If you’re looking to adopt a dog from a pet adoption website, then this can be quite a challenging venture. How do you know what you’re getting when everything you’re seeing is virtual? You need to have total faith in the website, that it is honest and 100% animal orientated.
In this post, I will be conducting a round-up of the eight best pet adoption websites out there. The article will begin with some handy tips to ensure the adoption process is straightforward and will finish with some alternatives to adopting a pet from a website.
The great news is that you have come this far, and so a dog is something you definitely want. If you feel that you could provide a home to a rescue dog, this could be one of the most wonderful things you will ever do, but it is crucial to get that first stage right. And, this is where this guide should help.
If you’re eager to get going, here are my chosen eight Best Pet Adoption Websites.
Spotting a Good Pet Adoption Website
In the world of animal adoption, things are not always as they seem. Anyone can upload a few photographs, include a sob story, and take your money before you know what has hit you. This is a regulated field, but there are many more unscrupulous people out there than there are people watching them. And this is why you have to be overly cautious.
Here are a few things to look out for:
#1. Clear Information Relating to Each Animal
A good adoption website will have individual information about each pet. They should also display a few (not one) photographs of the pet. The information that should be displayed will likely include:
- History of the Dog: What his backstory is, and how he came to find himself without a home.
- The personality of the Dog: What are his likes and dislikes? Is there a particular toy he loves or food he especially likes?
- The health of the Dog: A reputable animal charity will be transparent with any medical problems the dog may have. Be wary if every animal has a clean bill of health, as this can be a red flag.
- The Dogs Perfect Home: Can the dog live with other dogs, cats, or children? Does he need a large garden or someone who is home for the majority of the day?
- Their Medical History: This should include up-to-date information about the dog’s vaccine status and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
This level of communication primarily means two things: You know precisely all you need to know about a specific dog to see if he will fit into your life and your home. The people caring for the dog know him, and they care.
#2. Straightforward Means of Communication
A good pet adoption website will have various means of communication, whether it is an inquiry form, email address, contact number, address, links to social media, or a live chat function. You should be able to ask questions about a specific animal easily through the website. A website that merely features a cell phone number should raise suspicion.
#3. Responsible Meet-up Procedures
Adopting a pet online should be more than seeing an image and basically adding to a basket for home delivery. Look for how you can schedule a sensible meet-up with the dog that you’re interested in – this could be a massive commitment for the next decade, or more, so the fit must be right.
This is especially so if you have other pets or young children. Many animal charities will insist on meeting you, your other animals and even visiting your home to perform checks before they let you meet the dog. Try not to see this as an inconvenience, but as the charity wanting the best for their dogs.
#4. Reasonable Adoption Fees
Every adoption organization will ask for a fee donation. Donations support the charity to facilitate other dogs and prevent unscrupulous people from obtaining dogs they have no intention of caring for. The fee will usually be relatively small, although it can rise for puppies and pure breeds. It can also vary from State to State.
#5. A Return Policy
Different organizations will have different terms and conditions for returning a dog if things don’t work out, so ensure that you read up on this thoroughly. Although it seems a little harsh to consider getting rid of a dog before you have adopted him, it may be that the dog just doesn’t fit in with your lifestyle.
#6. Adoption Agreements
Some charities may want to perform a thorough background check on you before allowing you to adopt a dog. This can feel fairly invasive, so it is important to be prepared. Not all charities will do this, but it is worth checking if this is something that you don’t feel comfortable with.
In addition, some organizations may wish to do post-adoption checks to observe the dogs’ wellbeing and how things are working out. This is not to catch you out but merely to see if any support is needed.
8 Best Pet Adoption Websites
Petfinder currently has 223282 animals in need of a home. As well as dogs, they rehome cats, barnyard animals, small and furries, reptiles, horses, and birds.
The website has an interactive quiz based on your lifestyle and preferences to match you to the animals that meet your criteria. Or you can filter the search result pages down, without doing the quiz, to see a more condensed and less overwhelming number of available dogs.
Petfinder has an incredible number of dogs on their books as they tap into rescues and shelters all over America. You can sort through animals based on your location, preferences, and lifestyle, and the site is regularly updated. However, adoption fees can vary.
