Adopting A Shelter Dog | all You Need To Know

By Susan Donaldson, B.A. (Hons), Animal Campaigner

By adopting a shelter dog, cat, or other animal, you can save that animal's life. You will also free up a life-saving rescue space for another animal.

Millions of innocent animals in shelters and pounds are put to death each year due to lack of rescue spaces. Adopters and foster homes are needed for these rescue spaces to be freed up.

Put simply, this situation is caused by too many people breeding and abandoning pets, and not enough people sponsoring, fostering, and adopting.

Countless Animals Are Competing
For Every One Rescue Space

Some local authority pounds allow members of the public to adopt direct from them, but the majority do not.

Most require an animal rescue to give the pet a rescue space, assess it, and re-home it. The demand for these rescue spaces is much higher than the number of rescue spaces available.

This means countless pets are regularly put to death by local authority pounds and shelters to make room for the constant stream of abandoned animals coming in.

In the UK, animals are held by the local authority pounds and shelters for seven days, except in Northern Ireland where it is five days.

In the US, where the problem of abandoned dogs is worse, it can be as little as 72 hours.

If it looks unlikely that the dog will be claimed, then towards the end of that time, some lucky dogs have pound pullers who try to find them life-saving rescue spaces.

Even if a rescue steps in to save the pet, they are not always in the clear. This is because some rescues do not have a “no kill” policy.

Rescues do not always give their rescue spaces to animals from the local authority pound.

Some rescues give their rescue spaces to pets surrendered by members of the public. Either way, rescues and pounds are always at bursting point.

Every animal that is adopted from an animal rescue means there is room made for another innocent life to be saved. Fostering and sponsoring the animals also saves lives.

You can find out more about how animal rescue works, and all the different steps and elements involved in it, here. Much of it is only possible due to the work of volunteers. Find out about volunteering roles, here.

Did you know? Around 1 in every 4 shelter dogs is a pure breed, and there are many rescues who specialize in specific breeds.

In the image below, Dogs Kala and Keira were saved from being euthanized, through the charity Angels Among Us Pet Rescue, based in Atlanta, Georgia. So many more are not as lucky.

Why Can Some Animals Not Be Rehomed?

When animal rescues assess the pet they rescue, they sometimes find that the pet has problems, meaning it cannot be re-homed.

If these animal rescues that have a ‘no kill’ policy, they end up caring for these pets for the whole of their lives. Animal sanctuaries also do this.

There can be many reasons an animal is not suitable for adoption, but here are just a few: Some have emotional problems such as fear aggression that cannot be overcome, despite trying. Others may have very complex medical needs. Their problems may often be due to abuse.

To help them care for these animals for life, rescues often appeal for people to sponsor these animals.

For more details about sponsoring an animal, see the pet fostering and sponsoring page.

The image below shows a sad and frightened dog trying to hide in the corner at a shelter. He is too frightened to even look around :(

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Why Are Animals Abandoned?

People sometimes wrongly believe that there must be something wrong with the pets available for adoption in pounds and animal rescues. They think their owners would not have abandoned or surrendered them otherwise.

In fact, the vast majority of the time, pets end up in animal rescues and shelters through no fault of their own. They have just been let down by humans.

Often, owners do not realize how much time, effort, and money the pet is going to take. Before getting the pet, people don’t ask themselves if the pet would still be a priority in their lives for the whole time it is likely to live.

People rarely make plans about how they would continue to care the pet if their circumstances changed.

Common Reasons Animals End Up In Shelters

Changes of circumstance are a common part of life. Here are a few that lead to pets being in pounds and rescues:

  • A relationship breaking down
  • Having a baby
  • Working longer hours
  • Having to move to accommodation where pets may not be allowed
  • Losing a job meaning you cannot afford to care for your pet

Click to see a fuller list of common reasons for dogs ending up at animal shelters and rescues.

Amazingly, people seem to think a reasonable contingency plan for if any of these circumstances occur, is to simply give the dog to a rescue or pound.

“If you wouldn’t do it to a child, don’t do it to a pet. They, too, are a member of your family who trusts you to love and care for them. Although you have other things in your life, they only have you. You are their whole world.”

