Best Pet Breeders and Adoption Websites

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Reputable pet adoption companies have a selection of purebred, designer and rescue dogs and cats. Use our guide to research and discover the best pet breeder for you. We compared animal conditions, health guarantees, costs, availability and more.

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What features matter most in a pet adoption facility?

What kind of selection do most pet adoption places have?

Pet adoption facilities generally have a variety of dogs and cats to choose from. Depending on the type of facility you visit or the type of pet and/or breed you are looking for, you can find purebred, designer mixed-breed and rescued mixed-breed dogs, as well as rescued cats.

  • Purebred dogs: Purebred dogs are dogs of a modern breed and have a documented pedigree (genealogy). They are registered with a national breeder or kennel club and come from known, registered ancestors (closed stud book) or outcrossed ancestors (open stud book), meaning the dog is bred with other breeds, usually for things like working characteristics.
  • Designer mixed-breeds dogs: Sometimes called hybrid dogs, a designer dog is a cross between two purebred dogs. Like, purebreds, designer dogs have a documented purebred ancestry. Examples of designer mixed-breed dogs include Cockapoos, Goldendoodles and Labradoodles.
  • Rescued mixed-breed dogs: Often found in rescue shelters, rescued dogs are generally mutts, meaning their pedigree is unknown. Mixed-breeds are less prone to suffer from some genetic disorders, including cataracts and some skin allergies. It can be more difficult to predict the behavioral traits of mixed-breed animals than purebred dogs.
  • Rescued Cats: Rescue shelters typically have a big selection of cats that have been found neglected and mistreated. After nursing them back to health these shelters help place them in a permanent home.

How much does it cost to adopt a pet?

Adoption fees are important to consider when selecting a pet to adopt. Fees can differ depending on where you get your pet, what kind of pet you’re getting and what kind of health and medical treatment it's had.

  • Breeder adoption: Adopting a purebred dog from a registered breeder or kennel can be very expensive. Buying a puppy from a breeder can cost between $500 to over $1,000 depending on the breed. Necessary vaccines, spay/neuter procedures and other medical treatments are not usually covered by that price.
  • Shelter adoption: When you adopt a pet from a shelter your adoption fee generally goes towards the care of that pet, which is why shelter adoption fees vary slightly depending on the age of the pet. A good shelter spays/neuters, updates shots and treats animals before releasing them, so your fees include all medical treatment. Adopting a dog from a shelter can be around $100-$150, while cats can range from $60-$90.

Do pet adoption facilities offer additional pet services?

Many pet adoption facilities offer additional services for your new pet. Some kennel breeders provide puppy training, boarding and vet care from staff veterinarians. Shelters include vaccinations as part of their adoption fee and often include things like microchipping at discounted costs.

  • Training: If you are looking for a puppy at a kennel, be sure to ask if they offer dog training courses. Some places offer complimentary training as well as private lessons to help crate- and house-train your new puppy.
  • Boarding: Many adoption facilities and businesses also offer boarding services for your dog or cat if you purchased them from that particular facility. Some places have special requirements for boarding like only taking certain sized dogs, so it is a good idea to ask about any specific qualifications before choosing to board your pet.
  • Vet care: Most shelters and kennels include the first round of puppy vaccinations in their adoption fees.

Does the adoption facility keep a healthy environment?

Making sure the animals are raised and kept in a healthy environment is an important factor when choosing a pet adoption facility. Factors like facility cleanliness, proper air ventilation and behavioral enrichment activities are important for the proper development of dogs and cats. Most states have laws regarding the animals’ living environment when they’re for adoption or sale. To ensure you’re adopting from a legitimate facility or business, make sure they’re following local laws.

  • Cleanliness: Make sure the adoption facility is clean and odor free. Animal living quarters should be very clean and washed out regularly.
  • Air quality: Proper air ventilation systems should be used to maintain clean air for the animals and reduce airborne diseases.
  • Behavioral enrichment: Taking care of animals beyond their basic needs is very important for proper development. Behavioral enrichment features like companion housing, communal play areas, durable toys and more help stimulate an animal's brain and keep them active.
  • Quarantines: To prevent the spread of disease, any ill animals should be housed away from other animals until a veterinarian deems them healthy.

What are the different types of pet adoption companies?

Animal shelters and rescues

Animal shelters rescue dogs and cats that have been abandoned or mistreated. They treat them medically and give them transitional shelter while looking for a permanent home for them. Shelters typically have modest adoption fees of around $100-$150 for dogs and $60-$80 for cats.

Breed rescues

Breed rescues are generally a group of local volunteers that house, care for and place purebreds into permanent households. Consumers who are looking for a specific breed of dog can check their community for a breed rescue with the type of breed they are looking for.