- Huge Number of Dogs Available
- Individuals Dog Information and Photos
- Dog Background Laid Out
- Suitable Homes Explained
- ‘Favorite’ Pets
- Adoption Fees Vary
- Time Frame to Adopt Can be Long
#2. Adopt a Pet
At Adopt a Pet, you can find dogs, cats, small animals, reptiles, and birds that are in more than 17,000 different shelters and rescues across the US. The website is easy to navigate and simple to search for a suitable dog via location, age, and breed. Click on a dog you like to find out his background story, medical history, location, and what type of home he needs.
The adoption fee per animal is clear, but this does vary. I was disappointed to discover that many internal links were broken, which left me unable to find out more about certain dogs. However, the rescue they’re at is easy to see, so you could make further inquiries this way.
- Addition of Video to Photos
- Thousands of Dogs to See
- Full Information Provided per Dog
- Many Broken Internal Links
I love the ASPCA because they are completely honest about their dogs, and each one has a ‘working on’ section to their bio. This level of transparency means there should be no distressing surprises if you’re approved to adopt. The website features dogs and cats available to adopt from their NYC and LA centers.
As well as being able to adopt from an ASPCA center, there is a portal to more local shelters on their website. You can filter your search by lifestyle compatibility, breed, size, gender, and age. The terms and conditions of adopting will vary depending on the animal and the shelter. Adoption fees also vary.
- Good Filters to Search by
- High Transparency Level
- Very Honest About Pets Behavior
- Terms and Conditions Vary
- Adoption Fees Vary
- Not a Fan of Being Able to Search for Declawed Pets
The Shelter Project partners with ‘Adopt a Pet,’ but they only feature dogs residing in shelters rather than rescues. Shelter dogs have a more challenging time, and so the website wants these dogs to be rehomed as a matter of urgency.
There is a great section featuring video content from previous adopters and their pets, which is heartwarming and reassuring. You can search for a dog, or a cat, in a shelter that is local to you (from under 200 miles) and filter the search further by breed, age, size, and gender.
- Able to Search for Dogs as Close as 25 Miles Away
- Fantastic Video Content
- Good FAQ Section
- If You’re Very Rural You May Struggle to Search as a Zip Code Must be Within 200 Miles of a Shelter
The Best Friends Animal Society’s main office is located in SLC, but they have facilities in other locations such as LA, NYC, and Atlanta. You can look to adopt or foster a dog or cat via the website, and there is a great ‘dog matching’ interactive quiz that asks you lots of questions about yourself, your home, and your wants. You will then be shown dogs that meet your criteria – and by how much percent.
Click on a dog matched to you to learn all about his background, likes and dislikes, and the kind of home he needs. You will also see how much he matches you by energy match, focus match, independence match, and confidence match. To find out more about the dog or to enquire to adopt him, you will be redirected to his current place of stay – thus, T&C’s and Fees will vary.
- Informative Dog Match Quiz
- Filtered Results Based on Your Lifestyle, Preferences, and Compatibility
- Great Information on Each Dog
- Terms and Conditions Vary
- Adoption Policies Vary
- Fees Vary
#6. PetSmart Charity
PetSmart Charity displays images and very brief details of pets in need of homes; however, they do not facilitate the adoption process. You can search for dogs, cats, reptiles, birds, small furries, or horses and filter by location, age, breed, color, gender, and size.
There isn’t a way to directly contact a rescue where an animal is residing, but you can click on their website or send an email. I found the information for pets to be a little more than ‘Contact the Rescue to Find Out More,’ which is a little disappointing. I have previously written about PetSmart Training Classes and appreciate that their efforts are with dogs’ wellbeing in mind.
- Links to Animals all Over the US
- Good Search Filter Options
- Thousands of Animals to View
- Limited Individual Information Available
- Doesn’t Facilitate Adoption
If you’re looking for a specific breed, then the American Kennel Club Rescue Network is a good resource. You can search for different organizations and charities via breed from the selection offered. The AKC doesn’t oversee any adoptions but links to trusted organizations that do.
Each organization will have its own adoption policy and donation fee amount. One thing that is pretty much standard, though, is that the dogs for adoption will be pedigree. There will still be occasions when a mixed breed is available, but this will likely be a straight cross with traceable parentage.