If you are thinking of adopting a shelter dog, cat or other pet, you can save their lives by checking out this list of animal shelters.

The image below shows a line of people dumping their pets at Miami-Dade Animal Services. Because of animal rescues bursting at the seams, many animals left at shelters are euthanized.

People dumping Their AnimalsAdopting A Shelter Dog
People dumping Their Animals

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It is difficult to get accurate statistics because although a number of local authorities and animal rescue organisations publish statistics, but many do not. That means the rest have to be estimated, leading to the differing statistics you may come across.

Internationally, around 600 million animals are thought to be abandoned. Huge numbers of those animals are abandoned in countries that have very hostile attitudes to stray animals. In these countries, they are put to death using extremely cruel and violent overpopulation controls.


In the USA alone, approximately 7.6 million cats and dogs enter animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, around 2.7 million animals are euthanized. Source:


In the UK, around 50,000 dogs are handed in to local authority pounds each year. That is not counting the tens of thousands of owners that hand pets in to “no kill” rescues.

At least one dog every two hours is put to sleep by those local authority pounds. Source: Stray Dog Survey, findings by GfK. In addition, tens of thousands of cats are abandoned each year. A significant portion of those are destroyed, many of whom are kittens.

Horses Sent To Slaughter Houses

On top of this, other pets including small animals and horses are regularly abandoned or surrendered.

Many of the horses and ponies abandoned end up in legal and illegal slaughterhouses. Many are shot.

Abandoned Pets Of Tomorrow Are Bred Every Day

Tragically, while all this is happening, millions of pets are being newly bred and bought. They are bred because people keep buying them.

These are tomorrows abandoned pets. The cycle keeps repeating itself. In fact, the numbers of abandoned pets are rising.

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How Does Buying Puppies & Kittens Fund Cruelty?

When people buy cute puppies from pet shops and from online sellers, they are likely to unwittingly be funding the puppy farming industry.

The same can go for kittens. It is an extremely lucrative and cruel industry. It can even sometimes fund organized crime.

Puppy Farm and Kitten Farm Pets

To increase profits, numerous corners are cut regarding the health of breeding animals and their babies. This means the majority of puppies from puppy farms and kittens from kitten farms will have numerous health problems.

They often have short lives full of suffering. For the horrific cruelty inflicted on their mother, see the puppy farms page. Not only this, but the many imperfect puppies or kittens that cannot be sold are usually either abandoned, or killed.

Methods such as drowning, beating, or even being buried alive are used. Profits are the only thing of interest.

Bad Breeders Can Claim To Be Responsible Breeders

It is very difficult to tell if a breeder is a front for a puppy or kitten farm or not. They have respectable looking websites. They claim to be responsible and criticize irresponsible breeders.

Not only that, but they use properties you can visit where you can view the mother as well as the babies. The mother is of course a stand in. Although it is difficult, here are some bad breeder checks you can do.

Be informed about buying a puppy or kitten, if you are going to buy, rather than adopting oneAdopting A Shelter Dog
Be informed about buying a puppy or kitten, if you are going to buy, rather than adopting one

People Feel They Are Saving Or Rescuing
Pets From Pet Shops

People sometimes feel like they need to ‘rescue’ puppies and kittens from pet shops. 

What they are actually unwittingly doing is funding the cruel puppy and kitten mill trade.

This ensures it continues. In adopting a dog, cat, or other animal, you are in a way saving two lives. You save the one you take home, and the one who gets the life-saving rescue space you freed up by adopting.

Adopting a shelter dog, cat or any other animal saves lives. Buying or breeding risks and ends lives.

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If You Are Thinking Of Buying A Puppy

While pounds and rescues are bursting at the seams with dogs and cats, new ones are constantly being bred. This is only done because there is demand. Adopting a shelter dog, cat or other animal, and thus saving an innocent life, is always better than encouraging the breeding of more new lives by buying.

However, if you cannot be dissuaded from buying a puppy, it is important to only buy from a genuinely responsible breeder. Anyone can claim to be a responsible and reputable breeder, and appear to be one. It is important you know how to identify one.

