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Best Pet Adoption Websites: Find Your Forever Friend!

Dog Adoption By Kate Brunotts 12 min read July 19, 2021

Dog adoption websites

Are you ready to adopt your forever friend?

Luckily, there are tons of places to adopt a dog besides your local rescue or shelter, including several adoption websites. 

However, some pet adoption websites are better than others. Below, we’ll explain what you need to look out for and identify a few of the best online adoption sites. 

The Best Pet Adoption Websites: At a Glance

  • Pet adoption websites serve as a viable alternative to traditional shelters.
  • A few of the leading pet adoption websites include: Petfinder, Adopt A Pet, the ASPCA, and Rescue Me.
  • Try to stick to sites that provide photos and information of the specific pets available, have a sensible return policy, and make it easy to meet the pup you have your eye on before making a commitment.

What Should You Look for in a Pet Adoption Website?

Not all pet adoption websites are created equally, so it’s important to keep your eye out for a couple of key features while scoping out different sites. 

Clear Information About Specific Pets

A good pet adoption website should have individual information about each pet along with a clear picture of the listed floof.

This includes:

  • Up-to-date information on the dogs’ vaccine status
  • Any health problems the dog may have
  • Whether or not they’ve been spayed or neutered.

The site should also update the profiles of each dog regularly to keep you fully informed on the status of each.

adopting a new dog

Easy Communication Methods

Look for a site that makes it easy for you to communicate with the individual or organization that’s currently caring for the pooch.

You should be able to easily ask questions through the site to make sure your furry friend of choice is a good fit for your home.

Sensible Meetup Procedures

In addition to general communication access, you may be able to schedule a preliminary meet up with your potential pooch before going through with the adoption process. 

This is especially a good idea if you have other pets.

Some adoption organizations will require that you introduce your other dogs to your future floof beforehand to ensure you have harmonious hounds. 

A Reasonable Fee Schedule

Adoption organizations usually ask for a small fee to support the organization and facilitate the care of other dogs or animals in need.

Usually, puppies will have a slightly higher fee than adult dogs (not only do puppies require more vaccinations, they’re also more popular with prospective pet parents).

Just make sure you select a fee schedule that you’re comfortable with. Also, don’t forget to account for the startup costs that come with welcoming a pooch into your family.

Though an older dog might be less maintenance than an adopted puppy, you’ll still have to make sure you budget for the basics. 

Adopting a dog online

A Return Policy You Can Live With

Though it may feel a bit odd to apply a “return policy” to dogs, many adoption groups will allow you to return the pet to the facility within a specified time in the event that the pet isn’t a great fit for your home.

In the event that things don’t work out with your new dog, this will prevent you from needing to rehome the dog yourself, which can be a tremendously stressful experience.

Make sure you read up on each organization’s policy beforehand so you know the exact terms of your agreement. 

Adoption Agreements That’ll Work for You

It’s important to be mindful of each adoption site’s policies.

For example, some sites will require you to provide background references or allow routine post-adoption inspections to check on the status of your adopted pooch. 

Recommended Read

Don’t forget that in addition to selecting a good pet adoption website, you’ll want to be sure to work with a high-quality shelter or rescue.

Check out 12 Ways to Identify a Good Shelter to learn more!

The 9 Best Pet Adoption Websites

Without further ado, here are some of our favorite places to find your future forever friend. 

1. Petfinder

Petfinder provides a nearly endless selection of dogs, cats, reptiles, horses, rabbits, and even barnyard animals. The site even features an interactive quiz that asks you lifestyle questions and breed preferences to guide you towards your mutt match made in heaven. 

In addition, you can filter your search query by age, organization, compatibility with other dogs or kids, and more. You can also “favorite” your potential pooch or sign up for email updates on dogs in your area. 

PROS

Petfinder taps into rescues and shelters all over the U.S. and lists an incredible number of pets on the site. You can sort through the animals available based on a variety of characteristics, and the site is updated continuously.

CONS

The animals available are currently in the care of various shelters, rescues, and individuals, so the terms of adoption (including fees) will vary from dog to dog.

2. Adopt a Pet

adopt-a-pet website

Adopt a Pet lists dogs or cats from over 17,000 different animal shelters and rescues. And in addition to traditional, four-footed pets, you can also find a small number of rabbits, birds, reptiles, and other small animals listed on the site. 

The website’s simple layout allows you to filter by location, age, and breed to find the perfect pooch for your family. Adoption requirements will vary depending on the listed adoption organization.