Kennel breeders

Kennel breeders are a formal, heavily regulated dog breeding facilities that breed purebreds and are expected to adhere to a strict Code of Ethics. Each puppy bred at a kennel will come with registration papers that shows its lineage and breeding history.

Who uses pet adoption companies?

People looking for a pet

Families or individuals looking for a specific breed or size of dog or cat can benefit from a the knowledge and selection a pet adoption company can provide. Many pet adoption places offer dog training classes, vet care and boarding services, as well as information about many different breeds.

Dog handlers

Those looking for a purebred dog to raise and eventually show in a conformation or specialty dog show can adopt healthy purebred puppies from established, reputable breeding kennels.

Pet breeders FAQ

Do reputable breeders ship puppies?

It depends on whom you ask. If possible, you should try to pick up your puppy in person and either drive back home or fly with the puppy together in a plane cabin.

Still, many breeders successfully ship puppies to new owners, many of whom report happy, healthy dogs. If you do choose to have a puppy shipped, make sure the breeder is following all relevant laws and airline rules. The federal Animal Welfare Act requires puppies being shipped to be at least 8 weeks old and weaned for at least five days. Airlines usually require health certificates from veterinarians.

Are dog breeders illegal?

No, dog breeding in the United States is not illegal, as long as the breeder doesn’t violate any federal or state laws applying to the practice.

How do I find a reliable dog breeder?

The best ways to find a dog breeder include asking friends or family for recommendations, talking to a local veterinarian or going online to read breeder reviews, like those on ConsumerAffairs.

Once you identify a breeder, you should ask questions, schedule an in-person visit, meet the puppy’s parents, get medical histories and request references. Reliable dog breeders should address all your questions thoroughly and let you observe the dogs’ environment. They should also guarantee your puppy’s health, show interest in your ability to care for a dog and be happy to communicate after adoption.

How do I buy a dog online safely?

If you’re unable to buy a dog in person, follow these tips to make a safe purchase online:

  • Look for a breeder that’s well reviewed.
  • Speak to the breeder over the phone. Pay attention to whether he or she asks you questions, as well, and wants to assess your readiness to own a dog.
  • Request each of the puppy’s parent’s medical history and a pedigree.
  • Ask for personalized photographs of the puppy with its mother.
  • Ask for references and contact them to learn about their experiences.
  • Call shelters or vets in the breeder’s area and ask if they know the breeder.
  • Get in touch with the agriculture department in the state where the breeder lives to find out if the breeder is licensed/has any reported issues on file.
  • Work with a breeder offering a detailed contract with a health guarantee.
  • Arrange safe shipping for your puppy.

There are many scammers online looking to take advantage of prospective puppy owners. Red flags include unusually low prices, websites and emails with spelling and grammatical errors and requests to send money using a wire transfer service.

How do I find a reputable dog breeder?

There are a number of ways to find a reputable dog breeder:

  • Ask a veterinarian in your area for a breeder recommendation.
  • Ask a family member or a friend with a healthy dog for contact information for the breeder it came from.
  • Visit a dog show and ask owners or handlers if they know a breeder.
  • Search online for breeder reviews, like those found on ConsumerAffairs, then reach out to a breeder to learn if there are current or upcoming litters.
How long should a breeder keep a puppy?

A breeder should keep a puppy for between eight and 12 weeks. This gives the breeder time to wean the puppy, or transition it from nursing to eating puppy food. Keep in mind that some states have laws specifying the minimum age a puppy needs to reach before adoption — often at least 8 weeks.

What questions should I ask a puppy breeder?

Before adopting a puppy, make sure you ask the breeder these questions:

  • How long have you been breeding this breed of dog? Do you belong to any professional dog-breeding clubs or organizations?
  • Who are the puppies’ parents? What are they like? Can I meet them? Is there a pedigree I can see?
  • Have the parents been tested for genetic diseases particular to the breed?
  • What environment are the puppies in? How do you make sure they are properly socialized?
  • When can I take the puppy home?
  • What health checks and vaccinations will the puppy have had by adoption day? Do you offer a health guarantee?
  • Am I able to contact you with questions after I take the puppy home?
  • Do you have at least two references I can contact?

Don’t be taken aback if a breeder asks you questions as well. A reputable breeder will want to know about you, your lifestyle, your family and your home to be confident the puppy is going to be well cared for.

Why are people against dog breeders?

People who are opposed to dog breeders may have one or both of these beliefs:

  • Breeding contributes to the overpopulation of dogs, leaving many dogs homeless in shelters and sometimes subject to euthanasia.
  • Breeders are motivated by profit and the idea of creating the perfect purebred specimen or “designer dog” — not by animal well-being.

Not sure how to choose?

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