Reputable breeders will have a full waiting list of homes that have been checked before any puppies are even conceived, plus they would never need to advertise their puppies anywhere. They always get full health checks and histories on both breeding parents, which they could show you.

Somebody breeding puppies first and THEN trying to sell them, is a mark of an irresponsible breeder.

Reputable and responsible breeders aim to better the breed. They are careful to pass on only the best genes, paying for all the necessary health checks. They do not want to breed poor health in to the next generation.

Profit is not their number one priority. Find more information about reputable and responsible breeders, on the Bad Breeders page.

Adopt And Save A LifeAdopting A Shelter Dog
Adopt And Save A Life

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Worries About Adopting A Shelter Pet
Completely Busted

By Alisa Bowman

There are personal, financial, and behaviour-related concerns that often stand between would-be adopters and their grateful pets, say veterinarians and animal advocates.

A closer look at the top adoption anxieties reveals some unexpected perks in going the shelter route—not even counting the part about being a lifesaver. (And they just might save your life, too.)

Concern #1: I won’t know what I’m getting

Adopting A Shelter Dog Myth 1 - I Don't Know What I'm GettingAdopting A Shelter Dog Myth 1
I Don't Know What I'm Getting

You’ll learn more about a shelter pet’s personality and health than you ever could when considering a pet from a breeder or store.

Shelter staff often care for and train animals for weeks and, in the process, gather lots of information about their charges’ temperaments, according to Sandi Laird, the animal care director at Operation Kindness, a no-kill shelter in Carrollton, TX.

“We tell adopters everything we know about a pet, so we can place it in the perfect home,” Laird says. The ASPCA, meanwhile, offers a Meet Your Match program: You fill out a survey that will help shelter staff pair you with the best pet for your needs and expectations.

Concern #2: I don’t want to deal with a badly behaved pet

Adopting A Shelter Dog Myth 2 - Badly Behaving AnimalsAdopting A Shelter Dog Myth 2
Badly Behaving Animals

Most shelter pets are homeless, but not because they’re naughty. In fact, nearly a third of all dogs and 21% of cats are in shelters simply because an owner’s new landlord didn’t allow pets.

Others become homeless when their owners die, a family member develops an allergy, or their humans simply change their minds. Only 8% of cats and 10% of dogs end up in shelters because of bad behaviour.

The staff will generally inform you of these facts to prevent a pet from being poorly placed. (Try these 5 ways to keep your cat from driving you completely crazy.)

Concern #3: I don’t want a mutt

Adopting A Shelter Dog Myth 3 - MuttsAdopting A Shelter Dog Myth 3

Pure bred pets account for up to 25% of the animals surrendered to animal shelters each year, according to the Humane Society.

If you can’t find the breed you want at a nearby shelter, look for breed-specific rescue associations.

Concern #4: Why pay an adoption fee if someone will just give me a puppy or kitten?

Adopting A Shelter Dog Myth 4 - Why Pay For Animal Adoption?Adopting A Shelter Dog Myth 4
Why Pay For Animal Adoption?

Adoption fees range from $75 to $100, but they pale in comparison to what you could pay in expenses if you take in a free pet, says Kristen Vance, a veterinarian in Bel Air, MD, who volunteers at Animal Rescue, a large no-kill shelter in New Freedom, PA. (Check out these 4 ways to save on pet costs).

Most shelter pets have received their annual vaccinations and have been wormed, treated for fleas and ticks, microchipped, and spayed or neutered. That can add up to at least $800 in savings—on top of the joy of having a new best friend.

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Reasons It’s Best To Adopt

There are numerous advantages of adopting:

  • By adopting a shelter dog, not only do you save an innocent life, but if you adopt a cross-breed, they usually have fewer health problems than pure breeds.
  • By adopting a shelter dog / cat / other animal who is already an adult, you will know what personality you are getting, as it is already fully developed. This contrasts with people who buy baby animals and hope to mould them in to what they want. They often find out that is impossible.
  • Most animal rescues assess the animal’s temperament. They can then match suitable animals to prospective owners. Some animal shelters let you take the animal on a trial basis.
  • The veterinary treatment that the pet you adopt has been given by the rescue is usually worth a lot more than the adoption donation you give. The pet will have been given worming, vaccinations, neutering if needed, and other treatment

To see a full list of reasons adopting a shelter dog, cat or other animal, is best, click the see the adoption page.

