Dogs can’t handle apartment life? Tell that to the people of New York City. NYC’s Economic Development Corporation estimates one in seven households has a canine resident. If you do the math, that’s approximately 425,000 dogs within the five boroughs—and those are just the ones registered with the city.
Adopting a dog can be a long process. It’s not uncommon to fall in love with a potential pet online only to see it already scooped up once you get to the shelter. Take heart, however. The perfect pup is out there for you, and our guide will help you find him or her. Read on to discover how to adopt a dog in New York City.
Finding a dog
The right dog is out there for you; you just have to find them. Chances are, you won’t have to look far. There are hundreds—if not thousands—of shelters in the city, and many go through periods of overcrowding. For example, according to a press release from the Animal Care Centers of NYC, the shelter is known to take in up to 100 animals per day.
In fact, summer and fall are some of the best times to adopt, for multiple reasons:
- People are more active, meaning they are more likely to see stray dogs and take them to a shelter. As a result, many pet rescues experience severe or frequent overcrowding and may run discounted adoption drives to make space.
- October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, when shelters participate in special events to encourage adoption.
Now, let’s talk about finding your pet. Because of the high number of stray animals, it is more humane (and budget-friendly!) to adopt than to go to a breeder.
Still, there are hundreds of dogs in shelters at any given time. It’s impossible to visit every single shelter website, let alone go to their physical locations. You have multiple options to help you narrow down your selection and find the perfect pet, including:
- Searching by breed. The American Kennel Club has a complete list of dog breeds and their typical characteristics, including how well they’d fare in the city. You may be surprised by what you find; some larger breeds that one would think would need an open yard, like Great Danes, are actually huge couch potatoes who are perfectly happy snoozing all day. The AKC site lets you filter by a number of characteristics, helping you find the perfect pet.
- Checking out aggregated websites. Many shelters will post dogs up for adoption both on their individual websites and places like Petfinder or Adopt A Pet.
While there are no city-wide bans on specific breeds, note that residents of buildings owned by the NYC Housing Authority are prohibited from owning Doberman pinschers, pit bulls, and Rottweilers in their homes. This includes mixes or miniature versions of any of the aforementioned. NYCHA residents are also prohibited from owning dogs over 25 pounds, regardless of breed.
The only exceptions to this rule are in the case of service and assistance animals. Click here for more information on the NYCHA’s pet policy.
The process varies depending on which shelter you go to. At its most basic, adopting a dog consists of:
- A shelter visit to meet your new pet. Bring everyone who will be living with your new companion, including family, roommates, and other dogs.
- A call or check-in with your veterinarian and landlord.
- A counseling session to make sure you are ready for pet ownership.
- Payment (we have more on that below) and paper signing.
Then, you’re ready to head home! Same-day adoptions can take an hour or more, and many agencies will stop adoptions an hour or so before the organization closes.
The above scenario, however, is on the shorter side in terms of timelines. Other agencies have policies that can extend the process by days or weeks, including:
- A home visit to see where your future dog will sleep, eat, and play. Home visits are also a chance for the adoption agency to make sure everyone living in the residence is OK with a new pet.
- Travel time if you adopt through an international rescue.
New York City law requires all dogs to be licensed. You may obtain a license application from your adoption shelter, veterinarian, or local pet shop. You can also submit an application online or download one to mail in later at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene website. Licensing costs $8.50 per year.
The first vet visit
The shelter will provide as much detail as it can on your new dog’s medical history. Bring this information with you to your first veterinary visit. We advise bringing your dog in for a check-up within a week or two of adoption. While all adopted dogs in New York City are spayed/neutered and vaccinated, a check-up can catch what the shelter may have missed.
We’ve collected fee information from three of the most well-known pet adoption services in NYC:
ASPCA Adoption Center
- Cost: $75 to $250, depending on age and size
- What it covers: spay/neuter, vaccinations, pre-registered microchip, heartworm test, medical overview, animal behavior guide, collar with personalized ID tag
Animal Care Centers of NYC
- Cost: $75 for mid-to-large adult dogs, $150 for small adult dogs (less than 20 pounds), $250 for puppies (under 7 months). Fees waived for veterans.
