Denver is perhaps best known for its booming start-up economy, but its second-biggest attraction is all the natural beauty. Hiking trails and wildlife draw all types of nature-observers, from the occasional tent camper to the hardcore camper owner. And what better to enjoy these pastimes with than the comforting friendship of a canine best friend?
If you’re looking to get a dog, whether it’s your first or your fifth, we know where to start. Here, we’ve listed everything you need to know about adopting a dog in Denver.
Did you know that 68% of U.S. households have at least one pet? And as dogs make up a slight majority of that percentage, adopting one brings you into a community of several like-minded individuals. You’ll make one friend, your new pet, and potentially meet several more in the form of fellow dog-people and their pets.
To start, look at shelters and rescue websites for dogs available for adoption in Denver. Scroll down to find a list of highly-rated local shelters, or check out aggregated sites like Petfinder or Adopt-A-Pet. These websites show adoption listings from multiple rescues at once, making your search that much quicker.
But, if that introduces too much choice, you can search for breeds or breed-specific rescues. Check out the American Kennel Club for characteristics of different dog breeds. Not all dogs match these details exactly, but knowing, for example, what types of dogs generally do well with kids will help you get started.
Banned breeds in Denver
Unlike many other major metropolitan areas, Denver enforces breed-targeted legislation. Specifically, both the City and County of Denver ban Pit Bull breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.
Owners, shelters, and rescues can find it difficult to identify a dog’s breed by looks alone. Denver law attempts to clarify this breed type by defining Pit Bull-type dogs as one that “displays the majority of physical traits of any one or more of the above breeds,” as defined by the United Kennel Club or the American Kennel Club.
The dog adoption process in Denver
The adoption process differs by rescue. Some simply have you meet a dog, fill a form, and speak with an employee about responsible ownership, while others require a home visit and personal references. However, they all tend to follow the same general process:
- First, you find a dog that you’re interested in, whether by browsing listings online or visiting the rescue in person.
- After reading the dog’s description and determining that he or she sounds like a good fit, you’ll fill out an adoption application.
- Someone at the rescue will review your application and, if approved, arrange for you to meet your dog. Bring everyone who lives in the home (including other dogs) to this meeting.
- If all goes well and you decide to adopt, you’ll complete the adoption application, pay a fee, and take home your new companion!
City of Denver law requires owners to license their new dog (and cat) within 30 days. The only exception is for pets 5 months of age and younger.
The rescue you work with may allow you to apply for a license as part of your adoption paperwork. You may be able to pay the license fee at the same time. Otherwise, you can apply for a license online, in person, or via mail.
Pet owners have three options for a pet license:
- A one-year license costs $15.
- A three-year license costs $40.
- A lifetime license costs $150.
Residents 65 and older can get a three-year license for free.
Schedule a visit to your veterinarian, ideally within a week of bringing your new companion home. A routine check-up will allow the vet to catch any mild illnesses or ailments, such as kennel cough, that the shelter may have missed or not have the resources to treat.
When you adopt your dog, the shelter should give you a complete record of its known medical history. Depending on the dog’s origins, this record may only contain treatments given at the rescue. Bring this information to your first vet visit so the office will have your dog’s history on file.
Adoption fees cover the cost to rescue, shelter, feed, and groom dogs in need of homes. The funding also helps provide necessary medical care. In exchange, you get a healthy dog that’s been spayed or neutered and has its required shots. Some shelters throw in additional items, like a free leash and collar, complimentary bag of dog food, or even a voucher for a free vet visit.
To help you budget for the cost of adopting a dog in Denver, we’ve compiled fees from three top-rated shelters in the area:
Denver Animal Shelter
- Cost: $170 for puppies two months to one year old, $150 for dogs one year to five years old, $100 for senior dogs six years and older
- What it covers: Spay or neuter surgery, a one-year pet license
Dumb Friends League
- Cost: $250 for puppies five months old and younger, $175 for dogs between six months and one year old, $125 for dogs one to five years old, $50 for dogs five years and older
- What it covers: Spay or neuter surgery, age-appropriate vaccinations, microchipping, 30-day trial of pet insurance, a temporary collar and ID tag, a temporary leash or carrier, and a complimentary wellness exam to be used within two weeks of adoption
- Cost: $200 for puppies less than six months old, $125 for dogs between six months and eight years old, $75 for dogs older than 8
- What it covers: Spay or neuter surgery, age-appropriate vaccinations (except for rabies), microchipping
- Colorado Puppy Rescue: A foster-based rescue that focuses on helping puppies and mothers of puppies.
- Denver Animal Shelter: Run by Denver Animal Protection, part of the Denver Public Health & Environment department, this open-admission shelter reunites lost pets and finds forever homes for strays.
- Doggy Dog World Rescue: A foster-based rescue founded by a former dog groomer.
- Dumb Friends League: Partners with shelters in Oklahoma and Texas, which generally have fewer resources and adopters.
- Ho-Bo Care Boxer Rescue: A foster-based, all-volunteer rescue specializing in Boxer breeds.
- Humane Society of the South Platte Valley: A nonprofit 503(c) rescue serving the south Denver community
- Life is Better Rescue: Provides behavioral training and in-depth modification to rescued dogs in order to help them get adopted.
- MaxFund: A no-kill shelter that began when the wife of a veterinarian grew concerned about the strays brought to her husband’s practice only to be healed and, when no owner could be found, turned over to animal control.
- PawsCo: An organization that fosters dogs who don’t do well in shelter environments. PawsCo also partners with Food Bank of the Rockies to reduce pet homelessness.
- Planet Pet: Created by a veterinarian at a low-cost clinic to provide homes for many of the animals he encountered.
Between food, vet visits, and all the toys and treats you’ll buy, owning a dog can cost several hundred dollars per year. Don’t fret—many shelters can help you find low-cost or free resources for necessary care, such as spay/neuter drives and dog food banks.
To help you budget, consider the following. One-time/infrequent purchases include:
You’ll also need to budget for recurring expenses such as:
- Food and treats
- Toys and waste bags
- Medical and dental care
- Pet insurance
- Boarding services/pet sitters
If your dog is prone to chronic health issues or is susceptible to breed-specific ailments, pet insurance can be a great investment. Consider your dog’s medical history and look at quotes from potential insurers.
You’re almost there! You’ve got one thing to do before bringing your new pet home, and that’s making sure its new environment is in order. Pet-proof your living space and get the following items ready:
- Your leash and harness or collar with ID tags
- Food and bowls
- Treats and toys
- A crate
- Grooming tools
- Pet-safe enzyme cleaners for accidents
- Puppy pads if your dog isn’t housebroken
Congratulations! You’re about to start a new life full of love and puppy kisses.
When it comes to caring for your new dog, we’re experts. Our highly qualified dog walkers, dog sitters, and dog borders in Denver can help you at any time, whether you have to work late at the office or dash out of town.