How to Adopt a Dog in Seattle: Your Complete Guide

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My beagle mix Marzipan and I moved to Seattle in 2010. I’d adopted her the year before from a shelter in central Illinois. The process had been simple—a two-page application, a quick check with my landlord, and a short wait for the pup to be spayed before she came home. Start to finish, it took five days and cost about $150.

Chipper and outgoing, Marzipan introduced me to new friends right away. Dog people like to share their adoption stories, and I like hearing them. And WOW was I was surprised and impressed with the variety of ways that dog adoption happens in Seattle! Formosan Mountain Dogs? High-kill shelter refugees from Texas? $700 adoption fees? We’re not in Illinois anymore, Marzipan.

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Seattle is a dream for dogs and their people. The rumor is true—Seattle is home to more dogs than children. But finding and adopting the right dog in this canine-obsessed city can seem like an unsolvable puzzle. To dig into the current adoption landscape, I asked friends, neighbors, and neighborhood groups on social media about their experiences.

A few basic tips for adopting a dog in Seattle

  • Be patient. I know it’s hard to wait once you’re finally ready to fill your home with dog love. According to my polls on social media, the adoption process from the beginning of the search to having a dog at home takes 3-6 months for most Seattle dog adoptions.
  • Decide what you’re looking for. Dogs have the cutest faces, and you might be tempted to take them all home once you start looking. So figure out what size, temperament, and age will work best for you before you suffer from cute overload.
  • Search widely. Websites like petfinder.com and adoptapet.com are great tools for searching by location, size, age, breed, and sex. Remember to look beyond your immediate area—your perfect dog might be a couple of counties away.
  • Know your budget. Adopting a dog in the Seattle area will probably cost at least $300, and if you choose a dog that has been imported from far away, adoption fees can top $1000. Most shelters include the cost of neutering in the adoption fee, but many foster-based rescues do not, and it can cost $200-300 or more.

Applying to adopt

When you submit an application for adoption, shelters and rescues usually ask for quite a lot of information. You should expect to include:

  • The name of your veterinarian
  • Your landlord’s contact info
  • Breeds and ages of other pets
  • Temperaments of other dogs in your home
  • Info about the people in your household (including the ages of your children)
  • A history of your pet ownership
  • Descriptions and photos of your home and yard
  • 2-3 personal references

Some applications also include income information and the name of your dog trainer. If you don’t have an established relationship with a vet or dog trainer, ask around for recommendations and tell the agency which providers you’re planning to use.

How to adopt a dog in Seattle

Drop by a local shelter or pound

This classic route to dog adoption gives you the convenience of meeting several dogs at one time. Shelter dogs often get adopted very quickly, within hours of becoming available, so there’s a challenge to being in the right place at the right time.

Seattle Humane: Seattle Humane is a no-kill shelter that partners with shelters far and wide to bring adoptable pets to Seattle. Their Bellevue location is open seven days a week and you can visit as often as you like to meet adoptable pups and other pets. The Seattle Humane website lists about 40 adoptable dogs. Adoption fees $199-350.

Seattle Animal Shelter: Our local dog pound, the Seattle Animal Shelter adopts dogs that are surrendered or stray. Visit their adoptable pets at their Interbay location Wednesday-Sunday, 1-6pm. Seattle Animal Shelter website lists about a dozen adoptable dogs. Adoption fees $100-375.

King County Animal Control: King County supports two adoption centers: Regional Animal Services of King County in Kent and Eastside Pet Adoption Center inside the Kirkland Petco. The Kent facility houses a handful of adoptable dogs. The Petco facility hosts monthly adoption events featuring dogs listed in the Petco Foundation database, which also includes dogs hosted by other shelters and rescues. Adoption fees for the Kent facility are $100-250.

PAWS Companion Animal Shelter: Visit this Lynnwood shelter six days a week (closed Wednesday) to meet their adoptable dogs. PAWS is a Seattle institution—many dogs have found homes with Seattle families through PAWS’ very active adoption program. Their website features about a dozen adoptable dogs. Adoption fees $125-300. PAWS adopts pairs of bonded adult dogs at a reduced fee.

