If there’s one thing that most people can agree on, it’s that animals make the world a whole lot better. And while catching a glimpse of wildlife or trips to the zoo are always a treat, there’s nothing like having a pet in your own home.
We love it when people decide to adopt a dog, and we want to support them however we can! To that end, we’ve drafted some great guides to make the process go easy for you. Shopping lists? We’ve got them! Dog license info? Look no further! Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about adopting a dog in Boston.
If you’re interested in getting a dog, adoption is an incredibly noble avenue. According to the ASPCA, approximately 3.3 million dogs are surrendered to a rescue or shelter each year. Adopting even one of these animals saves a pet’s life, allows the rescue to use its resources helping other animals, and makes your life much more cuddly.
Plus, pet ownership brings you into a large community of like-minded people. According to The Humane Society, there are 84.6 million households with pets in the United States.
We suggest starting your search for a new dog at a local shelter. We’ve got a list of some highly-rated choices below. You can start there or head to websites like Petfinder or Adopt-A-Pet, which collect adoption listings from multiple rescues.
Find a dog you like? Look through any pictures and behavior details provided by the shelter staff. This will give you an idea of the dog’s needs and temperament.
You can also look up details of specific dog breeds on the American Kennel Club website. While this information won’t give you a complete profile of the dog’s personality, it will help you better understand its diet, grooming, and exercise needs.
Shelters operate year-round, but they tend to see higher intake rates during the spring and summer months or after natural disasters. During these times, rescues may reduce or waive adoption fees in order to free up space to help more homeless pets. Some also run adoption drives during unofficial holidays like National Dog Day and Adopt a Dog Month.
Banned breeds in Boston
Massachusetts has banned breed-specific legislation, meaning that no municipality within the state can ban residents from owning a certain type of dog. So, if you’ve always dreamed of a Pit Bull, Chow Chow, German Shepherd, or another breed given an unfair reputation.
Note that this law only applies to public entities. Private ones, like businesses and landlords, can still restrict what animals are and aren’t allowed on their properties. Be sure to check your lease or homeowners association bylaws before signing that adoption paperwork.
The adoption process in Boston
The dog adoption process is unique to every shelter. Some require a home visit, while others are comfortable offering same-day adoptions. Still, others operate internationally, rescuing dogs from the streets of other cities and flying them to pre-screened adopters.
That said, the overall process is relatively the same. Once you find your dog, the steps to adopt him will likely look something like this:
- You look through available dogs either online or in person at the shelter, and then fill out the adoption application.
- The rescue reviews your application. If everything looks good, they’ll arrange a meeting between you and the dog.
- Bring every human in the household to this meeting. You want to be sure the pet gets along with everyone! If the rescue allows it, you can even bring any other dogs in your household.
- If the meeting goes well, you’ll proceed with the adoption process by filling out any additional paperwork and sitting through a counseling session with the shelter staff. This session is just to update you on basic pet needs as well as the average cost of the first year of new pet ownership. During this time, other rescue staff will contact your veterinarian and/or landlord, if applicable.
- You’re almost done! After counseling, you’ll need to pay the adoption fee.
- Now, you and your pet can head home!
If your dog is older than six months of age, you’ll need to get it licensed. Luckily, the process is pretty simple! You can apply for a dog license online, at the Boston Animal Care and Control Shelter, or, in some cases, through your pet’s rescue. Simply fill out the application, provide proof that your pet is both up-to-date on its rabies vaccine and spayed or neutered, and pay the licensing fee. The cost is $15 for altered (meaning spayed or neutered) pets and $30 for unaltered pets. Pet adopters age 70 and older can apply by mail or in person to have the license fee waived.
Your rescue should give you a copy of your dog’s medical records during the adoption process. If they don’t, be sure to ask for a copy before you leave.
Bring these records with you to your dog’s first vet visit. Try to schedule this appointment within a week of adoption. Some shelters will even provide a voucher for a free or reduced-fee vet visit if you use it within a certain time period.
Why should you schedule an appointment so quickly? Shelters have to prioritize life-saving pet care first, so they may not be able to catch minor ailments like kennel cough. A quick trip to the vet will take care of any lingering concerns.
Rescuing pets costs money, which is where adoption fees come in. The money you pay goes toward finding, transporting, treating, sheltering, and feeding the homeless pets of Boston.
To help you get a feel for the costs of adoption, here are fees from three high-rated shelters in Boston:
Animal Rescue League of Boston
- Cost: $500 for puppies under 6 months of age, $350 for dogs between 6 months and 7 years old, $250 for senior dogs 8 years of age and older
- What it covers: spay/neuter surgery, age-appropriate vaccinations, heartworm test and preventative, flea/tick/mite treatment, deworming, tag, collar, leash, medical exam, starter bag of Hill’s Science Diet food.
Last Hope K9 Rescue
- Cost: $550 for puppies under 1 year old, $500 for dogs 1 to 6 years old, $450 for senior dogs 7 years and older
- What it covers: spay/neuter surgery, medical exam, deworming, age-appropriate vaccinations, microchipping
- Cost: $550 for puppies and dogs under 2 years of age, $475 for dogs 2 to 9 years old, $350 for senior dogs 10 years and older
- What it covers: spay/neuter surgery, age-appropriate vaccinations, deworming, heartworm test, flea/tick preventive, ear mite treatment, ID tag, microchipping. Certain dogs may also receive training classes with the adoption fee.
Need a good starting point? Try beginning your search for a dog in Boston at one of the rescues below:
- Animal Rescue League of Boston: A long-standing, wide-ranging rescue with over 700 volunteers and 100 staff members, ARL rescues all types of homeless pets.
- Boston Animal Care and Control Shelter: The official animal shelter for the city of Boston.
- Last Hope K9 Rescue: Last Hope focuses primarily on rescuing dogs from high-kill shelters in the Arkansas area.
- Milton Animal League: A volunteer-based operation that rehomes animals taken to the Milton Animal Shelter.
- MSPCA-Angell: MSPCA has adoption centers in Boston, Cape Cod, and Nevins Farm.
- Quincy Animal Shelter: Quincy has a variety of programs to benefit both humans and their companion animals, including a Pets for Patriots initiative.
Between food, vet visits, and doggy daycare, your budget will shift with a new pet in the house.
You’ll have to buy the following items on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis:
- Waste bags
- Dental treats, toothpaste, or other oral care products
- Dog walking services
- Boarding or pet sitting
You’ll also have to make less-frequent purchases, such as:
- A leash
- A collar or harness
- A crate
- Vet visits, vaccinations, and medications
- Dental care
- Grooming products
- Pet-friendly cleaning products
- Training sessions
- Puppy pads
Veterinary care can get expensive, especially if your dog is at risk for long-term health issues. For monthly payments, pet insurance can give you peace of mind.
Look at your dog’s medical history and breed type, and compare this information to various pet insurers. This will help you determine whether this expense is worth the price and, if so, what type of coverage you need.
You’re almost there! The last thing to do is to get your home ready for your new dog. Having everything for your pet’s new life already set up makes the transition from shelter to home that much easier.
Add these items to your shopping list and set them up before going to pick up your pet:
- A leash and a collar or harness (some rescues sell these or include them in the adoption fee)
- Food, bowls, and treats
- An appropriately-sized crate
- A variety of toys
- Grooming tools
- Enzyme cleaner and puppy pads (for any accidents)
Congratulations! We at Rover couldn’t be happier for you. Pet ownership is truly rewarding, but you may find yourself needing some help from time to time. We’ve got your back with qualified dog sitters, walkers, and boarders in Boston.