PROS

Simple, easy-to-navigate interface that gives you the chance to search for a dog by breed, location, and age. You can also browse the “featured pets,” in your area. You can view videos of many of the available pets (in addition to photos).

CONS

There aren’t many downsides to Adopt a Pet, but we were disappointed to see many of their informational links were broken. Also, the terms of adoption will vary significantly, as the pets are currently cared for by a variety of shelters, rescues, and individuals.

3. ASPCA

ASPCA adoption website

The ASPCA features dogs and cats up for adoption from their centers in New York City and Los Angeles. If you’re not near one of these cities, the site also features a portal to local shelters in your area. 

You can filter your ASPCA shelter search by breed, size, sex, age, and lifestyle compatibility. Terms and conditions will vary depending on the animal and shelter you select.   

PROS

The ASPCA is one of the leading organizations in the pet-welfare space, so you know you’re dealing with a top-notch organization. Additionally, most of the animal profiles share numerous photos and quite a bit of info about the four-footer you have your eye on.

CONS

Although the ASPCA gives you the chance to search for animals at local shelters in any region, dogs currently in the direct care of the ASPCA are only available in New York and Los Angeles.

4. Rescue Me

rescue me dog adoption

Rescue Me helps dogs, cats, horses, birds, and other animals find forever homes. The site prompts you to filter the search results by breed type and shows you the rescue groups available across the United States. 

Upon clicking on your desired state, you’ll be able to see the dogs currently available for adoption. 

PROS

This site has a lot of nice features, such as the ability to see the states in which a particular breed is available for adoption. Additionally, Rescue Me is a top-notch organization, who’s managed to find homes for nearly 1 million pets.

CONS

Although it’s not a huge problem, most of the animals made available by Rescue Me are in the hands of other organizations. Other than that, we can’t find any other significant downsides to the site.

5. Best Friends Animal Society

best friends animal adoption

Best Friends Animal Society’s main offices are located in Salt Lake City, but they have satellite facilities in Atlanta, New York, and Los Angeles too. The Salt Lake City facility alone is home to 1,600 dogs and cats in need of a forever home.

The site also gives you the chance to search animals currently at other shelters and rescues in your area. Best Friends Animal Society hosts a pet compatibility quiz on the site, which makes it easier for you to find the perfect furry fit for your family.

As with most other adoption sites that tap into animals at a variety of physical locations, the specific adoption terms and conditions vary.  

PROS

Best Friends Animal Society is a reputable organization, which should give soon-to-be pet parents confidence. They offer a lifetime return policy for all their pets, and we like that the many of the available animals are cared for “in house” (in other words, they aren’t a glorified search engine).

CONS

While this site may be useful for people living anywhere in the country, only those living near one of their four offices will be able to adopt a pet directly from Best Friends Animal Society (all others are cared for by partnering organizations).

6. Petsmart Charities

Petsmart adoption site

Petsmart Charities allows you to seamlessly search dogs, cats, and a small number of other pets based on your zip code. You can filter the results based on breed, color, size, age, and sex.

Though there isn’t a direct contact button in the platform, you can click on a link that’ll allow you to email a given dog’s caretaker for more information. Additionally, each rescue or shelter group’s information can be found easily on any pet profile. 

PROS

Petsmart Charities’ site features tons of dogs (and cats), which are available in all corners of the U.S. Additionally, you’ll find info on the site about adopting a pet at your local Petsmart retail location, which is quite convenient.

CONS

The site’s communication process is a bit clunky, as there’s no built-in way to message owners (you’ll have to use email). Additionally, the terms and conditions for the pets available vary wildly, so you’ll need to take your time and review this information carefully.

7. The Shelter Project

The Shelter Project allows you to search for dogs, cats, and shelters near you. You can also filter the animals in need of a home by sex, age, size, and breed. 

The Shelter Project partners with Adopt a Pet, but hosts animals exclusively in shelters (rather than rescues) since these dogs are usually most in need of a forever home. This is a great choice if you’re looking to adopt from a shelter instead of a rescue organization. 

PROS

The Shelter Project checks off most of the boxes you’d want satisfied in a pet adoption website. And while the site’s content is a little thin, you’ll find dozens and dozens of dogs available in most areas.

CONS

You can only find limited info about specific pets on The Shelter Project’s site — to learn in-depth info, you’ll need to navigate to a third-party website. Additionally, you must enter a zip code to begin searching, which is a pain for those willing to travel or trying to search a large geographic area.

