Adopting Shelter Pets

Adopting Shelter Pets

What to Know Before You Go


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

Approximately 80% of the dogs and cats who die in shelters every year are healthy or have treatable medical conditions or behavioral problems and could have been adopted into new homes.  While changing this grim statistic is one reason to adopt, another is that among those shelter pets, you’ll find many loving pets who’ll be a perfect fit with in your home after a gradual get-to-know-you period.

Plan Ahead

Here are some tips for planning pet adoptions.

  • First, make sure you have the time, money and space to accommodate a pet.
  • Live in a managed property? Check to see if there are restrictions as to what kind of pet or size of pet, if any, you can have. Some shelters 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.  

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. (If your heart is set on a reptile or amphibian, or a parrot, though, you may have better luck searching for rescue groups that specialize in these pets.)

You can find a local or regional shelter online, and most have photo galleries of pets available for adoption on their web site. This can be beneficial if you’re searching for a particular breed. You can expand your search by using sites such as or, which most shelters use to get out the word about the animals in their care.

Pet Adoption Process

Since pet adoption policies vary by organization, you might call ahead or read online 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, or visit with one you noticed online.
  • 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


Some organizations might require an additional background check 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 to be treated or have veterinary care before being released.

Pet Shelter Fees

You can expect to pay some sort of fee ranging anywhere from a few dollars up to a few hundred dollars, this is actually a bargain. After all, you’re often taking home a pet who is house-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. With this in mind, make every attempt to choose a pet whose energy, needs and lifestyle you can happily sustain.