready to get a cute new roommate and amazing best friend who will listen to you talk about pretty much anything? We’re talking about adopting a dog, of course! 

Adopting a pup comes with many questions, but the first one is most likely, “Where can I adopt a dog?” You may have slightly different options depending on where you live, but here are the general types of places to consider.

Best Bets: Local Shelter or Rescue

One of the safest, all-around best ways to adopt is through a local shelter or rescue. When you do, everyone benefits–you get a new best pal, your new best pal gets a new person and home, and the shelter or rescue can make space for another pet to get a chance to be adopted.

The main difference between the two is that with shelters, the animals are usually housed in one location, and with rescues, the animals usually live with foster parents. Rescues are usually smaller organizations, but both shelters and rescues largely run on donations and some level of volunteer work. 

Do a quick search online for shelters near you, and pay attention to the ratings and reviews people have given them. This will help you narrow down the options. Next, take time looking at the websites of the shelters or rescues you’re interested in. Reputable shelters and rescues should:

- Work with a veterinarian to spay/neuter, examine, and vaccinate the animals

- Be transparent about each pet’s background and information

- Have an adoption process and fee

- Mention their policy on taking pets back if something goes wrong

- Have medical records at least from when they entered the shelter

- Require meet and greets before you adopt

- Spay/neuter pets before adopting them out

Once you’ve got a few shelters in mind, go and visit them. Make sure the animals seem to have plenty of room in their enclosures, and that everything seems clean and orderly. With rescues, you can arrange a visit through the person fostering the pet. If you spot a potential new soulmate, here’s what the process should look like:

1. Find a pet on their site, social media page, or in their shelter that you’re interested in.

2. Fill out an application, where you will be asked about other pets and household members, whether you’ve rehomed pets before and why, the reason why you want a dog, what personality traits and energy level you’re looking for, how much time you can spend with your dog, your plans for their care when you’re away from home, as well as other questions. 

3. Speak to an adoption counselor to go over your application.

4. Possibly have a home check where the adoption counselor will want to visit your home in person or virtually.

5. Meet and greet the pups you’re interested in to see if there’s a match.

6. Pay a fee, submit paperwork, and ask any final questions.

7. Take home your new friend!

Good Alternative: Pet Store Adoption Event

Notice we said an “adoption event” hosted at a pet supplies store, not just a store that “sells puppies.” There’s a huge difference between local shelters doing events where you can adopt a pet from the shelter and a store that sells the dogs themselves. 

Here’s how to tell the difference:

- Look for a sign that tells you which shelter the pets are visiting from. If you can’t tell, ask the person running the event.

- It should be set up as an event that only happens on certain days, when the dogs are brought in from a shelter; the dogs should not live at the pet store.

- The shelter should be reputable and able to be found online.

In the case of an adoption event, you might not have looked online at any pets yet, so you’ll do the meet and greets right there with any dogs you’re interested in. Then you can fill out the application and ask questions. As a bonus, you can go shopping with your new pup right there after the adoption!

Hit or Miss: Friend, Neighbor, or Family Member

A lot of times, you’ll just come across someone trying to rehome or find a home for a dog for tons of different reasons. You might hear about a pup from a friend or family member. 

Or you can also take a look at social community apps like Nextdoor. People often post about dogs that need new homes because someone passed away or is moving, or it could be a stray or lost pet that no one has reunited with.

If you’re lucky, in rehoming cases, you’ll get some background info, like age, breed, vaccinations, whether they’re potty trained, and whether they’re good with kids, other pets, and so on. 

It could also be the case that you get no info at all and will find out at least some health info after you adopt them and take them to the vet. This is something you’ll need to be OK with–not knowing their background.

Don’t be surprised if a neighbor asks for a rehoming fee. Many people do this to make sure the person adopting is truly interested in caring for the pet and does not want to just get a pet to use for dog fighting.

So overall, if you are fine with the unknown and just want to give a certain dog a new home and a great life, reach out to people you know about adopting.

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog?

This all depends on where you live, what kind of dog you’re adopting, and where you’re adopting them from. If you’re adopting from a friend, family member, or neighbor, the cost could be nothing up to around $50 for a rehoming fee. With shelters, rescues, and adoption events, the fee can range from around $100 to $500. If you adopt during the yearly Clear the Shelter event in August, all adoption fees are waived.

Where Not to Adopt a Dog

Of course, there are also places you shouldn’t look when you want to adopt a dog. 

Stay away from for-profit puppy stores that only exist to sell puppies. You’ll usually see big “puppies for sale” signs with no relationship to a shelter or rescue group. These places are usually running “puppy mills” with no regard to the mother dog’s safety or well-being, let alone the health of the puppies. 

Other places they show up for sale include flea markets or in classified ads, such as Craigslist ads mentioning a certain breed of puppies for sale. If you are looking for a certain breed, there are tons of breed-specific rescues you can contact, and be sure to take a look through the shelters, because you may be thinking you need a certain breed, but your perfect match might be a mix or a totally different breed.

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