Adopt, Don’t Shop: Finding Ethical Places to Adopt Pets

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    ethical places to adopt pets

    According to the World Animal Foundation, the majority of people buy their pets from animal breeders. This is especially true of dogs, with only 23% of all dog owners saying they adopted their furry friend from a shelter.

    Shelters are among the most ethical places to adopt pets. But they are not the only ones. Even some ethical animal breeders exist, though we will save that topic for another, more in-depth post.

    Pet adoption is crucial for freeing up space at animal shelters and rescue organizations. Adopting instead of shopping also saves pets’ lives, gives pets a second chance, and, as a bonus, saves you money.

    But where are the best places to find adoptable animals? We created this post to help you locate some of the best ones. Keep reading to make the first step in the journey of bringing home a new furry family member.

    The Most Ethical Places to Adopt Pets

    The most ethical places to adopt pets are at humane shelters or through animal rescue organizations. Here are some of the best ones to help you start your search.

    Your Local Humane Society

    The Humane Society of the United States is among the largest animal shelters in the country. Most major cities and many smaller areas have a local humane society branch where you can adopt a pet.

    Though humane societies specialize in dogs and cats, you can sometimes find other types of small pets and companion animals available.

    The Humane Society makes searching for and finding adoptable pets easier with its website, The Shelter Project. The website allows prospective pet owners to search for dogs and other pets available across the country.

    The ASPCA

    The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is the nation’s top pet rescue organization. If you live in the New York City area, you can also adopt directly from the organization.

    People who live outside of NYC can still benefit from the ASPCA’s services. Their adoption website has a convenient search function to find adoptable pets in your area.

    One of the best things about going through the ASPCA’s website is that you can filter search options. Search by animal type, breed, age, and other factors that are important to you.

    The Petco Foundation

    Petco is not just a retailer of pet food and supplies. The company also runs an animal welfare organization known as the Petco Foundation.

    Aspiring pet parents can find adoptable pets in Petco stores. The retailer also hosts adoption days during which local animal shelters bring dogs, cats, and other animals that are available for adoption.

    Importantly, you can’t adopt a pet directly through Petco. Instead, the foundation partners with shelters and rescue organizations across the country to connect you with pets in need.


    The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) may be best known for its animal rights efforts. However, the organization also offers the animals it rescues up for adoption.

    You can find a selection of adoptable animals on their website. The group does an excellent job of explaining where the animal came from, its journey to better health, and any behavioral or health issues to be aware of.

    PETA primarily offers dogs and cats up for adoption. But the company also rescues exotic animals from roadside zoos. In some cases, these types of animals are also available for adoption.

    Best Friends Animal Society

    Best Friends Animal Society began in Kanab, Utah. This is still the location of the group’s animal sanctuary. But today, adoptive pet parents across the country can also search for pets on the society’s database.

    And you don’t have to live in Utah to adopt from Best Friends Animal Society. The group partners with organizations in other states to ensure full access to its rescued animals.

    If you do live in Utah, Best Friends Animal Society is one of the best, most ethical shelters to consider for your pet adoption.

    Using PetFinder to Locate Adoptable Pets

    PetFinder is a free resource you can use to find adoptable pets in the US, Canada, and Mexico. It is the single best database for all animal shelters and rescue organizations across North America.

    Here’s what you should know about and how to use PetFinder.

    What Kinds of Animals Can You Adopt Through PetFinder?

    You can adopt dogs, cats, and many other types of animals through PetFinder. Depending on your exact location, you may have access to the following types of adoptable pets:

    The pet availability on PetFinder depends on what’s available in your area.

    Where Can You Search for Pets on PetFinder?

    You can search for pets at all animal shelters and rescue groups within 100 miles of your home. If you are willing to travel, you can also search throughout North America for the perfect furry family member.

    PetFinder says it works with over 11,500 ethical adoption organizations throughout the country.

    How Do You Use PetFinder?

    To start using PetFinder, navigate to the company’s website. You can type your query and zip code directly into the search bar or browse by animal type. Another option is to search by shelter or rescue organization.

    Once you input your query, you can then filter the options. The following filters are available to search PetFinder’s extensive database:

    • Breed
    • Age
    • Size
    • Gender
    • Coat/hair length
    • Color
    • Behavior
    • Health needs
    • Days on PetFinder

    You can also filter out pets that are not good with kids, other animals, or animals of the same species. The goal is to help you find the pet that is perfectly suited for your household.

    What Are the Pros and Cons of PetFinder?

    The only downside to PetFinder is that it does not have a physical shelter location. Instead, it connects prospective pet parents to animals in need at shelters or rescue organizations in their area.

    Otherwise, there is a lot to love about this resource! The website is extremely user-friendly and easy to navigate. It offers ample search filters and functions to help you find the exact pet you are searching for.

    One of our favorite features on PetFinder is the email alert function. You can list your unique criteria and set up email alerts. When a pet matching your criteria gets added to the database, you will receive an alert.

    PetFinder Alternatives

    If you have tried PetFinder without success, you may wonder if there are any viable alternatives. Below, we have curated some of the best databases and websites to try instead.

    Adopt a Pet

    Adopt a Pet calls its pet adoption website North America’s largest. It partners with an even larger number of shelters and rescue organizations than PetFinder, with more than 17,000 groups in its searchable database.

    The ASPCA and Petco Foundation also use this database. It may be more convenient for you to search on Adopt a Pet because the website will list available animals from both organizations.

    Like PetFinder, Adopt a Pet’s website is simple to navigate and offers the ability to set up email alerts. The only reason we would recommend PetFinder over Adopt a Pet is for the wider range of search filters.

    Rescue Me

    Rescue Me is another extensive database of adoptable pets in the US. You can search for dogs, cats, horses, birds, and other animals looking for their forever homes.

    Though people can put their pets up for adoption directly through Rescue Me, the organization does not have a physical location. Instead, it connects people like you with shelters and rescue groups across the nation.

    One reason we would not recommend using Rescue Me is that it can be difficult to find what you are looking for. You have to search by breed. There is no way to see all the adoptable pets available in your area as with PetFinder.

    The American Kennel Club

    The American Kennel Club (AKC) is not just a great resource for learning about dog breeds. It also has a rescue dog search function. Unfortunately, you can only use the website to search for dogs, not other animals.

    However, like Rescue Me, you can only search by dog breed. Searching by breed is not a bad thing if you know exactly what you want.

    Another con to using the AKC’s website is that you can only see shelters, not individual dogs. You will have to visit the listed shelters in person to see what they have available.


    Petango is a growing pet adoption website that partners with nearly 2,000 shelters and rescue groups in the US. Its database may not be as extensive as others, but the site makes up for it with its user-friendliness.

    The biggest downside to Petango is the type of information available about its adoptable pets. You can only see a limited number of pet photos, and the animal descriptions are less thorough than they could be.

    Get More Pet-Friendly Advice on PetMarvelous

    The most ethical places to adopt pets are animal shelters and rescue organizations near you. You can find them directly or search available animals in your area with PetFinder, Adopt a Pet, and more.

    Need advice to help your adoptive furry family member make a smooth transition to their new home? PetMarvelous is your home for all things pets. Check out our pet posts for more advice like this!


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