Finding Your New Best Friend: Where to Adopt a Dog


Finding Your New Best Friend: Where to Adopt a Dog

So you’ve decided you’re ready to adopt a dog. Now what? Read on for all the ways you can get started with your adoption process and bring home a new furry friend.

  By Sierra Burgos and Jessica Comstock Updated May 03, 2022 Advertisement Pin FB More Tweet Email Send Text Message Print

Congratulations! You're about to embark on one of life's most rewarding journeys: becoming a dog parent. If you know you want to rescue, but you don't know where to adopt a dog, we've rounded up some of the best organizations and outlets to help find your fur-ever friend.

Online Resources for Adoption

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)

The ASPCA, was founded in 1866 and is one of the largest humane societies in the world. They provide resources for prospective owners, including shelter databases and adoption tips for rescues. They work to get animals off the streets and into forever homes, helping facilitate thousands of adoptions in America every year.


Petfinder's mission is to educate the public on the benefits of adoption and increase that number by utilizing technology in the adoption process. Their directory includes "nearly 11,000 animal shelters and adoption organizations across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico." Petfinder is updated daily with available animals, so check out their database every so often to find your new BFF.

North America's largest non-profit adoption site, connects animals with their forever homes. They help over 17,000 animal rescue groups advertise their dogs to prospective adopters. They also assist with rehoming animals to ensure they go to a loving family. 

The Shelter Pet Project 

"I always send [prospective adopters] to The Shelter Pet Project," says Amy Nichols, vice president of Companion Animals with The Humane Society. "It's an online database to search for any type of pet. You can search by breed or age or even behavioral characteristics. It also gives you the ability to look all across the country." At The Shelter Pet Project, the goal is "to make shelters the first place potential adopters turn to when looking to get a new pet, ensuring that all healthy and treatable pets find loving homes." They look to disrupt misconceptions about pound pets and emphasize the importance of adoption.

Local Animal Shelters

Don't forget to look up local rescues and scroll through their websites. It's possible they update their own site more often, or may have pups you didn't see on one of the databases. This is also a good way to gauge what kind of organization they are. Do they have veterinarians and trainers on staff? Do their facilities look clean and safe for the animals? Always do your homework before committing to any shelter or dog.

RELATED: What It Means to Be a No-Kill Animal Shelter

Not every animal is listed online, so don't be afraid to take your search to the streets and see what every organization has to offer. Sometimes, touring a shelter in person can offer a different experience, and you could fall in love with a dog you normally wouldn't have looked twice at. It's easier to see their personalities when you're face to face, and it will help you decide what you do and don't want.

Rescue Organizations

Most animal rescue organizations operate a bit different from animal shelters. Typically, rescue organizations foster dogs while they search for their forever home. During the time the rescue pups are fostered, they're typically treated for any present illnesses and given the opportunity to socialize and learn positive behaviors in a household setting.

Rescues often focus on one or two dog breeds, so they're a great place to adopt if you have a specific type of pup in mind. Because rescues want to find the best home possible for their pups, be prepared to answer a lot of questions!

Reputable Breeders

If you have your eyes on a specific dog breed and you're having no luck adopting near you, be sure to choose a responsible breeder and avoid puppy mills and backyard breeders. Reputable breeders are responsible for breeding healthy puppies and should always be able to tell you about the puppy's parents and show you the premises. Your vet can refer you to reputable breeders in your area, or you can get referrals from national kennel clubs like the AKC.

RELATED: 3 Places You Should Never Get a Dog & How to Adopt Instead

boy snuggling with dog; where to adopt dogs
boy snuggling with dog; where to adopt dogs Credit: Shaw Photography Co. / Getty

Questions to Ask Your Shelter Before Adopting

Give your local shelter or rescue a call or visit them in person to get a better idea of the way they operate. Be sure to have a list of questions ready, including the following:

  • Where do most of your dogs come from? Or, if you have one in mind, what is the dog's history? Perhaps they were relinquished by an owner, or rescued from the streets. This is important information when it comes to raising your new dog.
  • Do you conduct behavior tests? If so, how did my dog score? Knowing their results will help you train your pup in the most effective way.
  • What kind of medical care do your animals receive? Has my dog gotten any individualized treatment? You should ensure your dog has been given the proper vaccinations and medical screenings before taking him or her home.
  • What adoption fees should I expect? Every shelter varies, so be sure to clarify what you'll be responsible for. Some organizations charge higher fees for young puppies or popular dog breeds.
  • What is the timeline for adoption? Will I be able to take my dog home the day I sign the papers, or will you require a few visits prior to adopting? If you have a dog, they may ask that you bring him or her to the shelter to introduce your new pup first.
  • Will the shelter take a dog back if it doesn't work for my family? It sounds harsh, but don't be afraid to ask this question. There are a number of reasons a dog may not work out—they don't get along with your other pets, someone in the household is allergic, or they don't react positively to your kids, to name a few. If they're the type of shelter to build a relationship with their adopters, they'll likely be open to helping you find your perfect pooch. Maybe, by taking a dog home for a week, you discovered information the shelter could never have found on their own, and now they have a better idea of the type of family this dog needs. Returns, while not ideal, shouldn't be frowned upon entirely. Ask about the rescue's policy before you take your dog home.

With the right resources, adopting a dog can be a very rewarding and enjoyable experience. Keep a list of questions prepared and always do your research before embarking on any adoption journey. Sadly enough, shelters receive new dogs every day, so keep up your search until you find the right pet for you. The process will be worth every minute when you finally lock eyes with your forever pal and take them home.

By Sierra Burgos and Jessica Comstock

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