- Great Way to Find a Specific Breed in Need
- Breed Information Available on the AKC Website
- With Hundreds of Different Organizations Listed, The Only Thing Likely to be Across The Board is The Dogs Will be Pedigrees
#8. Petco Foundation
There is a phenomenal number of dogs, cats, and other animals looking for homes at Petco Foundation. However, this again is a holding website, and the animals shown will be at various locations across the US – with various terms and conditions and fee amounts. One thing I do like about this website is the level of information given per pet.
You are able to filter the search via location, breed, age, sex, and size to narrow down the result. When you find a dog you like, there is lots of information shown and the shelter or rescue that he is currently at. You can click an ‘Email About’ icon or head to the website of the organization.
- Search for Dogs Within 5-Miles of Your Location
- Good Filter Options
- Highly Detailed, Individual Information
- Essentially a Shelter/Rescue Search Engine
Alternatives to Pet Adoption Websites
Today we seem to do everything online and forget how we functioned without this convenience! There is the traditional way of physically going to your local shelter to look for a dog or keeping an eye out in shop windows, newspapers, or lamposts for dogs that have become in need of a home in your local area. In addition to this.
Here are a couple of other things you could do:
So, we’re back online, but Googling can open up a much broader search than a specific pet adoption website. If you were to search for ‘Dog Shelter,’ ‘Dog Home,’ or ‘Dog for Adoption Near me,’ you could again filter this search by location and see a selection of smaller shelters that are nearby. These could be independently owned, new start-ups, or home-based shelters.
- Go to an Event
Charities like PetSmart and Best Friends Animal Society run regular adoption events and workshops all over the US. They will have a selection of animals in need of homes that you can meet on-site, and at times you may be able to adopt there and then.
All that is often required is an ID, donation fee, and a letter from your landlord agreeing to dogs in the property if you’re in rented accommodation.
- Options to Avoid
Please, please, please avoid sites like Craigslist! You simply do not know what you’re getting here, and it is a notorious site for facilitating the rehoming of neglected, abused, sick, and injured dogs.
What Should I Have Ready For a Dog?
Some dogs will come to you with a favorite comforter or selection of toys, but many will come with just the collar they’re in – and some won’t even have this. Be prepared for a pretty big financial outlay to have everything ready for a dog.
At the very least, he will need:
- A Durable Bed – You don’t know if you have a chewer or house-trained dog yet!
- Food and Water Bowl – Something sturdy is best initially for the reasons above.
- Selection of Toys – Until you know his preferences, a cheap selection is best to begin.
- Tasty Treats – Positive encouragement may be required to bring him out of his shell.
You may also wish to look at:
If you wish to limit the dogs’ access within the home during the early days.
FAQs About Pet Adoption
Q1. What if My Home Doesn’t Pass a Home Check?
Having been a home inspector, I can assure you that those conducting an assessment will not be looking for a paradise. All that is required is safety and security. Many dogs will need a yard, or at the very least, access to the outdoors. This must be fenced or secure.
Your home doesn’t need to be neat and tidy, but it must be free from things that could harm a dog. This means cleaning products are locked away and that nothing is lying around that could cause injury or sickness.
Q2. Are Rescue Dogs More Prone to Behavioral Issues?
Rescue dogs are a vast mixture of dogs that have come from all walks of life. Not every dog in a shelter will have been neglected, abused, or abandoned. Many will have come from wonderful homes where due to death, illness, or circumstances beyond the owner’s control, the dogs now found themselves in a shelter or rescue center.
While it is true that issues such as separation anxiety can be part and parcel of pet adoption, this can be counteracted with love, patience, and time.
Q3. I Have Children, Is a Rescue a Good Idea?
A rescue dog can be the best idea for a home with children, and for a few reasons. Not only does it show children how to care for something else and draw out empathy and responsibility, but a rescue dog will have undergone behavior and aggression tests to ensure that they are safe to live with children.
You will find that many rescue dogs cannot live with children, which could be due to them being too nervous or prone to aggressive responses. Those deemed suitable will be gentle, loving – a great example – and a friend for your child. Even with a litter of puppies, you don’t know the dog’s temperament; this is not the case with a rescue.
Whether you find your dog through PetFinder, Adopt a Pet, ASPCA, The Shelter Project, Best Friends Animal Society, PetSmart Charity, American Kennel Club Rescue Network, or, Petco Foundation, with a bit of research and a clear idea of what type of dog you’re looking for and the kind of home you can offer, can be one of the most incredible things you could do.