Do your homework

So you’ve decided to add a new pet to your family. First, you should answer some questions: What kind of pet will be the best fit for your household? Do you have enough time to devote to the daily needs of a dog? Is there someone in your household who is allergic? What about a non-traditional pet such as a rat or another small animal?

Lots of choices

Each year, millions of pets enter shelters and rescues in the United States. Some are victims of cruelty and may have behavioral or medical issues, but many more are surrendered by loving families who can’t access affordable, pet-friendly housing or veterinary care. Shelters and rescues have many animals that have already been housetrained and or have learned to live with other animals. While adult cats and neonatal kittens make up a large portion of animals looking for a home, you can also find dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, companion birds and even horses at local shelters. Breed-specific rescues have purebred dogs.

Look locally

National websites are a great place to start, but not every shelter or every pet is listed on them, so it’s important to check the individual websites of your local shelters and rescues. Then visit in person—sometimes all it takes to find your perfect match is to look directly into an animal's eyes and fall in love! If you can’t find who you’re looking for right away, don’t be discouraged. Your local shelter or rescue can connect you with other shelters and rescues in the area and may be able to tell you how to find a responsible breeder.

Top 10 pet tips

Sign up to receive our exclusive e-book full of important information about caring for your pet, including training techniques and answers to frequently asked questions.

Person holding an iPad looking at the HSUS Pet Tips eBook

Perks of adoption

Your local shelter or rescue can help you find the right fit for your lifestyle and family. Here at the Humane Society of the United States, we promote Adopters Welcome, a conversational approach to the adoption process. Once adopted, pets from shelters and rescue groups typically cost less than pets purchased or even acquired for free, when you add in the cost of vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery, microchipping, flea and tick treatment and dewormer included in your adoption fee. Shelter and rescue groups also provide advice on making your relationship with your pet the best it can be. Many organizations offer free behavior support. Some may negotiate with a future landlord with you, provide free pet food if you’re facing financial challenges or offer veterinary care for your pet through a clinic.

Don’t support cruelty

If you buy a dog from a pet store, online seller or flea market, you’re almost certainly getting a dog from a puppy mill. Puppy mills are factory-style breeding facilities that put profit above the welfare of dogs. They will continue to operate until people stop supporting them. By adopting a pet, you can be certain you aren't giving them a dime.

Build a more humane society

If enough people adopt pets from shelters, and animals are leaving shelters faster than they are arriving, it allows these organizations to focus on the root causes of pet intake. They can strengthen programs to reunite lost pets with their families or meet with elected officials to create more pet-friendly housing.

Once you get to know your local shelter, you can find ways to support them and animals in the community. You could help with a fundraising event or collect pet food donations for their pantry. You could volunteer at a low-cost spay/neuter clinic or foster a pet from someone who is going into the hospital. You can work to keep pets and their families together.