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Compiled from “Best of” lists published by the world’s most trusted sources, and with our own recommended brands peppered in - this Top10 list aims to help consumers make smarter decisions.

Where's the Best Place to Adopt a Pet?

Pets for Vets, DogTime, Dog's Blog, or Dog's Best Life are for more specialized pet searches. The International Animal Rescue is another great organization if you're looking for more exotic animals or if you are planning to move abroad in the near future. Meanwhile, here are ten of the best pet adoption services in the country to help you find your new favorite furry friend.

1. Best Friends Animal Society

The Best Friends Animal Society is truly a gift to animal (and human) kind. It is the largest, no-kill animal adoption service in the country, and it guarantees that animals will never be put down simply because they haven’t found a home fast enough. This animal-loving organization makes it simple for potential adopters to find the pet they’ve been searching for with an amazing guided tour of the sanctuary.

But The Best Friends Animal Society does things one better. If you’ve dreamed of watching animals in their natural environment, getting up close and personal, and really seeing pets with their personalities in full living color, The Best Friends Animal Society offers overnights within the sanctuary. Spend the night on the RV site or in a guest cabin to watch animals firsthand and pick out the pet that pulls at your heartstrings. The Best Friends Animal Society will even arrange transport across the entire country (and Canada) for animals to pet parents who don’t live near enough to come pick up their newly-adopted pets.

2. Petfinder.com

Petfinder.com is a vast online searchable database of animals looking for homes. It has a tremendous selection of pets (more than 250,000) that includes regulars like dogs and cats. But more interestingly is the huge array of lesser-seen animals in the adoption services. You can find everything from chinchillas, gerbils, and prairie dogs, to snakes, iguanas, and tarantulas. Petfinder.com even has barnyard animals like cows, goats, and pigs!

Petfinder.com is a great resource for anyone looking to adopt a pet. The database has tons of filters, making the search process easier to narrow down your options—filter by species, breed, age, size, gender, behavior, personality, and more. What's more, Petfinder.com has a ton of online resources for new pet parents, including a checklist if you've never adopted a pet before, pet care articles, and helpful videos on every topic that is pet adoption.

3. ASPCA

The first humane organization in the US, the ASPCA has been around for over a century and a half. Today, the sanctuary is so much more than just a basic pet adoption service. The ASPCA also focuses on animal rescue, animal placement, and animal protection wherever the need arises. It even tackles animal cruelty and empowers people to act more humanely to animals all around them.

If you’re looking to adopt a pet, the ASPCA has multiple venues to help you with the search. From a database of local animal shelters to its own sanctuary adoptions, the ASPCA is all about helping people find the perfect pet to fill their homes and their hearts with four-legged love. Best of all, the ASPCA uses a personality-based matchmaking algorithm to find you the right match.

4. Adopt a Pet

Adopt a Pet is possibly the largest non-profit homeless pet adoption site in the country, with more than 17,000 shelters, rescue groups, and humane societies featuring their animals on the site. Like Petfinder, Adopt a Pet has a tremendous variety of animal species. So, you’re not limited when searching for your perfect pet. Search for pets according to your location to find shelters, rescue groups, and other organizations near you.

Adopt a Pet allows users to save their searches, so it’s an easy way to casually browse through available pets without feeling the pressure of commitment. And Adopt a Pet also has an excellent feature called the new pet alert. If you don’t find a pet that really calls out to your heart, you can have Adopt a Pet alert you via email whenever a new pet that matches your description is entered into the database. This is a great way to find new and relevant pet potentials quickly.

5. PetSmart Charities

Major pet chain stores partner with rescue groups and shelters to host adoption events for locals looking for love. Two of the most popular stores to pull this relationship off successfully are PetSmart and Petco. PetSmart holds frequent events, inviting pet parents to come meet their new best friends in an open, fun, and friendly forum. What’s also convenient about these events is that you can pick out a new pet and get all of your pet supplies on the spot without having to go anywhere else! Does it work? Considering the fact that PetSmart Charities alone facilitate more than 10% of the pet adoptions in the entire North America, we’d say so.

