Great Places to Adopt a Pet

Looking for a furry addition to your family but don't know where to start? Try these top sources for pet adoption.
By Josey Miller

How to Find a Pet
GK Hart/Vikki Hart/Getty Images GK Hart/Vikki Hart/Getty Images Ready to add a four-legged or winged friend to your home? Pet adoption is a great way to go: Not only does adopting a pet-whether it's a cat, dog, pig, or parakeet-from an animal rescue organization save a life, it can save you money, too. Purchasing an animal from a pet store or breeder can cost thousands of dollars, while adopting-with fees averaging in the low hundreds-is a bargain by comparison. "Most of the time the pet will be up-to-date on vaccinations, checked out by a veterinarian, and sometimes neutered and spayed [and microchipped]-and all of this is built into the adoption fee," says Katya L. Friedman of

The pet adoption approval process typically involves an application and interview; some organizations also require a home visit and a veterinary referral. If you think you're ready to find the perfect companion, check out these online and in-person sources.

Also See: New Dog Owner Checklist What it is: provides a searchable list of pets from thousands of shelters and adoption groups around North America. Started as a New Year's resolution by its two co-founders, it enables shelter animals to have exposure to potential adopters 24 hours a day, seven days a week-and it was the first of its kind.

How it works: Go to and plug in your search criteria, including your location. Petfinder doesn't advocate sight-unseen adoptions, but with over 350,000 pets at any given time, chances are you'll find one in your own area.

Why it's unique: "Petfinder allows people to take their time when searching for the pet that's right for them-without having to stand in a shelter and feel pressure or guilt," explains Kim Saunders, vice president of shelter outreach and public relations. "You can go through [the list of homeless animals] on Petfinder with both your head and your heart." Most of Petfinder's animals are cats and dogs, but rabbits are close behind-and you can even find less conventional pets, like pigs, tarantulas, sheep, frogs, horses, snakes, and alpacas.

Also See: The Top 10 Pet-Owner Mistakes
What it is: is North America's largest non-profit homeless pet adoption Web site. It began in 2000 as "," a program to help end the overpopulation of animal shelters in Los Angeles; today, over 12,000 animal shelters, rescue groups, SPCAs, and humane societies use its free service to advertise their adoptable animals.

How it works
: Go to, enter your zip code, and search its database for the perfect pet or for a shelter or rescue near you.

Why it's unique: In addition to dogs and cats, lists rabbits, gerbils, ferrets, hamsters, farm animals, amphibians, and birds. Don't see the animal you want? Check out the "Search Saver" feature, which sends you alerts when an animal that matches your criteria is entered into its system.

Also See: How Much Do Pets Really Cost?

Best Friends Animal Society What it is: Best Friends Animal Society was founded in 1984 by a group of animal lovers who refused to accept that humane societies and shelters "had no choice" but to kill unadoptable animals. Its headquarters in Kanab, Utah now runs the largest no-kill sanctuary in the United States. There's also a branch in Los Angeles.

How it works: Go to and browse through the available animals. Not located near Kanab or L.A.? That's okay: Best Friends transports animals to adopters all across the United States and Canada.

Why it's unique: Want to get up-close and personal with the thousand-plus animals-from dogs and cats to horses, pigs, ferrets, parakeets and beyond-at the Kanab sanctuary? Reserve a guided tour or sign up to volunteer. You can even spend the night in one of the on-site guest cottages or cabins, or on an RV site.

Also See: Real Simple Pet Products

Hearts United for Animals
What it is: Hearts United for Animals is a national no-kill animal shelter, sanctuary, and animal welfare organization situated on a 65-acre farm in Auburn, Nebraska. It seeks to comfort homeless animals by providing warm beds, good food, medical care, and love.

How it works: Go to and browse through available cats and dogs. If you don't live near the shelter, the organization will handle transportation for your new best friend if appropriate. "We will fly the dog out in cargo if the flight is safe, the weather conditions are right, and the dog has the right health status to fly," says adoption coordinator Tera Bruegger.

Why it's unique: Hearts United for Animals focuses primarily on dogs, especially those rescued from puppy mills and natural disasters, as well as long-distance adoptions.

Also See: Insuring Your Pet

See more great places to adopt a pet

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