So you’ve decided to add a furry friend to your family, but you are not sure how to go about finding your perfect match. It’s common knowledge by now that most pet stores source from unethical puppy mills. Getting a dog from a breeder is not only expensive but questionable, and it can be hard to tell which are reputable and which use abusive breeding practices.
Adoption is certainly the most ethical route, but in a city like New York the process can feel overwhelming. There are so many dogs that need homes — how can you find the one that’s right for you? Here are a few tips to help you meet your new best friend.
Many shelters and adoption centers are based online now. These sites offer accurate descriptions of the animals and often allow you to meet them in person, but it can still be hard to tell if you’re a good fit until you spend time with the animal at home. As a dog sitter, I’ve found that many dogs get anxious in a new environment and need time to adjust before they can relax and let their real personalities shine through.
Fortunately, NYC is full of adoption agencies that foster, rather than shelter, dogs. Organizations like Social Tees and Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue place pups in foster homes until they get adopted. Once you apply to foster, you can choose the exact animal you’d like to welcome into your home. At the very least, you’ll get to hang out with a pup for a few days until someone adopts them, but if you fall in love you can request to adopt. Since you’re already fostering, you’ll get priority. A friend of mine has fostered many dogs through Social Tees and ended up adopting two of them!
If fostering seems like too much work, there are plenty of overcrowded shelters in the city that you can visit, like the ASPCA Adoption Center, the Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition and the Humane Society. Most of these organizations have online databases (BARC is especially thorough and descriptive) that you can look at before you visit.
Shelters like Animal Care Centers of NYC and Bideawee require you to fill out an application before meeting the animals. They do this to ensure you’ll be able to provide a good life for your pet and to match you with the perfect pup for your home and lifestyle. Many shelters, including Animal Care Centers of NYC and Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center, spay, neuter and microchip pets before adoption, so your pet is ready to start their new life with you.
Go to adoption events
If you’re interested in adopting but not sure you want to commit yet, attend an adoption event. They happen frequently all over the city, often at Petco and Petsmart (the organization City Critters uses certain locations of these stores as permanent adoption centers). Just be careful — you may go in feeling like you’re not ready to take an animal home, then fall in love with a puppy and leave with a new life partner. This happened to a friend of mine at a Petco event a couple of years ago, and I’m happy to report he and his dog are very happy together.
Many of the organizations I’ve mentioned list animals on Petfinder and
AdoptAPet, which is helpful if you’re looking for a particular kind of dog. On those sites, you can search by breed, age, size and more, then see which dogs are available at shelters and adoption agencies all over the NYC area. You’ll still have to follow the adoption policies of the organization that is caring for the dog you’re interested in, but searching online is a great way to start.
Figure out which kind of dog will fit your lifestyle
Through applications and interviews, adoption agencies will help you get real about what you can provide. It’s helpful to consider this in advance — there’s a huge difference between caring for a Yorkshire Terrier that doesn’t require a ton of exercise and a Pit Bull mix that needs to be walked for hours every day.
If you have a backyard or live close to a dog park, you may be able to give an energetic dog like an Australian Shepherd or a Golden Retriever a great life. Many parks have off-leash hours between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. where dogs can burn off energy, so think about whether or not you have the time to take your animal there to run in the morning or at night. If you work long hours, make sure you can afford to hire a dog walker to take your dog for a long walk or two during the day.
If you’re pressed for time, money and space, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t take care of a dog. Small breeds like Shih Tzus and Havaneses are low maintenance. They take up barely any space and what feels like a short walk to you will wear out their tiny little legs. Some large breeds, for example Great Danes, are low energy, so if you have a big apartment but little access to outdoor space, they could be an option for you.
While it might be heartbreaking to realize you can’t currently provide for the Labrador Retriever of your dreams, it’s important to be realistic. City living is hard and every dog deserves to live their best life, plus you may be surprised to find out how much fun you can have with a spunky little Dachshund mix.
Also, no matter what kind of dog you end up adopting, if you work full time, hire a dog walker. It’ll make your life easier and your dog’s life so much better. Plus, many dog walkers (myself included) are creatives, so employing a dog walker means supporting not only your pup, but the arts!
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