According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), approximately 3.3 million dogs enter animal shelters across the United States each year. Of these, some 620,000 are strays that are returned to their owners, and 1.6 million are adopted by new owners. Yet, sadly, many hundreds of thousands of dogs are still needlessly euthanized in shelters across the country every year.
If you are thinking of adding a dog to your family, adopting one from a shelter is something you should consider. By adopting a shelter dog, you’ll not only end up with a forever pet for less money, but you’ll also save a dog’s life, and the money you spend will go directly toward helping care for other shelter dogs.
There are many great shelters across the country, and thanks to the internet, finding the dog that is right for you and your family has never been easier. We prepared this list of reviews of the top 10 pet adoption websites and provided an adoption guide to help get you started.
The Top 10 Pet Adoption Websites
As one of the nation’s top pet welfare organizations, it will come as no surprise that the ASPCA has a fantastic pet adoption program on their website.
For those living in the New York City area, you can link directly to the ASPCA run shelter in your city and view all the dogs that the organization currently has for adoption. (Note: As of writing, anyone currently interested in adopting a dog will need to complete an ASPCA Dog Adoption Survey.)
For those living in other parts of the country, the ASPCA adoption website can link you directly to dog shelters in your area or anywhere else in the U.S. We particularly like the range of search options that you can use to narrow your search criteria.
PetFinder is a comprehensive pet adoption website. It’s easy to use and navigate, and you can search for dogs across the country, as well as in some areas of Mexico and Canada.
The information available on each dog and the adoption terms vary depending upon the shelter, but this is clearly set out. Of particular note is how easy it is to search with a wide range of dog-specific criteria, meaning that you can keep your search wide open or narrow it down based on a long list of drop-down menu options.
3. Adopt a Pet
Adopt a Pet prides itself on being the largest non-profit pet adoption website in North America. It links to over 17,000 animal shelters and pet rescue organizations. It is well laid out and easy to use and navigate.
Dogs can be searched by location, breed, age, sex, size, and color, and users can see photos and details about the dogs, as well as information about the shelter at which the dog is currently living and its adoption policy.
We particularly like the new Pet Alert function, which will send you an email when any dog matching your search criteria is added to the website.
4. Rescue Me
The Rescue Me is another great pet adoption website. The page is easy to use and navigate, and there are photos and details of each pet. It also provides the user with the name and contact details of the shelter that currently houses the animal and the adoption fee.
The one thing we don’t like with this site is that all searches must be done by selecting a specific breed. Then the user is presented with a selectable map of the U.S. that shows how many dogs of that breed are available for adoption in each state. This is fine if you are looking for a specific breed, but it is not easy to see all the dogs, regardless of breed, that are available for adoption in any one area.
5. American Kennel Club Rescue Network
The American Kennel Club (AMK) website is a font of useful information about all the recognized dog breeds. It may be a good place to start a search for a rescue dog if you have already identified the breed of dog you want.
The website allows you to search by breed and then gives you information on rescue organizations that specialize in those dogs. Unlike conventional pet adoption websites, they don’t list individual dogs available for adoption, and you aren’t able to search by area. As such, this site isn’t as practical to use as some others on this list.
6. Best Friends Animal Society
Best Friends Animal Society maintains its own pet animal sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, and this site has a direct searchable database of all the dogs that it has for adoption at its facility.
In addition, the pet adoption website has links to a network of partner rescue organizations across the country, allowing users to look for dogs in a variety of locations.
This is an excellent pet adoption website for anybody living in Utah or one of the locations in which a Best Friend Animal Society partner organization operates, but it does not provide the same level of nationwide coverage as some others on this list.
7. The Shelter Project
The Shelter Project website is a collaborative pet welfare project that is run by the Humane Society of the United States and Maddie’s Fund. The goal of the project is to make animal shelters the first place that people go to when they are looking to adopt a pet.
This pet adoption website is well laid out and extremely easy to use, but all the animals listed come directly from the Adopt a Pet website. For practicality, users may find it easier just to go straight to Adopt a Pet rather than use this website.
8. Petco Foundation
Petco Foundation is an animal welfare organization that has a goal: the creation of a better world for animals and the people who love and need them. It is a lofty but admirable aim, and the foundation runs many events and campaigns across the country in the animal welfare space.
