Need help figuring out where to adopt a pet? Here are a few options for you to consider.

Private Shelters

Non-profit, private shelters, which often (but not always!) have terms like “SPCA” or “Humane Society” in their names, are one place many people go when they’re interested in adopting a dog or cat. Some of these shelters are modern and beautiful, and others are old-fashioned. The best of them will have lots of helpful, friendly volunteers and/or staff members who are knowledgeable about the pets in the shelter. These folks are invaluable in matching your needs to the characteristics of the pets, and in answering basic questions about breed, behavior, etc. After you’ve selected a pet who seems right for you, most private shelters will let you take him or her to a “get-acquainted room” to visit with the pet in a quiet setting. Others might keep their pets in roomy “dog apartments” or “kitty condos,” and you may be invited to spend time with the pet on their own turf. Some shelters also have fenced outdoor areas where you can play with the pet. If you are interested in a dog and already have a dog at home, many private shelters will require you to bring in your resident dog for a get-acquainted session. This is to make sure there will be no future dog-to-dog conflicts. All private shelters will ask you to fill out an adoption application. Sometimes they do this before you’ve met any pets, and other times, they don’t have you do it until you’ve selected a pet you’d like to adopt. Sometimes, the questionnaire is mostly about practical things like your experience with pets, landlord information, and references. Other times, it’s part of the process by which the shelter staff help steer you toward the pet who is right for your lifestyle. Whether you fill out the paperwork at the beginning or end of the process, ideally, as staff go over the form with you they will make the process educational and pleasant, answering any questions you may have and carefully going over the health and behavior of the animal in question. These forms can be long or short, but their purpose is to make sure that the dog or cat ends up in a great home. So even if you don’t like filling out forms, know that it’s for a good reason. Think of it as being similar to a consult with a neighborhood pharmacist! The Shelter Pet Project hopes the shelter will roll out the red carpet for you and make the experience a great one. If not, you might want to send a note to the director at a future time and remind her of the importance of good customer service. Animal Control & Municipal Shelters

While the best animal control agencies are very much like private shelters, a lot of them are what you could call “no-frills.” Some have adoption counselors, mostly volunteers, but at others, you’ll be on your own. However un-fancy the facility or minimal the staff, the pets in animal control agencies and municipal shelters are just as wonderful as pets in other types of organizations. Walk through the kennels and adoption areas, and keep your eye out for your special someone – odds are, your future best friend is there, waiting for you! And even though these agencies are typically cash-strapped, their adoption fees are often at the lower end of the spectrum. Rescue Groups

Rescue groups sometimes work with only one particular breed or type of pet, but there are many groups that feature all kinds of dogs and cats. The pets usually live in the homes of the members of the organization, so during the adoption process you might be invited to meet them at a central adoption area, such as a weekend event at a pet supply store in a nearby mall. Rescue group adoptions tend to be much more personalized. The foster families know the pets very well — they should, since they live with them! — and so can provide a great deal of information about exactly how the pet might fit into a family or home. This personalization means the adoption process can be more rigorous and last longer than one at a shelter. Most rescue groups are run by volunteers, so it can take some time for them to get back to you. The group may want to conduct a home visit before finalizing the adoption. It will also probably contact your veterinarian and references.