You’ve done your research and you’re ready to welcome a new pet into your life. But, the next step—actually finding the perfect pet—can be simultaneously exhilarating and intimidating. Where should you look? Whom can you trust? What should you consider when choosing where to adopt your new friend? 

Let the Mt. Horeb Animal Hospital team ease your worries with this guide for finding your perfect new companion.

Know what you’re looking for in a pet

Once you’ve researched the species or breed you’d like to adopt, you need to distill what you know into a list of criteria that define your ideal pet. Although love-at-first-sight can certainly happen, knowing your search parameters (e.g., preferred age, gender, breed, history, personality traits, training) can focus your quest and help avoid impulsive decisions that result in an incompatible match.

Once you have your ideal pet’s qualities in mind, you can begin your search. Check out the following pet adoption resources.

Pet rescue organizations

Rescue organizations range from large charity operations with their own shelter and adoption center to small, volunteer-based groups that rely on a foster home network—or something in between. Rescues may be species or breed-specific or may shelter all needy pets. Pet rescues tend to have a greater understanding of the individual pets in their care, including firsthand information about the pet’s behavior in a home setting. Reputable rescue organizations may depend on donations, but they always ensure that their adoptable pets receive the necessary veterinary care, including spay or neuter procedures, deworming, heartworm testing, vaccines, parasite prevention, and grooming.

Also, many rescue organizations will offer a foster-to-adopt arrangement, which can act like a trial run and help ensure that you and the pet are the right fit.

Unfortunately, fake and disreputable rescues do exist, so always research the organization’s non-profit status and tax information before submitting an application or deposit. You can also gauge the organization’s legitimacy by assessing their knowledge about the pets in their care. Reputable rescues should never be pushy or aggressive, or withhold information about a potential adoption.

Animal shelters and animal control organizations

Animal shelters and animal control facilities generally house pets for a shorter time. Depending on their affiliation, size, and budget, pets at these facilities may be humanely euthanized if they do not get adopted after a specific time.

Also, these facilities are generally high-volume and overcrowded, and caretakers may have limited knowledge about the pets’ personality and history. However, adoptable pets do receive basic veterinary care and the adoption fees are typically lower to help ensure they find forever homes. Adopting these pets ensures you not only unconditional love, but also the priceless benefit of knowing that you truly saved a life.

Reputable pet breeders

Unscrupulous individuals, commercial breeding facilities, and puppy mills have given reputable pet breeders a bad name. However, countless conscientious dog, cat, small mammal, and reptile breeders strive to contribute positively to their species’ gene pool and preserve the health, integrity, and characteristics of their chosen species or breed. 

Reputable breeders are dedicated individuals who typically invest more in their pets than they earn from adoption fees. Their investment includes extensive health testing, rearing, husbandry, research, training, and exhibitions or competitions. Preservation breeders (i.e., those who strive to protect and honor their breed’s history) have extensive knowledge about their breed and bloodlines, and can be priceless mentors for owners who purchase their pets.

To find a reputable breeder, first consult the director of your breed or species’ national association or local club. These membership-based associations typically require listed breeders to subscribe to a code of ethics and participate in rigorous health testing. Reputable breeders will happily discuss every detail about their pets and be fully transparent about health and temperment. But, be prepared to be equally vetted and questioned—most reputable breeders will protect their bloodlines and litters and want to ensure they can trust you with one of their beloved pets. 

Service or working dog programs

If you’re searching for a puppy or adolescent dog, professional organizations can be a great resource for a well-bred companion with a great training foundation. Service, guide, and working dog organizations typically have their own breeding colony to ensure their canines have the health, structure, and temperament to perform the required tasks. Candidates who do not meet their strict criteria or pass specific training are placed for adoption and can make exceptional pets.=

Pet shows or events

Although you likely won’t purchase a pet at a dog, cat, reptile, or small mammal show or performance event (e.g., agility, herding, field trials, and obedience), they are great  networking opportunities to interact with fellow enthusiasts about various breeds, breed mixes, and species, see pets in action, get practical advice, learn about upcoming litters, and make connections that may lead you to your perfect pet. 

Although you are no doubt ready and eager to provide a loving home to an animal in need, adopting a pet is a lifelong commitment that demands careful consideration. Investing a little extra time now can help ensure your search ends with the perfect match.

For breeder referrals, rescue recommendations, or to schedule your pet’s veterinary care, contact Mt. Horeb Animal Hospital.