Sources for Adopting Pets

By Tammy Hunter, DVM; Lynn Buzhardt, DVM

In years past, if you wanted a dog or cat, you read the newspaper ads or drove to the local pet store. Now, you read online postings or use a search engine instead of a car engine to locate a pet.

Times have changed. Shopping methods have changed. But dogs and cats are the same and many of them still need homes. If you are one of the many people who want to adopt, rather than shop for a pet, here are some options for you.

"...dogs and cats are the same and many of them still need homes."


Municipal Shelters. These shelters are city, county, or state operations funded by tax dollars. Government shelters usually combine pet adoption services with animal control duties and may be associated with police or health departments. You can find local municipal shelters online. These shelters are staffed by paid employees and often include veterinarians employed by a governing body. Most municipal shelters have facilities where you can view many dogs and cats in person.

Private shelters. Civic-minded individuals often form private animal shelters, funded by tax-deductible donations and grants. These shelters may have paid personnel, but are largely staffed by volunteers who have other full-time jobs and big hearts. Veterinarians may partner with shelters to provide health care for the pets. Many private shelters have brick-and-mortar facilities where you can visit potential adoptees., while others house pets in volunteer foster homes and organize adoption days at specified locations.

Online Resources

Social media has helped find homes for countless dogs and cats. Spreading the word electronically is often more efficient than word of mouth. With well-developed websites that are updated frequently, many rescue groups and humane societies make shopping for a pet online a fruitful experience. Even though you cannot actually pet a dog or cat while shopping online, you can gather valuable information, choose a potential pet, and then meet him in person.

"Spreading the word electronically is often more efficient than word of mouth."

Online resources are often funded by donations or grants from private individuals, pet food manufacturers, veterinary pharmaceutical companies, and other veterinary industry partners. Some of the websites are sophisticated enough to encompass a wide scope of available pets and allow you to narrow down your choices geographically. These sites may also contain educational information on pet care.

You can use a general search engine to find local rescue agencies in your area or you can visit one of the larger websites such as,, or, all of which will re-direct you to local shelters.

One of the oldest and best known animal rescue organizations is the ASPCA. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was the first humane society to be founded in North America. You can look for a dog or cat on ASPCA’s national database by visiting their website and typing in your zip code to locate needy pets in your area.

"The ASPCA transports pets from high supply/low demand areas to parts of the country where adoption may be more likely."

The goal of the ASPCA is to move pets from shelters to homes and to lawfully protect them. With a national outreach, this group can level out the supply and demand of homeless pets. The ASPCA transports pets from high supply/low demand areas to parts of the country where adoption may be more likely. is another national group that has an enormous database, including almost 14,000 animal shelters and adoption facilities. It provides additional pet care information and a venue for online discussions. PetFinder also guides you to web pages of local shelters. is another website that allows you to enter your zip code to localize your pet search. Although they do not have pets physically available for you to go visit, you are able to see photographs of your potential new family member and click on the photo to find out more about him. Adopt-a-pet will provide contact information for shelters and rescue organization’s address and visiting hours so you can meet your next pet in person.

Large or small, local or national, these online resources have the same goal: match available pets with the most suitable homes.

Adoption Advantages

If you visit a shelter, you can see many pets at one time, making picking out a new pet convenient and fun! You can personally talk to staff members and volunteers to get first-hand information about each dog and cat.

"You can talk to the foster parent who... will be a good source of information for you."

If you adopt a pet from a rescue organization that utilizes foster homes, you may have to wait until the next adoption day to meet your prospective family member. Luckily, lots of groups have weekly adoption days at public facilities, so the wait should not be too long. You can talk to the foster parent who has intimate knowledge of the dog or cat and will be a good source of information for you. "

The biggest advantage of adopting a pet is the ability to give a lucky dog or cat a loving home, and you will forever be their hero. There are many sources to find adoptable pets. Whether you are a walk-about shopper or an online shopper, you are sure to find the right dog or cat for you!

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