6. Pets for Vets

Pets for Vets is an organization that specializes in pairing up war veterans with a loveable companion. While every adoption benefits both parties, Pets for Vets is truly unique in the tremendous value that it brings to the lives of the veterans and the animals being paired up. People returning from war often suffer from PTSD, loneliness, and depression. Meanwhile, there are millions of homeless animals euthanized each year. The Pets for Vets organization combines these two sad situations and resolves them with a single brilliant solution: pet adoption! The service gives both pet parents and animals a second chance at life.

7. Hearts United for Animals

Hearts United for Animals is one of the most successful no-kill animal sanctuaries in the country. Its sole purpose is to end the cruelty of animal suffering, with services that include over 10,000 rescues from puppy mills, spay/neutering for more than 13,000 animals, and providing temporary housing for abused animals and other animals at risk. You can adopt one of these lovable creatures by applying online, searching the adoption network, and getting paired up with a dog or cat who's just right for you. What's more, Hearts of United for Animals includes all vaccinations, deworming, and spaying or neutering surgeries. The fee also covers microchip implantation, so your pet is always safely locatable.

8. American Kennel Club

American Kennel Club helps maintain the integrity of the purebred dog registry. But since then, it has evolved into much more, and today, the American Kennel Club is one of the foremost sources for educating Americans about proper dog care, as well as helping animals across the country live a better life. What's more, American Kennel Club has the largest rescue network of purebred dogs in the country. You can search by breed, get expert advice about the specific type of dog you're looking for, and walk away with a puddle of love in your arms.

9. Animal Friends Rescue Project

Animal Friends Rescue Project is truly a heartwarming organization to anyone who cares about animal welfare. This non-profit organization is dedicated to helping abandoned pets find loving homes, caring for stray or abused animals, and rescuing animals in other at-risk situations. The Animal Friends Rescue Project has a great adoption process that can either be done in person or online, with a huge network of easily searchable pets. There are also oodles of resources for new pet parents to utilize on the site. The AFRP also has an adopt-a-pet-remotely program where people who are sympathetic to the cause but can't bring an animal home for whatever reason can sponsor an adoption, saving lives and enriching homes.

10. Rescue Me

Rescue Me was founded by Jeff Gold, a man with a mission to help abandoned animals find good homes. The organization has since blossomed into the world’s largest directory for animal adoption, hosting partners from over 150 countries across the globe. Pet-seekers can find pets of every type ranging from dogs and cats, rabbits, and small mammals, to birds, reptiles, amphibians, and even wildlife and farm animals. Rescue Me also has a rehabilitation center for injured and abused animals.

How Can I Adopt a Pet Online?

Roughly 6-8 million animals wind up in a shelter every single year. Tragically, half of those animals will never find a happy home to call their own. And don’t assume these are the mangey street rats you find stalking around dark alleyways. Something to the tune of 25% of the pets housed in shelters are actually purebreds, clean, and good stock. They just fell into a bad situation (owners moved, pets got lost, landlord changes pet ownership policy). And that’s where pet adoption services come into play.

Pet adoption services help people looking for love and affection in the form of a four-legged friend find just the right animal for them. The goal is to narrow down your search options, help you find the best pet adoption center for your location and needs, and get you a pet as quickly as possible. Here’s how the basic process works:

  • The Search

Once you've picked a pet adoption service that's right for you, start browsing. Most of the top pet adoption sites will have clean, easy-to-navigate search engines with filters to narrow down your options. Pick the breed, size, animal type, etc. that you want, and then start browsing. No doubt, your eyes will set upon the new love of your life shortly.

  • The Paperwork

This step differs slightly depending on the pet adoption agency you use, but the general idea is the same. Fill out an application form requesting the pet you want. The agency will then review your application, making sure all of the criteria are met, and that you and your chosen pet are a suitable match. Pet adoption services and rescue organizations are seeing a massive influx of applicants since the Coronavirus hit, and people are finding themselves at home more. So, don't be surprised if your application takes a little longer than usual to get reviewed.

