Find Your New Best Friend at These NYC Animal Shelters

Add an animal member to your family from a shelter in NYC. Photo courtesy of Bideawee
Add an animal member to your family from a shelter in NYC. Photo courtesy of Bideawee
4/29/24 - By Yuliya Geikhman

A pet can be a friend for life and these animal shelters in NYC help families find the perfect addition. So, if your home has room for a furry friend, here are the NYC animal shelters where you can adopt a new dog or cat. Plus, we've got the lowdown on some lesser-known options for pet adoption and things to consider before taking the plunge if you're a first-time pet owner.

If you're not quite ready to bring home a furry friend of your own, you can explore breeds at the AKC Museum of the Dog in Midtown East or visit one of these cat cafes throughout the five boroughs.


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Animal Shelters in NYC for Families Looking to Adopt

Animal Care & Control of NYC – Citywide

The largest pet organization in the Northeast, Animal Care & Control of NYC rescues more than 30,000 animals per year. A nonprofit organization under contract with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, it strives to find homes for all abandoned or homeless animals and, therefore, classifies itself as a full-service shelter rather than a no-kill shelter.

You can search online to see what animals are available for adoption, including cats, dogs, rabbits, or guinea pigs, or visit one of three care centers in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island. Add available pets to a favorites list or search for a pet by their number to check their status. There are also mobile adoption events nearly every weekend where you can meet and greet available animals. Adoptions can cost as little as $25 or as much as $250, depending on the animal.

ASPCA NYC – Upper East Side

The ASPCA headquarters are located in New York City and include an adoption center. The ASPCA, or American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, is a nonprofit that's been around since the 1800s. You can make an adoption appointment before visiting or drop-in during visitor hours. You can also sign up to be informed of "undercover cats" that might be a good match for you—these are cats who are a little shy and don't show their personalities well in a shelter environment. The suggested adoption fee is $150, but the ASPCA accepts whatever you can afford.

The Humane Society of New York – Midtown East

Despite the all-encompassing name, the Humane Society of New York does not operate in conjunction with other organizations and is relatively small, housing a maximum of 200 animals at any one time. Visits are by appointment only, which you can make only after your adoption form has been approved. Once you're accepted, a team member reaches out to discuss which animals at the shelter might be the best match for your family.

Bideawee – Murray Hill

In operation for more than 100 years, Bideawee offers a lifelong support network to pet owners, including access to its animal hospital in Westhampton, education and training services, pet memorial parks, and a community of pet lovers.

You don't need an appointment to visit, and you can plan to bring home your new furry friend the very same day. If you already have a dog, the shelter requires you to bring them in to ensure they get along with their new sibling. When you're ready, a Bidawee Matchmaker walks you through the adoption process, considering all your information, and matches you with the perfect animal for your family. Bideawee also has an adoption location in Westhampton.

Animal Haven – Nolita

Animal Haven is a small no-kill local shelter that also offers training and rehab services. Potential adopters are encouraged to visit and meet the animals, then fill out an adoption application if you fall in love with one of its dogs or cats. The application is then processed and a meet-and-greet is scheduled. Every canine and human member of your household must attend. If you're a good fit, you'll be allowed to finalize the adoption.

Sean Casey Animal Rescue – Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn

This small Brooklyn animal shelter socializes its animals before finding them a home, thereby making each potential pet a "SCAR grad." Although it mostly specializes in dogs, this shelter also houses some cats and exotic pets, like reptiles, birds, and rodents. It's not unusual to see a large tortoise or two hanging out in the yard during your visit.

Want to experience what it's like to own a dog before you commit? The Sean Casey shelter lets you take its dogs for a walk! No appointment is required—just stop by with your ID (kids are welcome, too, but they're not allowed to hold the leash on their own). This is a great way to get the dogs exercise and socialization and to give potential owners the chance to get to know the dog.

Bobbi and the Strays – Glendale, Queens

Founded in 1998 by Roberta “Bobbi” Giordano, this shelter rescues animals from difficult situations and provides them with the love and medical care they need. Animals at Bobbi's are treated for health issues, spayed and neutered, given their vaccinations, and provided any other specialty care. Its adoption requirements are a bit different from other shelters: It only adopts out to NYC and Long Island residents and staffers do a house visit to ensure that the pet is going to a suitable space. Its required age of adoption is 25 (it's 18-21 in most other NYC shelters). All these rules are in place to ensure each animal finds a home that's perfect for them. The organization also hosts several community programs, including an anti-bullying workshop for kids and plans are in the works for "Bobbi's Book Nook," where kids can read to adoptable cats.