When former Senior Airman David Sharpe adopted a pit bull puppy from a rescue shelter, he thought he was saving her life, but she ended up saving his life after traumatic experiences severely affected him.

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Questions You May Be Asked When You Adopt

Animal rescues ask questions to help determine if the pet is a good match for the potential adopter. The questions are to better the chance of the adoption being a success.

It is traumatic for the animals to be adopted and then rejected, so rescues do not want this to happen.

Questions are also asked to try to make sure that animals are only homed with responsible people. Rescues want people who will keep the pet safe, and love and look after them well for their entire natural life.

Some of the questions might seem somewhat in depth and probing, and sometimes even invasive. However, when you understand that they are purely asked to make sure your home is a good, safe fit for the pet, they seem less so.

What Sort Of Questions?

When adopting a shelter dog, some questions will probably be about:

  • How often the dog is likely to be left on its own and for how long
  • How often it can be exercised on walks and for how long
  • Whether it would be a pet or used as a working dog
  • Where it would be allowed to go in the house

For cats, dogs, rabbits and guinea-pigs they may ask:

  • Whether there are children in the home, how old they are, and whether they are used to that kind of pet
  • Where the pet would sleep
  • Whether it would be an inside or outside pet

A rescue may also ask:

  • If there are any other pets in the home, and what they are
  • Who else lives in the home
  • Whether the garden is secure and how high the fence or wall is

A rescue may also ask what arrangements would be made for the animal to be looked after when the adopters went on holiday, or while they were out at work.

Thinking Ahead

Potential adopters may also be asked what they would do if their circumstances unexpectedly changed. These circumstance changes might be them:

  • Suffering a relationship break down
  • Having a baby and finding it too hard to look after the pet
  • Having to work longer hours, so the animal is left alone a lot
  • Losing their job and not being able to afford to keep the animal

This is because these are major reasons for animals being abandoned or returned to the rescue.

Many of these questions would not be asked until the person adopting a shelter dog, cat or other animal, has got to the stages of meeting the animal and the home check.

Animal rescues need to determine whether the pet and prospective home is a good fit for each other. Questions make the adoption more likely to be successful.

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Your Home Check When You Adopt

Reputable animal rescues always do home checks when a person is adopting a shelter dog, cat or other animal. This simply involves them visiting the prospective adopters home and having a chat with them.

The rescue asks questions and the prospective adopter can ask questions too. They may, or may not, bring along the pet to be adopted.

The rescue simply wants to be reassured about a number of things, including that the animal will be going to a home where it will fit in well with the lifestyle of the adopters, and with any other pets.

The rescue would like to know that the animal is going somewhere where it will be safe and well looked after for it’s full natural life by a responsible person. The home check acts as a safeguard for the rescue to check they are not letting pets fall in to the wrong hands.

See the section above for what kind of questions the potential adopter may be asked.

A good fit is best for both partiesAdopting A Shelter Dog
A good fit is best for both parties

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The Decision

Home checkers are usually given guidelines to follow, such as those on the Making Sure ‘Free To A Good Home’ Pets Are Safe page, each will have their own individual idea of what makes a good pet owner.

Some are fussier than others. Some too fussy, some not fussy enough!

When adopting a shelter dog or other pet of your choice, it may be that you do not get your first choice. If there was another home on offer to the pet too, the rescue may have felt it was slightly better suited to that particular pet's needs at the time.

It is not a slur on you, or them saying you are not good enough. It is just that they want the best match for both the pet and adopter. Whatever the reason, it is important not to give up.

You could request a different home checker next time, or try a different rescue or pound. The worst thing you could do for animals is to BUY a dog or cat when there are so many unwanted ones being put to death in shelters & pounds – especially if it is of a breed you could have found in a rescue or pound.

