Where to Adopt a Pet in Washington, DC

If you live in DC and you're looking for a new fur baby to adopt, we've got you covered! Check out our list of the best places to adopt a pet in DC below… plus all the insider information you're looking for.

How do I adopt a pet in Washington, DC?

If you're ready to find your new furry addition to the family, there are a few things you'll want to know ahead of time. Each animal shelter or rescue will have its own requirements like age minimum, adoption fees, application process, and the interview process. So before you get started, check out the typical adoption process steps and requirements below.

Age minimum to adopt.

Every shelter has its own age minimum. Sometimes it's 18 years and older, but other times they'll require you to be 21 or 25 and older to adopt from them. And every animal rescue or shelter will require you to show a valid ID.

Washington DC Dog Playing in Grass

Fill out the online application.

Most animal shelters will have you fill out an application on their website before starting the adoption process. Not only will this ask for your basic contact information, but they'll usually ask about your home situation, pet experience, pet-parenting style, size of the home, size of yard, etc.

The primary purpose of this is to make sure that you're ready for life with a pet, to ensure the safety and well-being of the pet, and to help avoid any pets being returned to the shelter later on.

Cost of adoption fees.

Yes, there is a cost to adopt a pet from a shelter. You may wonder why—since you are rescuing them into your home. However, these animal shelters and rescues are typically non-profit organizations that spend a lot on housing, feeding and caring for the pets in their care. They have to pay for staffing, insurance, mortgage, utilities, medical care, and surgeries.

The fee you have to pay may seem high, but the price it costs them to properly care for your pet until you adopt them is much higher. This is also why non-profit animal shelters and rescues often ask for help from volunteers and donations.

Have a "meet and greet."

Before you show up for your new pup or kitten, the shelters and rescues want you to spend a little time with the pet. Their picture may look adorable online, but you should spend time interacting with this cat or dog to see how you get along. And it's helpful if you bring any spouses, partners, kids, or even your other pets to meet this potentially new fur baby of yours. Double-check with the shelter to ensure you can bring your pet along first.

Home visit.

This step isn't as standard, but some animal shelters and rescues will require a home visit before letting you officially adopt your new pet. Again, this is to be sure that your home life is a healthy atmosphere for a cat or dog. It's the final step in their care for this animal. And it helps prevent animal returns to the shelter.

Washington DC Cat Waiting for Adoption

How much does it cost to adopt a dog in Washington, DC?

As stated above, there are many expenses that every animal shelter and rescue has to pay for while they provide proper care for all their furry friends. This includes—but is not limited to—food, water, shelter and facility costs, walks and playtime, toys, supplies, waste cleanup, bathing, staffing, transportation, any medical care needed, spay or neuter surgery, training, and some shelters will even provide microchipping—in case your dog or cat get lost later on.

Each animal shelter and rescue will have varying adoption fees. So it's best to check out the details on their website ahead of time—before you get attached to a particular fur baby. For example pricing, check out some of the fees for the animal shelters listed below.

Humane Rescue Alliance

Puppies and adult dogs

  • Dogs under 6 months: $250

  • Dogs 6 months – 8 years: $200

  • Dogs 8 years and up: $150

*As required by law, a $15 fee for a dog license will be added for dogs going to homes in the District of Columbia.

Kittens and adult cats

  • Cats under 6 months: $150

  • Cats 6 months – 8 years: $100

  • Cats 8 years and up: $75

Other small pets

  • Rabbits, Ferrets, Large Birds, Large Reptiles: $45

  • Guinea Pigs, Turtles, and Other Small Animals: $10

Washington DC Dog in Front of Capitol Building

Lucky Dog Animal Rescue

Puppies and adult dogs

  • Puppy (1 to 6 months): $425

  • Young/Adult Dog (7 months to 8 years): $400

  • Senior Dog (9 years and older): $300

  • Dogs Receiving Heartworm Treatment: $475

Kittens and adult cats

  • One Cat/Kitten: $175

  • Two Cats/Kittens: $300

City Dogs & City Kitties Rescue

Puppies and adult dogs

  • All dogs: $450

Kittens and adult cats

  • All cats: $250

Rural Dog Rescue

Puppies and adult dogs

  • All dogs: $400

Washington DC Dogs at Adoption Event

Where is the best place to get a dog or cat in Washington, DC?

There are numerous places to adopt a new cat, dog, or other small pet in DC and the greater metropolitan area. This pet-loving city has multiple humane societies, animal shelters, rescues, or government-funded organizations. No matter which place you choose, you'll find many loving cats and dogs ready for their new forever home.

