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Where to Adopt a Pet: Know Your Pet Adoption Options

Adopting a pet to grow your family is one of the best ways for an animal lover to help spread their love. Luckily, there are a number of resources for finding your perfect pet match. Begin by learning about the various adoption options to determine which ones are most likely to result in the outcome you hope to achieve.

Where to adopt a dog or cat

Pet adoption can occur in a number of different ways, and taking the time to understand how the process works for each one can help you along the way. Adoption options include:
Animal Shelters and Humane Societies

The world is too full of dogs and cats waiting for a home and many end up at local shelters or humane societies. While many pets can live out the rest of their lives in these locations, some shelters are overcrowded and can only provide temporary homes for a certain number of days. That’s why an animal shelter or humane society is a great place to start your search for a pet.  If there’s one in your area, plan a visit. You can meet adoptable animals and learn about volunteer opportunities and special adoption events. A current resident might be just what you’re looking for.

  • The process: Shelters and humane societies often include an adoption fee that can range anywhere from $50 up to a few hundred dollars or more, but that usually includes the cost of a spay or neuter and shots. Before taking a pet home, you may be asked to answer questions or fill out paperwork to provide them with more insight into your lifestyle, time the pet will spend alone most days, the type of home/yard you have, additional pets you might have, etc. Some shelters require a home visit to ensure you’ve properly pet-proofed and are set up for your new family member’s arrival. For specific details about the process your local shelter or society follows, give them a call and ask.

Breed Rescue Groups

If you’re in the market for a specific breed, you may want to start your search with a breed enthusiast group or breed-specific rescue association. Before heading down this route, though, do your research to learn if the temperament and care requirements of the breed you’re interested in match your specific wants and lifestyle.

  • The process: Shelters are usually aware of local breed rescues and can provide referrals. Potential dog parents can also refer to the American Kennel Club Rescue Network, while The International Cat Association is a good resource for would-be cat parents. Breed rescue groups often use foster pet parents to take care of animals until they find a home. Because they often spend a lot of time with the animals they care for, foster pet parents are particularly well qualified to tell you about the personality and characteristics of a dog or cat you may be interested in adopting. Their insights can help ease the transition when you bring your new pet home. Adopting through a breed rescue group is similar to working with a shelter, in that the organization will take steps to ensure you are the right match for the pet and that your home offers a suitable environment for that pet. Again, how much you pay to adopt from a breed rescue can vary from $0 on up to $250 or more. Since each breed and group is different, be sure to talk with the administrator about the process, fees and specifics up front so they don’t  come as a surprise when your perfect pet comes along.

Work with Your Veterinarian

Veterinarians can be a wealth of knowledge about adoption opportunities in your area, especially when it comes to helping rehome patients whose parents can no longer care for them. Veterinary technicians or volunteers at vet offices, who may also volunteer at shelters or help out as foster pet parents, may be able to point you in the right direction as well. If your veterinarian’s office has a bulletin board, you can start there, or ask at the reception desk.

  • The process: The process of adopting through your veterinarian—as well as what you end up paying—will vary widely based on the circumstance. For example, if your veterinarian happens to know an elderly pet parent who needs to find a new loving home for the dog they can no longer care for, that adoption process could be fairly straightforward and free. If, on the other hand, your veterinarian sets you up with a shelter or breed-specific rescue group, you’ll likely go through their regular process and pay something within the fee range mentioned above.

Pet Adoption Websites

Pet adoption websites—like or the adopt a pet feature on—are gaining in popularity, and they can be a great way to start your adoption search from the comfort of your own home. Most of these sites help draw in rescue options that are available at your local shelters or with rescue groups, as well as animals currently residing with foster pet parents. These sites can be an asset if you’re looking for a pet with specific attributes, since you can often search by breed, age and gender, among other factors.

  • The process: These sites often only act as aggregators for shelters or other adoption organizations in your area. Once you click on a pet you’re interested in, you’ll likely be taken to that shelter or rescue’s website for more information or to fill out an email interest sheet. After that, the process would follow the traditional ones for a shelter or breed-specific rescue group listed above.

Friends and Family

Perhaps one of the easiest ways to start your adoption search is by getting the word out to friends and family that you’re looking to adopt a pet. Many different factors contribute to people giving up their beloved pets, and most are very grateful when a new loving home comes along quickly. Plus, if you end up adopting through someone you know, you have the added benefit of being able to contact them with any questions, as well as potentially keep some of the supplies that the pet is already used to.

  • The process: Adopting a pet from a friend or family member could be easier than going through a shelter or breeder, but you’ll still want to make sure you do your due diligence. For example, before taking home any pet, be sure to ask about shot, health and microchip records and whether the animal is spayed or neutered, and ask for copies of any veterinary records so you can stay on top of or get ahead of health issues.

Petco Adoption Events

Petco makes it easy to find your new furry family member by allowing you to meet adoptable pets at your local store. Cats are available for adoption in certain stores and dog adoption events occur routinely with rescue partners (call your local Petco for more details).

  • The process: The Petco Foundation hosts adoption events nationwide every month where prospective pet parents can come in to meet different animals available for adoption. Be prepared to answer questions about your lifestyle, other pets and overall availability. You’ll likely fill out a form with some information and maybe even have a house visit. Again, since adoptions are only facilitated by Petco and the Petco Foundation, the process is usually carried out and finalized by a rescue group or shelter that will adhere to their standard procedures.

Whatever route you decide to take to adopt, know that adopting a pet is a big responsibility, as well as a wonderful way to help a deserving animal find a forever home. When you do finally adopt, Petco has all the supplies you need to help keep your new family member happy and healthy.