North Shore Animal League America — Port Washington, Long Island

The North Shore Animal League is the world's largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization. You can browse online for available dogs and cats or go to its adoption center to meet potential pets in the spacious facility. The animals at this shelter are well cared for, receiving medical care if needed before they're offered for adoption. The shelter also includes a lot of information about each animal's needs and personality right on the website, to make it easier to find a pet with the right temperament for your household.

A personal note: My husband and I were references for a friend when he got his (amazing) dog here, and the staff was diligent about calling and ensuring that he had the space and financial capability to care for the dog.

More Local Resources for Animal Adoptions in NYC

Breed-Specific Rescues

If you are looking for a specific breed, you may find it at a local shelter, but you can also search the internet for a rescue that focuses only on your desired pedigree. For instance, the NYC Shiba Rescue specializes in (of course) shiba inus, the Long Island-based New York Bully Crew rescues pit bulls and pit mixes from bad situations and kill shelters, and Waggytail is a small dog and cat rescue that's 100 percent foster-based, to name just a few. A website like Petfinder can also be a huge help since it allows filtering by breed.

Cat Cafes in NYC

While it's fun to visit one of the cat cafes in NYC just to hang out with the kitties, they're also a fantastic place to find your new forever cat. All cats at the cat cafes are adoptable through different shelters and rescue centers. Visiting the cat cafes also lets you interact with the kitties in a natural, more relaxed environment and discover which cat is best suited for your family.

Pet Stores

You might not consider a pet store as a place to adopt, but many stores, including Petco and Petland, work with adoption agencies. Petco, for instance, has adoptable cats and kittens from KittyKind, while PetSmart works with several charities, including an organization that transports stray dogs from China to find their forever homes here in the states.

Pet stores also often host adoption drives and mobile adoption events in collaboration with local rescue centers and animal shelters in NYC. Keep an eye out for an event near you.

Things To Consider Before Adopting a Pet

Is your home ready for your first pet? Roughly 20 percent of adopted pets are returned to the shelter within six months of adoption. Pet adoption isn't a decision to take lightly, and you definitely want to be sure that your home is ready for a new permanent family member.

Many shelters have information for prospective adopters that reviews what you should consider before you adopt. For instance, the Sean Casey Animal Shelter recommends asking yourself these seven questions:

  • What kind of pet do I want?
  • Am I prepared financially for a pet?
  • Does my landlord allow pets?
  • Do I have enough space for a pet?
  • How much time do I have to dedicate to a pet?
  • Are all the people/pet(s) in my household ready for a new pet?
  • Does anyone in my household have allergies?

Answering these questions can get you on the road to finding the right pet for you—or deciding it might not be the right time for you.

If you do decide adoption is the right move, the ASPCA has a more in-depth guide on how to choose a pet and prepare your home for your pet's arrival on its website.

Kim Franchino, Bideawee’s senior manager of rescue and welfare, offers some more insight into what to consider before you adopt a pet. "Adding a new furry member to your family could be a great decision that brings a lot of love into your home, saves an animal's life, and creates lots of fun memories," writes Franchino. "However, adopting a pet is a serious commitment." She cites five main points to consider:

  • It's a long commitment with dogs and cats living between 10 and 18 years, and some living well into their 20s.
  • Your family's lifestyle will determine what kind of personality to seek in a pet. Is there someone home most of the day, or would your pet be alone most of the time? Do you take a lot of vacations?
  • If you have other pets in the home already, their personalities and ages will also be something to consider when adopting a new pet.
  • Training and socialization needs vary by animal. Certain animals need more consistent work with getting socialized around others, and potty training can take a long time with months of work!
  • Children's personalities and ages are, of course, also an important factor to consider.

"Believe it or not, as cute as a young puppy or kitten seems, they can be the scariest type of animals to children," Franchino says. "This is because they don't know boundaries yet and are children themselves—puppies and kittens are more likely to excitedly chase a moving target (like a scared child running away from a jumping puppy), are more likely to jump, and are more mouthy, which can be really scary to a child, even if the animal is not being aggressive in any way."

If all that sounds intimidating, you may be tempted to start smaller. However, don't make the mistake of getting a smaller animal as a "starter" pet. Birds, rodents, fish, and reptiles require just as much care as a larger animal. It's also much harder to find a vet who can help you with a sick "exotic" animal, as non-dog and cat animals tend to be classified—a fact I know all too well because I had to scramble to find someone who would see my egg-bound budgie, and then figure out how to pay the exorbitant emergency care fees following the visit.

And at the end of the day, if you're still not absolutely sure pet adoption is right for you, you can consider fostering, instead. Fostering an animal is a great way to introduce your household to an animal with a shorter time commitment. Nearly all the shelters on the list above take volunteers for animal fostering, so reach out to any of them if you're interested in opening your home to a pet temporarily.

Who knows, you might just "fail" at fostering and find your forever pet this way!

Originally published in 2012.

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