Emerald City Pet Rescue: Drop by their SoDo dog adoption facility to meet adoptable dogs but keep in mind that many of their dogs are at foster homes. Emerald City recruits foster families and foster-to-adopt is possible. This rescue is highly selective in their placements, and although I’ve talked with several people who have applied to adopt here, I have heard only one success story. Their reputation is for high quality service and excellent animal care. In fact, they recently hired my beloved veterinarian to their in-house staff (I miss you, Dr. Deal!). Emerald City’s website lists about 30 adoptable dogs. Home visits are required, and adoption fees are not posted on their website.

Homeward Pet Adoption Center: Drop by Homeward Pet’s Woodinville shelter anytime Wednesday-Sunday from noon-6pm to meet adoptable pets. Their website features about a dozen adoptable dogs. Adoption fees $75-300.

Explore foster-based rescues

These pet rescues don’t have a brick and mortar shelter. Instead, they house dogs with local foster families until they find their forever homes. The benefit of foster-based rescues is that they can offer lots of personalized information about their dogs.

Old Dog Haven: Old Dog Haven is a foster- and shelter-based rescue: their website features senior dogs from both local shelters and foster families. If you dream, as I do, of spending your golden years snuggled up with an elderly Bassett hound, ODH might be your hook up. They offer lots of opportunities to foster, including permanent foster arrangements, in which the rescue pays for the dog’s medical expenses. Their website features many dogs, and adoption fees vary.

Ginger’s Pet Rescue: Ginger’s Pet Rescue is a foster-based rescue that hosts adoption events most weekends at locations all over Seattle. They actively recruit volunteers and foster homes for dogs that are shipped to Seattle from high-kill shelters in Texas and California, and from dog rescue groups abroad. If you’re interested in foster-to-adopt, Ginger’s makes the process easy and allows you to meet as many dogs as you like. My family has fostered three dogs through Ginger’s (one for a single night, another for a couple of months, and the third we adopted). Their volunteers were very helpful and made the process easy. Ginger’s website features more than 100 adoptable dogs, from as far away as Korea, Thailand, and Mexico. Adoption fees $400-2500.

Saving Great Animals: This Bellevue-area foster-based rescue brings dogs from abroad, including the Taiwan-native Formosan mountain dogs. SGA has a unique policy: “We ask all of our applicants to do a two-week trial adoption with the dog first, to make sure that the dog is a good match for you.” SGA seems to be a good option for families. One dog parent commented, “We were approved easily even with having two cats, a toddler, and a preschooler.” Another wrote, “Found it really difficult to find a dog elsewhere without having to make a quick decision if it was right for our family and lifestyle—really nice to foster first and be sure we found a good fit—for pup and us.” A home visit is required. There are about 30 adoptable dogs listed on SGA’s website. Adoption fees are $295-495.

Motley Zoo Animal Rescue: Motley Zoo is a foster-based rescue that hosts frequent adoption events in Seattle and on the Eastside, including at their home base in Redmond. Motley Zoo recruits foster families and promotes foster-to-adopt, but they encourage families to foster more than one dog before adoption. Visit their website for some of the cutest dog photos and inspiring creative names. Their dogs are listed on Petfinder, and adoption fees are around $400-500.

Animal Aid & Rescue Foundation: AARF is a foster-based rescue in south King County that brings dogs from high-kill shelters in the southern US. AARF came highly recommended by two of my neighbors. “After we met him at his foster mom’s house, AARF came to our house to evaluate it and us. I was really impressed. We probably paid around $300 and got him without a hitch…”  AARF is recruiting foster families, particularly for Catahoula dogs. Lots of cute photos on their Facebook page. Home visits are required, adoption fees vary.

Dog Gone Seattle: Dog Gone Seattle is a foster-based rescue that rehomes dogs from high-kill shelters. They provide opportunities to foster dogs and encourage foster-to-adopt. Their website lists about 90 adoptable dogs but doesn’t give information on adoption fees or home visit requirements.

Bravepup: Bravepup is a foster-based rescue that transports puppies to Seattle from high-kill shelters in Georgia. Their “puppy delivery program” will bring adoptable puppies to your office for employee health and wellness initiatives. Bravepup is recruiting foster families for the puppies that participate in their delivery program. There are seven adoptable dogs featured on their website, and adoption fees are $500-750.

