Where to Adopt a Pet in San Diego, CA

How can I find a puppy in my area? And where is the best place to find a shelter dog in San Diego? No worries! We'll tell you the answers to these questions and more.

How Can I Find a Puppy in My Area?

Ready to bring a puppy or kitten home as a new addition to the family? Congrats! It's so exciting to add that cute furriness to your home. And to get all of the new snuggles and love from a companion animal. But where do you start? How can you find a puppy or kitten? Should you adopt or find a reputable breeder? And where do you find these places?

San Diego Woman with Cat at Shelter

I know it can get a little overwhelming, but that's why we're here. Listed below are numerous San Diego animal shelters and rescues, the San Diego Humane Society, and even online sites that help pet lovers find adoptable pets in their area.

These websites let you filter through which type of pet you want, the gender, age range, and the breed mix you're looking for. You can even check off requirements like being good with other dogs, cats, or children. That way, you can make sure only to consider pets that would be a good fit for you and your household.

Why Adopt a Dog in San Diego?

Although you could find a safe, reputable breeder—a purebred dog will cost thousands of dollars. And definitely not be as unique as a mixed breed shelter dog.

There's a theory that mixed breed dogs could potentially be healthier than purebreds because they aren't breeding the same hereditary diseases over and over. This isn't to say that your purebred will suffer from a disease or that your mixed breed won't. It gives your mixed breed dog a better chance of avoiding the possibility of those same diseases.

Also, going the purebred route means that you're paying someone to breed new puppies. But remember that shelter dogs are already alive and waiting for a new, loving home. And adopting them helps to alleviate the problem of pet overpopulation in shelters.

According to the ASPCA, a study done by the Shelter Animals Count organization in 2019 showed that "approximately 6.3 million companion animals enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year." And of those 6.3 million pets, only "4.1 million shelter animals are adopted each year."

Even though about ⅔ of these companion animals are adopted every year, millions of pets in the U.S. alone still need loving, caring, forever homes.

Where Is the Best Place To Find a Shelter Dog in San Diego?

Luckily, there are tons of great animal shelters and rescues in San Diego, as well as an impressive local humane society. Just make sure to do a little research of your own before choosing which one to adopt from. Pro tip - You can even talk with a local veterinarian about any organizations that they would recommend using.

And I urge you to avoid purchasing a dog or cat from a pet store, flea market, or an individual off Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. But we'll go into that more below.

San Diego Adoptable Dog

San Diego Humane Society, Animal Rescues & Animal Shelters

These are all physical locations of San Diego animal shelters, rescues, and humane societies. They each have a website to tell you the costs associated with adopting and show you the dogs and cats available at their particular location. You can even stop in to talk with a staff member in person.

  1. Chihuahua Rescue of San Diego
  2. County of San Diego Department of Animal Services
  3. The Dog Squad Rescue
  4. GotCats? Rescue
  5. Helen Woodward Animal Center
  6. Labradors and Friends Dog Rescue Group
  7. Lucky Pup Dog Rescue
  8. Mission Bay Puppy Rescue
  9. Mutt Scouts
  10. Rover's Retreat Dog Rescue
  11. San Diego Humane Society
  12. San Diego Pet Adoption & Rehoming Services
  13. Second Chance Dog Rescue
  14. Thrive Animal Rescue
  15. Wee Companions Small Animal Adoption, Inc.
  16. Woofs and Wags Dog Rescue

Pet Adoption Websites

These websites will help you filter through all of the available pets for adoption from the rescues and shelters listed above. This way, you can find the right type, breed, personality, gender, and dog or cat's age before you even step through the doors. You'll find information about their ability to live with other pets or kids and see pictures of them.

  1. AdoptAPet.com
  2. AKC Rescue Network
  3. ASPCA
  4. PetFinder.com
San Diego Dog Being Adopted


How Much Does It Cost To Adopt a Dog in San Diego?

Every shelter or rescue will have different options for their adoption fees. These prices help cover some of the costs of the organization. But they also typically pay for your pet's spay or neuter, plus up-to-date vaccinations.

Sometimes your cat or dog won't have had the chance to receive these vaccinations or surgery yet, so the adoption cost will cover these things at a local veterinary clinic after taking the pet home.