- What it covers: spay/neuter, vaccinations, pre-registered microchip, heartworm test, leash and collar, dog license, certificate for free exam at participating veterinary practices.
- Cost: $150 for mid-to-large adult dogs, $200 for small adult dogs (less than 20 lb), $300 for puppies (under 6 months). Fees waived for veterans.
- What it covers: spay/neuter, vaccinations (rabies, bordetella, distemper/parvo), pre-registered microchip, medical overview, pet adoption guide, dog license, and free solo or group training session. Veterans are eligible for additional discounts.
Typically, adopting a dog in New York City costs between $150 and $250.
Believe us when we say there are tons of places to find your new pet. Here are just a handful of the organizations where you can rescue a dog within the five boroughs:
- Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals: A 501(c)(3) organization that partners with more than 150 rescues and shelters to save homeless animals within the city. If you have no idea where to start your pet ownership journey, or you want a list of reputable rescues and a lot of options, start here.
- ASPCA Adoption Center: Headquartered in NYC, the ASPCA is North America’s first and most recognized humane center.
- Badass Brooklyn Animal Rescue: Specializes in rescuing dogs from high-kill, high-volume pounds. Their motto is, “Saving badass dogs from idiot humans.”
- Best Friends Animal Society: The nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary with an adoption center in SoHo.
- Bideawee: In addition to healthcare, Bideawee gives adoptable animals experience in socialization so they’re ready for city living.
- The Humane Society of New York: Founded in 1904, it’s an animal rights advocacy group that expanded into a free clinic and, eventually, a large rescue agency.
- Staten Island Hope Animal Rescue: A volunteer-run nonprofit working to raise awareness and find the best homes for homeless pets.
Creating a care budget
Dog ownership is worth the expense, but it’s good to have a budget in mind. This is one of the first things you should think about, as you want to make certain you can afford to give your pet the life it deserves.
Here’s a list of annual purchases that are typical for a dog owner:
- Waste bags
- Pet insurance
- Annual veterinary exams
- Dental care (both professional cleanings and products for at-home use)
- Treats and toys
- Miscellaneous vet appointments
- Boarding/travel accommodations
- Dog walking services
You’ll also need to make a few one-time purchases (or replace them as they wear), such as:
- Collars, harnesses, and leashes (the shelter may provide one or all)
- Pet-friendly cleaning products
- Grooming products
- Training sessions
You may save money by skipping some of the nonessential purchases, thrifting certain pieces, or taking advantage of discounts. For example, see if your veterinarian has any dental promotions during February, which is National Pet Dental Month.
A note about pet insurance
The decision on whether or not to get pet insurance is completely up to you. It’s another recurring monthly cost, but it can provide peace of mind in case of an accident, or it can help you manage genetic or breed-related conditions. Get as much medical history on your dog as you can from the adoption agency, so you can determine if monthly insurance fees are worth it.
Some employers include pet insurance as an optional part of their benefits packages. Talk to your supervisor or HR department to get a full view of your options.
The adoption process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, depending on the agency you use. To set yourself up for success, have as many supplies as possible before you meet with an adoption counselor. Your pet homecoming checklist should include:
- Food and food bowls
- A leash and collar or harness (or both!)
- Toys, especially ones that keep your new pet mentally stimulated
- Treats, to encourage bonding and reward good behavior
- Enzyme cleaner for accidents
- An appropriately-sized crate to serve as a dedicated safe space while your dog adjusts to his or her new environment
Depending on the breed, you might also need brushes, shampoo, nail trimmers, and other grooming items.
Next, look to pet-proof your home. Keep dangerous chemicals and foods far out of reach, and secure electrical cables so your dog isn’t tempted to chew on them.
And then, bring home your new pet
Congratulations! We at Rover are thrilled to have helped you along your journey to finding the perfect companion (and we’d love it if you shared a picture on social media and tagged us!) If you ever find yourself needing a little help, we hope you’ll consider our qualified dog sitters and walkers in NYC.