Work with a breed-specific rescue

These foster-based rescues focus on a particular breed and related mixes. Some have other adoptable dogs, too.

Greyhound Pets, Inc: Greyhound Pets fosters and adopts greyhounds and greyhound mixes, many of them ex-racing dogs, of all ages throughout the Pacific Northwest and Idaho, and has a kennel facility in Woodinville. Their website lists about 25 adoptable greyhounds and comes highly recommended from two greyhound parents I’ve talked to. A home visit is required. Adoption fees $250-350.

Seattle Pug Rescue: Seattle Pug Rescue is a foster-based rescue for pugs and pug mixes. A volunteer-run organization, SPR requires that potential adoptive families apply for adoption and pass an approval process before meeting the available dogs. Adoptable dogs are not listed on their website. SPR will not place pugs in homes with large reptiles, birds of prey, wolf-hybrid dogs, or children under six. Home check or phone interview required. Adoption fees $50-525.

Pacific Northwest Cattle Dog Rescue: PNWCDR is a foster-based rescue that accepts cattle dogs and mixes from around the country. Look no further for heartwarming photos of much loved foster dogs. PNWCDR lists adoptable dogs on Petfinder, where I found three available pups (Can I bring Dot home with me, please?). Foster opportunities available. Adoption fees not listed on the website.

Aberdeen Scottish Terrier Rescue & Friends: This foster-based rescue in Renton brings terrier mixes from the western US to Seattle for adoption. Their website includes about 25 adoptable dogs, many of them small dogs. Home visit required. Adoption fees $600-800.

Beyond King County

Consider searching shelters throughout Washington for adoptable dogs. These are shelters that have been recommended by friends and neighbors, or that I’ve visited in my travels around the state. Yes, I stop in whenever I happen upon an animal shelter! Doesn’t everyone?

Adopting a dog in Seattle from Craigslist: it’s possible, but be skeptical

When it comes to dog ads, Craigslist is a free-for-all. Craigslist has many legitimate ads for adoptable dogs. Rescues and shelters advertise on here, and it’s also the go-to for families who need to rehome their dog due to changes in life circumstances, like a new baby, military service, or moving.

But—and this is a BIG BUT—Craigslist is also a popular platform for puppy mills, puppy flippers, and other sketchy operations. Craigslist doesn’t allow people to sell dogs, but they do allow “a small adoption fee” with no upper limit. This loophole makes it confusing for potential pet parents.

How can you tell that a Craigslist ad is legit? For the inside track on this, I asked my wife, who spends hours on Craigslist as part of her favorite hobby: matchmaking adoptable dogs with families who are looking for puppy love.

  1. How many photos are in the ad? Zero or one? Move on and don’t look back. Imagine how many photos you’ll have of a dog you love.
  2. In the Seattle area, most puppies on Craigslist are not legitimate adoptions, unless they’re being offered by a shelter or rescue. Puppy flippers make quick cash by buying puppies, sometimes whole litters, from rural areas and reselling them for big bucks. If the puppy is pictured in a car, a kennel, or in front of a backdrop (like a kitchen floor, a wall, or a cement patio), that’s a sign that the dog doesn’t live with the person who is rehoming them. Legit puppy ads will have multiple photos of the dog playing, sleeping on a cozy bed, etc.
  3. Purebred puppies on Craigslist are for sale, not for adoption or rescue. If you want to buy a purebred puppy, you’re likely better off finding an established breeder. Although that will take longer, the price will probably be similar and you’re likely to get a healthier dog.
  4. Legit ads will describe the unique qualities of the dog and probably give some info about why it’s being rehomed. Avoid ads that are very brief.
  5. When arranging to meet an adoptable dog, expect to meet the dog at their home, a nearby park, or even to have them visit your home. Expect that the person who’s rehoming the dog will have plenty of questions for you—they should be motivated to find a good match for their dog.

With a plethora of adoption options in Seattle, I know you’ll be able to find the right dog for your home. Just be patient, and remember that the process may take time because every adopted dog deserves to be in the best possible home for them.

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