8. AKC Rescue Network 

AKC adoption website

If you’re looking to rescue a specific breed, the AKC Rescue Network is an excellent resource. They don’t offer dogs that are in the AKC’s direct custody; instead, the site lists breeds in alphabetical order with direct links to specific rescue group’s websites, along with contact information. 

Though most well-known breeds have multiple available rescues, there are a handful of breeds on this list without a listed organization. 

PROS

The AKC Rescue Network is a perfect option for owners looking to adopt a specific dog breed. In some cases, there are many different rescue organizations associated with a given breed.

CONS

Although the AKC is a reputable organization, the site serves as more of a link hub that shares info for breed-specific rescues, rather than a true searchable dog database. Additionally, some breeds are not represented by a rescue organization.

9. Petco Foundation

Petco dog adoption

The Petco Foundation features a wide range of dogs, cats, reptiles, birds, and small animals on its site. You can filter the animals available by species, breed, sex, age, size, and color to instantly see the photos of the adorable and adoptable critters available in your area. 

Petco also hosts regular adoption events with shelters or rescue groups in your area, so be sure to inquire about adoption at your local Petco. 

PROS

The Petco Foundation website gives you the chance to search for a new dog anywhere in the country. You’ll also have the chance to filter the animals by a variety of characteristics. The site doesn’t offer anything that distinguishes it from most others discussed here, but it does serve as another potential venue for prospective owners.

CONS

The Petco Foundation does a lot of good work on behalf of pets in need of a home, but their adoption website is essentially a shelter search engine. Similarly, while the Petco makes in-person adoption available at most of their retail stores, the Petco Foundation website doesn’t provide a way to see these dogs — it simply helps you find your local Petco’s website.

adopting a dog from a website

Another Solution: Search for Local Rescues, Shelters, and Adoptable Dogs

Are you still having trouble finding your future four-footer? Here are a couple of additional ways to search for adoptable dogs. 

  • Scour Social Media — Some rescue organizations are more active on their social media accounts than on their websites, so it’s worth checking out their respective pages. You might also find information about adoption events in your area on Instagram or Facebook. Moreover, if you know anyone in your social circle who frequently fosters four footers, be sure to inquire about any adoptable dogs. 
  • Find A Humane Society In Your Area — The Humane Society takes in hundreds of cats and dogs every year in need of a home. Be sure to check your local chapter for dogs available for adoption.  
  • Give Google A Go — When all else fails, don’t forget to conduct a quick Google search. Look up “dog adoption,” “dog rescue,” or “dog shelter,” along with the name of your city or area. 

Whatever you do, just make sure to AVOID Craigslist! You do not want to purchase a dog off Craigslist and inadvertently support puppy mills and unethical backyard breeders.

Recommended Read

Before bringing home your new pooch, be sure that you’re all set & ready to go. We’ve put together a comprehensive, three-part dog adoption guide to help make sure you’re prepared!

Shelters Vs. Rescue Groups: What’s The Difference? 

Before adopting your new best buddy, it’s important to understand the difference between shelter and rescue groups to find the best pick for your family (but both types of organizations can be a great source for your new pet).

Shelters

Shelters are usually funded by the local government. These organizations take in homeless pets within a specific community. Usually, shelter dogs are housed in a kennel style environment. Many shelters will require that your pet is spayed or neutered before bringing him home. 

Rescues

Animal rescue groups are typically volunteer-run organizations that do not necessarily have a physical location. Many rescue groups have a network of foster pet parents that look after Fidos and Fluffies until they are adopted by forever families. 

Rescue groups might also be breed-specific, whereas shelters take in any homeless pet within its service area. 

***

There’s no shortage of deserving fur babies looking to find their forever homes. With a quick search on one of these adoption sites, you’ll be one step closer to meeting your newfound best friend. 

Have you had success with any of these adoption sites? What’s your fur baby’s story? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below! 

adopting puppy mill dog
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Written by

Kate Brunotts

Kate is a dog-loving content specialist with over a decade of canine-care experience. She is currently a professional dog walker and pet sitter, with previous experience working at the Heart of Chelsea Animal Hospital in Manhattan. When not spending time with four-footers, she can usually be found crafting top-notch dog-care articles that pet parents can trust. Kate loves dogs of all shapes and sizes, but Bernese Mountain Dogs hold a special place in her heart.

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