Pet adoption is just one component of the foundation’s work and like The Shelter Project, uses the Adopt a Pet website and database to power its own pet adoption page. As such, it may be simpler to go straight to the Adopt a Pet website, rather than use this website.
9. PetSmart Charities
Pet Smart Charities is a well-known organization and a leading provider of funding for animal welfare groups across the country, having handed out grants totaling over $450 million to organizations across the United States since 1994.
The PetSmart website includes a comprehensive “find a pet” adoption page, and the organization also runs pet adoption centers in its network of stores. The website links to pets that are available for adoption across the country, with many of the dogs listed having been rescued from euthanasia at other animal shelters.
The website is easy to use and provides potential adopters with photographs and information about the dogs, as well as details of the shelter or rescue organization that is currently caring for them.
Petango has partnered with over 1,800 shelters and animal welfare groups across the country to help encourage people to adopt shelter pets.
This pet adoption website is easy to use and provides users with a variety of search options. However, the search results are typically limited to one photo and a small amount of information about each dog, in addition to contact details of the shelter or organization currently caring for them. It is not as well developed as some of the other adoption websites on this list. Still, it is another option to consider if you can’t find the dog you are looking for.
Dog Adoption Guide
As a potential dog owner, one of the most responsible things that you can do is to make sure your new pet is right for you and your family. There is little point making an effort to adopt a dog if you discover that they aren’t right for your circumstances and you then have to get rid of them — it’s not fair for you, it’s not fair for your family, and it’s especially not fair for the dog.
When you take on the responsibility of owning a dog, you do so for their entire life. Thus, choosing the right dog is a serious matter. Many factors can influence your decision, and this short adoption guide will help you make the right choice.
Puppy vs. Adult Dog
While most shelter dogs are adult dogs, it’s not unusual for people to surrender puppies and young dogs. Theodore, it’s a good idea to give serious consideration to this before starting your search.
Everybody loves a cute new puppy, but puppies are a great deal of work. They need somebody who’s always at home with them during the first few weeks, they have special diets and medications, they need to be house trained, and they need socialization training. Even a dog that is a bit older and past a few of these things can still be a handful, and just like a naughty teenager, they will get up to mischief by doing things like digging up the yard and chewing on furniture and shoes.
Now, you might be up for all of this, but the point here is that if you’re not, adopting an adult dog may be easier. You may not get cute puppy photos for Instagram, but imagine how much easier things will be if you can avoid the accidents associated with house training, and your new dog arrives without feeling the need to tear up or chew everything in sight.
The Size of the Dog
Before giving too much thought to individual breeds, consider what size dog would best suit you and your family. Large dogs require more food, more medication, and more space to exercise and are harder to walk and transport than smaller dogs. So, it’s important to consider your own lifestyle and budget realistically.
Another important factor to consider before adopting a dog is whether there is anyone in your family who has a medical condition or allergy that might be aggravated by having a dog. When people are allergic to dogs, it is usually the dog’s dander (small flakes of skin shed with their fur) as well as their saliva and urine, that causes a reaction. Ideally, it would be best if you also considered whether anyone suffers from asthma or eczema, as in some people, these problems can be exacerbated by dogs.
Hypoallergenic dogs that shed less and produce less dander may help, and if this is a factor for somebody in your household, it is important to do the research before choosing and committing to a particular dog or dog breed.
There is a great deal of information about a wide range of dog breeds available on our website. Our comprehensive reviews and informative articles are a great place to start your research and will help you to make a shortlist of breeds that would suit your circumstances.
Next, it’s a good idea to contact breeders or other people you know who own the breed that you’re considering, as they will be able to tell you more about the nature of the breed, any health issues, and any quirks they are known to have. When contacting breeders, don’t be shy about telling them up front that you are planning on adopting a dog, as any reputable breeder will support this and gladly answer any questions you have about the breed.
Of course, when adopting a dog, you may not be able to find your first choice of breed, but don’t let that deter you. Having gone through the process of considering the factors that are important to you and your family, you’ll be well placed to consider the suitability or otherwise of any rescue dog that you meet.
- Here are some questions to ask if dog adoption is something you are considering!
- Check out some of these animal charities that you can donate to if you can’t own a pet of your own yet.
Featured Image Credit: tonyfortku, Pixabay