Humane Rescue Alliance

The Humane Rescue Alliance offers numerous services in addition to pet adoption, like pet support, vaccination clinic, pet pantry, behavior and training, youth programs, animal care and control, and animal protection.

"At the Humane Rescue Alliance, we honor more than 150 years of commitment to protecting animals, supporting families, and advocating for positive change to create a world where all animals can thrive." Their goal is to save more lives by building an alliance with the community, people, and animals.

Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (AWLA)

The AWLA is a unique shelter that provides care for all types of animals, from dogs and cats to rabbits and reptiles. They specialize in providing medical care, behavioral support, and enrichment activities to ensure the well-being of every animal in their care. What sets AWLA apart is their commitment to community outreach, offering services like pet food banks and low-cost spay/neuter clinics. They also have a strong foster program, which allows them to care for more animals than their facility alone could handle.

Homeward Trails Animal Rescue

Homeward Trails Animal Rescue is a non-profit organization that provides animal adoptions to Washington, DC, Virginia, and Maryland. It was started in 2001 by founder Sue Bell. "We find homes for dogs and cats rescued from low-income, rural animal shelters or whose owners can no longer care for them; abandoned hunting dogs who are dumped in woods or left at shelters; owned pets whose owners can no longer care for them; and animals who have been injured, abused and neglected."

And they have worked with numerous organizations from other countries to save hundreds of cats and dogs. "We actively seek to reduce the rate of euthanasia, support proactive spay/neuter practices, and educate the public about how to care for their animals in a humane way."

Lucky Dog Animal Rescue

Lucky Dog Animal Rescue is a non-profit organization that is powered by volunteers. They are dedicated to rescuing neglected, abandoned, and homeless pets from being euthanized and finding them a new, loving, forever home.

They also strive to educate pet parents and the community on responsible pet parenting, including the importance of spaying and neutering, obedience training, and good nutrition.

City Dogs & City Kitties Rescue

City Dogs & City Kitties Rescue is a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing pets from overcrowded, under-resourced shelters. They are often the last chance for pets who would not otherwise be rescued because of injuries or other medical issues.

"CDCK envisions a world where all dogs and cats live in forever and loving homes free from neglect, abuse, and abandonment." And they work toward this through their guiding principles: create lifesaving solutions, deliver quality customer service, engage the community, and by building friendships, and having fun while working toward an important goal.

Last Chance Animal Rescue

Last Chance Animal Rescue serves the community in Washington, DC, as well as those in Maryland and Virginia. "We take in cats and dogs from more than 50 high-kill shelters in 12 states and provide disaster-relief services for pets." They partner with over 30 Petco and PetSmart stores in the region to provide full-service in-store cat adoptions.

Last Chance Animal Rescue has been helping pets since 1999. And in that time, they have provided new loving, forever homes for more than 100,000 cats and dogs. To see their adoptable pets, you can check out their pages on Facebook, Petfinder, and Adopt a Pet.

Rural Dog Rescue

Rural Dog Rescue was founded in 2011 by Kim Hawkins of Howl To The Chief—a natural food and pet supply company. This non-profit rescue is located in Washington, DC, but it also serves communities in Maryland and northern Virginia. "We work with several high-kill shelters (who either euthanize dogs in 72 hours or whose kill rate is 70% or higher) in rural areas of Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina."

They are a 100% volunteer-based organization and have placed more than 1,300 dogs into forever homes. And they choose to focus on helping dogs find homes that are "often overlooked in shelters because they are dark-colored, hounds, sick, injured, or seniors."

Washington DC Dog Laying in Grass at Capitol

What is the best animal rescue website?

Before you visit an animal shelter or rescue in person, you can search online from the comfort of your own home for adoptable pets in your area. You'll be able to view pictures of cats, dogs, and other small pets from numerous animal shelters and rescues.

You can even filter through the available pets to find the type you're looking for based on species, gender, breed, size, age, and whether or not they are good with children and other pets. Check out the many fantastic, reputable websites listed below.


Adopt a Pet


PetSmart Charities

Rescue Me

Petco Love

Adopt a pet in Washington, DC, today!

Now that you've seen just how many places there are to adopt a pet in DC, and you know the potential fees and requirements for adoption, it's time to start the search for your new fur baby!

At Local Pet Care, we're here to help you not only find the best places to adopt, but also the best dog-friendly restaurants and the best dog parks in Washington, DC. We'll also help you find the best local pet care professionals near your home. With these resources, you will be set up for pet-parenting success!

Find Local Pet Care in Washington DC

For more great articles about dog-friendly activities and pet-parenting advice, check out the Blog at LocalPetCare.com.

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