Here are a few examples of the costs for some of the organizations listed above. Just a heads up - these costs can and do change from time to time. For the most accurate and up-to-date costs, contact the rescue or shelter directly.

Labradors and Friends Dog Rescue Group

  • Purebred puppies: 8 weeks - 7 months = $400
  • Mix breed puppies: 8 weeks - 7 months = $300
  • Dogs: 8 months - 4 years = $300
  • Dogs: 5 years - 7 years = $250
  • Dogs: 8+ years = $200

The cost covers spay and neuter surgery, plus medical care. But the puppies require a $75 spay/neuter deposit and a $75 training deposit.

Rovers' Retreat Dog Rescue

  • Puppies: under 1 year old = $400
  • Dogs: 1-5 years old = $350
  • Dogs: 6+ years old = $300

This cost includes the spay or neuter surgery, microchipping, vaccinations, fecal testing, and necessary medical care.

San Diego Humane Society

  • Kitten = $130
  • Cat = $65
  • Cat: 7+ years old = $30
  • Puppy = $200
  • Dog = $100
  • Dog: 7+ years old = $30

*Discounts = 10% off for active military members. No fees for veterans. No fees for animal welfare and rescue partners.

The San Diego Humane Society also adopts out small animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, large birds, small birds, mice, rats, hamsters, and reptiles. They also adopt large animals like sheep, horses, and other livestock.

"Depending on the type of animal, fees may include spay/neuter, current vaccinations, permanent microchip identification, a certificate for a free veterinary exam, the waived enrollment fee for medical insurance from PetFirst, and a dog license."

What Do Shelters Provide Animals?

Reputable animal shelters, humane societies, and animal rescues will "provide animals with food, water, and medical care; protection from the elements; relief from suffering; and a caring human presence. Many times, these animals would have nowhere else to turn. Socially conscious animal shelters provide a humane alternative to supporting the cruel pet trade with your money."

San Diego Adoptable Cat

Reputable animal shelters and rescues will also provide many of the following services and amenities:

  • Trained staff and volunteers who love and care about animals
  • Pre-adoption home check and follow-up programs
  • A sick ward
  • On-call veterinarian 24/7
  • Indoor and outdoor dog runs
  • Cruelty investigators
  • "A policy against giving or selling animals to laboratories or to be used as guard dogs"
  • A quiet, separate room for potential adopters to meet and get to know the animals
  • "A spay/neuter program that ensures all animals are sterilized at the time of adoption or that guarantees all adopted animals will be sterilized later"
  • Humane methods of euthanasia, when necessary, done by gentle, trained professionals
  • A large "sunny room" for cats with perches—and individual cages for cats who need to be confined
  • A policy to hold any lost or stray animal for at least five days—including at least one Saturday—before adopting out that animal

Is Petland a Puppy Mill?

Please be aware of places like Petland and anyone who is selling their puppies on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or at a flea market. They could be products of puppy mills.

The Humane Society of the United States says that Petland is the "only national pet store chain in the United States that still sells puppies, [and] Petland is also the largest retailer of puppy mill dogs. While Petland claims their puppies come only from reputable breeders and are in good health, our investigations have proven otherwise."

Dogs from puppy mills are not properly or humanely taken care of. They don't receive adequate nutrition, exercise, or health care and are usually locked up most or all of the time. The breeding dogs are often overworked, and it's common for inbreeding to happen—causing more health issues.

Purchasing one of these pets only further supports these inhumane practices. Instead, if you know of any puppy mills, you can report them here. After a puppy mill is shut down, these dogs will be distributed to local animal shelters and rescues who will humanely and responsibly take care of them. And will then help find them a new adoptive home.

San Diego Animal Shelter


Adopt a Pet in San Diego, CA Today

Don't let places like this scare you away from purchasing a new puppy or kitten. Just make sure to only purchase from responsible and ethical animal shelters, rescues, and humane societies that care about the health and wellbeing of every animal. There are so many fantastic shelter dogs and cats ready to join their new forever home. If you're ready for your new fur baby… become a pet parent today!


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


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