Pet lovers frequently say, “Adopt, don’t shop,” when looking for a new pet. But, what exactly does that mean? Where should modern pet lovers search for their next best friend? The Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team has the answers and more in this guide to finding and welcoming a new pet

Why does it matter where I adopt my pet?

Where you acquire your pet can directly affect their short- and long-term health, longevity, temperament, and behavior. In particular, adopting a pet from a commercial breeding facility, puppy mill, or “backyard” breeder supports potentially unethical breeding practices, substandard conditions, and in some cases, animal cruelty, and can help contribute to pet overpopulation. Also, these pets often have questionable histories and may lack early developmental and preventive care (e.g., vaccinations, parasite and disease testing, appropriate nutrition).

What are some recommended sources for pet adoption?

Whether you seek a well-bred companion from champion bloodlines or a down-on-their-luck pet who is looking for a home, here are our top picks on where to adopt a new pet.

  • Humane societies and animal shelters — These organizations generally operate from central locations where you can view and visit with adoptable pets. Before they are made available, adoptable pets generally undergo a holding period when they receive necessary veterinary care while staff members learn the pet’s personality and temperament. During this period, the pet adjusts to the shelter environment and potential adopters can see the pet’s true self.

Although these facilities are often at-capacity, the staff try to ensure a good adopter-potential pet fit. We recommend discussing your needs and preferences (e.g., pet species, size, gender, temperament, activity level) with an adoption counselor, who can direct you toward suitable adoptees.

  • Pet rescue organizations and groups — Rescue organizations are typically smaller volunteer-led groups dedicated to saving and rehoming pets and can be advantageous for finding a specific breed, life stage (e.g., senior pets), or less common species while still helping a needy pet. These groups may or may not have a central shelter location and may rely on a network of temporary foster homes. This can be helpful, because rescue volunteers have a better understanding of living with the pet. 

Reputable rescue organizations will also offer foster-to-adopt options or trial adoptions that allow you to take the pet home and ensure a good match. However, rescues can be unethical, so researching each organization is essential. Look for a well-run group that has been reviewed, is open and informative, and provides post-adoption support (e.g., helpful pet resources, allowing the pet to be returned if you find them unsuitable).

  • Preservation breeders — These responsible breeders have dedicated themselves to preserving and promoting a specific pet breed or type, and they prioritize their animals’ health and wellbeing, not financial gain. Many exhibit their chosen breed or species in shows, exhibitions, or sport-based competitions to demonstrate their instinct, intelligence, or adherence to the breed standard (i.e., written ideal). 

Reputable breeders are selective about who receives one of their prospects but remain available as a resource and support system throughout the pet’s life. Because conscientious breeders breed to improve their bloodlines—not make a profit—many maintain a waiting list for prospective adopters. Breeders can speak in depth about each litter’s ancestry and provide detailed information about health, temperament, and expected longevity, which can be helpful when deciding on a new pet.

Find a reputable breeder by contacting the breed or species national club (e.g., Chihuahua Club of America, American Cat Fanciers Association). For an exotic or less-common pet species, reach out to local, regional, and national organizations (e.g., herpetological associations for reptiles, American Rabbit Breeders Association), which generally maintain a breeder referral list or directory. These groups have strict member requirements (e.g., mandatory health testing for breeding animals, code of ethics) and can help you connect with a dedicated and responsible breeder.

Each pet demands time, resources, and money—but the joy and companionship they provide in return are invaluable and immeasurable. Ensure you adopt your perfect pet match from a reputable and trusted source. Contact a Neighborhood Veterinary Centers location for personalized pet adoption recommendations and advice.