Once the application is reviewed, you’ll be contacted to discuss your options further. This may involve a phone call, home visit, or virtual meeting. At this time, you’ll be asked some basic questions like whether or not your landlord allows pets, what your pet history is like, and if you have allergies that will prevent you from properly caring for this animal.

  • The Visit

Finally, you'll have a face-to-face meeting with your new pet. Again, this might be an in-person meeting or a virtual one, depending on the policy at the time of your application. If the animal of choice is at a rescue group or in a foster home, you'll likely be invited to come visit your pet at the volunteer's home, at the adoption center, or in a public area, like a park nearby.

If everything checks out, you’ll take home your new friend and begin the process of acclimating them to their new home.

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Pet?

How much it costs to adopt a pet will vary depending on the specific organization, and the type of facility you adopt from. You can find facilities that don't charge anything for their animals; they're just happy that the pets have found a good home. Other organizations take a small maintenance fee that's generally used just for the upkeep of the shelter and the animals. Fees can also cover important veterinary care such as medical services, spay or neutering, or annual shots.

When it comes to private versus municipal options, the fees at a municipal shelter tend to be significantly lower. Adoption fees usually range from $25-$250. Even the highest value is significantly cheaper than going to a breeder, though. And when you consider the fact that these pets usually come with all of their vaccines, spay/neuter surgery, and deworming already done, you are likely to save money regardless of how much the shelter charges you.

Also, some animals will have higher fees than others (dogs versus cats, puppies versus older dogs, etc.).

How to Find the Right Animal Rescue Site for You

Pet adoption is not a decision that should be taken lightly. You need to be sure that you have the time, energy, and love to dedicate to this furry friend. You will also need to make sure that your home and family situation is suitable for introducing a pet into the environment. Once you've settled on the idea, though, jump in with all four paws!

Finding a good pet adoption service isn’t as difficult as most things in life are, but you still want to hone in on the right one for your needs. The Shelter Pet Project is an extremely helpful resource if you want to learn more about adopting a pet in general. You can use these pointers as well to narrow down the selection:

  • Animal type

This might seem obvious, but you need to put some consideration into your pet choice. Do you have time to spend with a puppy every day? Do you travel frequently? Are there allergies in your home? How much room do you have in your home for a pet? Answer these and other questions before deciding which pet to bring home. Then use this information to narrow down your options.

Consider a few types of animals, don’t limit yourself to the standards, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Some pet adoption services focus specifically on a single type of animal (ex. dogs), while others will have a broader selection. Some specialize in older pets, younger pets, smaller, larger, etc. Choose a service that caters to the type of animal you’re looking for to help narrow down the choices.

  • Decide between rescue group adoption & animal shelter adoption

Rescue group adoptions are very different from an animal shelter process. For example, a rescue group adoption is more personalized. The animal care is done one-on-one and usually in the home of one of the volunteers from the rescue group. They’re more intimately involved with the animal, know more about them, and have personally cared for them for the entire period of time since the rescue. So, you can get a lot more information than you would from a shelter that houses several animals in the same facility. But the personalization comes at the price of time. Rescue group adoptions can frequently take longer, involve a more thorough background check, and require an at-home visit.

On the other hand, animal shelters have a lot more variety to choose from, may offer additional services such as training, and frequently provide behavioral analysis for each animal before it is adopted out. And of course, shelters are more official. So, the process may be cheaper and faster (but not always).

  • Information Not Optional

When choosing a pet, you want to have as much information about the animal as possible. Only use a pet adoption service that provides you with ample information, including things like:

  • Vaccine history
  • Health problems
  • Housing history
  • Disposition
  • Any other important details you should know

Whichever pet adoption service you opt for, make sure they let you meet the pet beforehand, have a reasonable "return policy," and take their time with the adoption process (this is actually a good sign that means they look into the applicants instead of just shipping off their animals to anyone who applies). This way, you are sure to find a reliable pet adoption service that will pair you with just the right pet to fill your heart and your home.

How we created this
list
Compiled from “Best of” lists published by the world’s most trusted sources, and with our own recommended brands peppered in - this Top10 list aims to help consumers make smarter decisions.