Adopting Shelter Pets

What to Know Before You Go

Cat at shelter

Deciding to bring a pet home from a shelter can be both exciting and overwhelming. Learning about policies for pet adoption ahead of time can help potential owners prepare for the process that separates them from their new companion.

Why Adopt Pets

There are more than 7 million adoptable dogs and cats euthanized each year due to overpopulation in shelters, according to the Human Animal Foundation (1-800-save-a-pet.com). Of those, about 25 percent are purebred and 75 mixed-breeds.

Plan Ahead

Adam Goldfarb, issues specialist at the Human Society of the United States, offers some tips for planning pet adoptions.

  • First, make sure you have the time, money and space to accommodate a pet.
  • Live in managed building? Check to see if there are restrictions as to what kind and size of pet, if any, you can have. Shelters might have polices that include checking with your building manager to ensure pets are permitted.
  • If you hope to bring a pet home immediately, pet proof your home ahead of time to make the transition as easy as possible. Get down on your hands and knees and look for things that might be tempting to pets such as loose wires, choking hazards and shoes.  
Dog in shelter

Locating A Pet Shelter

There are hundreds of pet shelters across the country. Most have dogs and cats but many also adopt out rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs. There are also exotic species of birds, reptiles and fish and occasionally something along the lines of an African Gray Parrot or Lovebird.

Find a local pet shelter online by visiting the Humane Society HumaneSociety.org, Pet Finder petfinder.com or AnimalShelter.org. Some pet shelters have photo galleries of pets available for adoption on their Web site. This can be beneficial if you’re searching for a particular breed.


Pet Adoption Process

Since pet adoption polices vary by organization, you might call ahead to learn what the process at your local shelter entails. There’s a lot of variation but here are the basics:

  • Stroll through pens of adoptable pets.
  • Request to spend a little one-on-one time with those you think might be a match.
  • Fill out paperwork once you’ve found the right pet.
  • Take your pet home.

Shelter Variations May Apply

Dog sits in car

As aforementioned, some organizations might require an additional call to your manager or even pay a house visit before approving an adoption. If the agency requests a house visit, think of it as a great opportunity to be further educated about your pet and get some transitioning tips.

Other agencies might have you fill out a questionnaire so that they can match you to a pet that will fit into your budget and lifestyle. If you’re uncertain what kind of pet is best for your family, shelter employees can often offer some guidance.

There might also be a waiting period for receiving your new pet. This could be the case if the shelter is waiting to hear back from references or if the pet needs shots or veterinary care before being released.

Pet Shelter Fees

You can expect to pay some sort of fee ranging anywhere from a few dollars or up to a few hundred dollars if you pick a purebred pet. (These fees might be tax deductable depending on the agency.) This is actually a bargain. After all, you’re often taking home a pet who is housed trained, has been spayed or neutered and has undergone a recent veterinary exam and behavioral evaluation.

The Perfect Match

Adopting a pet means adding a companion to your life that will ideally be around for years to come, says Goldfarb. With this in mind, he says to make every attempt to choose a pet whose energy, needs and lifestyle you can happily sustain.