This is because buying encourages and rewards breeders and puppy farms for breeding tomorrow's death row dogs.

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What Does The Adoption Donation Pay For?

When you adopt a dog, cat or other pet, most animal rescues suggest a minimum donation amount for you to contribute towards the cost of what the shelter has spent on the animal. This includes vaccination and neutering costs, as well as the other veterinary treatment the animal needed.

In the unusual event that the donor gives more than the value of treatment given to the animal, the remainder goes towards keeping the animal rescue running and saving more innocent lives.

The suggested donation typically does not get anywhere near covering what the organisation has spent on the animal, and moreover, there are all the running costs of the rescue, which can be huge. That is why nearly all rescues run at a huge loss, constantly struggling to survive. That is why they do fundraising activities and appeal for donations.

It is thought that an average of around £250 – 500 is spent by reputable animal rescues on each animal in the UK. The adoption donation is only a fraction of that. When a pet has been particularly neglected or abused, treatment can cost the animal rescue a lot more than that average.

Hawaii Island Humane Society, in the US, show that you get hundreds of dollars of veterinary treatment for your donation when adopting a shelter dog or other pet.

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Millions Abandoned & Killed, While
Millions More Are Bred & Bought

Millions of pets, of all ages, are put to death every year due to lack of people adopting and too many irresponsible owners buying pets, breeding them (see Bad Breeders) and abandoning them.

This is despite, the majority of the time, there being no problems with the pets themselves.

At the same time as all these innocent, adoptable pets are being put to death, millions of newly bred puppies are bought that have been bred by cruel puppy mills and irresponsible ‘backyard’ breeders.

These breeders won’t take responsibility, saying “Well if people didn’t buy them, we wouldn’t breed them”.

Irresponsible owners and breeders cause enormous suffering to pets through their ignorant behaviour.

See the So-Called Dangerous Dogs And Overlooked Shelter Pets page to find out more.

A member of the military is welcomed home by her rescued dogAdopting A Shelter Dog
A member of the military is welcomed home by her rescued dog (Click For Source)

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It’s Not Only Domestic Animals Who Need Adopted

All kinds of animals, such as sheep, cows, ex-battery farmed hens,
donkeys, horses and reptiles can be adopted from animal rescue sanctuaries who take in that kind of animal.

Any animal that can be bought, can need rescued and re-homed. Wild animals can also be distance adopted.

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Find A Rescue Pet / More Details

If you are thinking of adopting a shelter dog, cat or other animal, go to this page to find out more information.

To learn more about saving lives by temporarily fostering animals, or sponsoring them, please see the Fostering Or Sponsoring Animals page.

Millions of pets that can be rehomed are put to death because millions more are bred and bought instead of the existing ones being adopted.


There are so many dogs and cats in pounds, shelters and rescues long for a loving home.

Homeless Pets/Dogs - Please let them pick me!Adopting A Shelter Dog
Homeless Pets/Dogs - Please let them pick me!
(Click For Source)

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Is There More I Can Do To Help?

Here are more ways to earn and raise funds to help animals in need.

If you cannot adopt, foster or sponsor, there are still things you can do.

Cross Posting

You can help by cross-posting pets looking for rescue spaces on social media. If you have any spare cash, you can donate to the animals rescue funds.

You cross posting or donating could be the difference between the animal's life being saved or not.

Animal Rescue Volunteer

Volunteers are vital to animal rescues to keep them running. You can help in a variety of roles.

Raise Awareness Of the Issues

Raise awareness by sharing the information from this site on social media. For instance, you can share information about animal adoption, the issue of pet abandonment, and bad breeders. By doing this, you will help stop animal suffering.

Another way of raising awareness of animal cruelty issues is by educating people with what you wear.

Many Other Ways…

This website lets you know of many additional ways to help stop animal cruelty.

There are ways  that will suit everyone, no matter what their personality, lifestyle, energy level, or circumstances.

Share these ways with other people, to get more people helping animals.

Educating people about the cruelty that goes on is another way to help. You can find this information in the Types Of Animal Cruelty section of this site. Share it on social media to help animals.

be part of the animal rights movement.Be Part of the Animal rights Movement

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