How to Adopt a Dog in Chicago


With its miles of beaches and inner-city trails, Chicago is a great spot for dog lovers. If you need proof, just head to Montrose Dog Beach on a summer Saturday. One could easily count hundreds of dog owners enjoying the fine weather with their four-legged friends.

We’re here to help you join them. Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to adopt a dog in Chicago.

What to know about adopting a dog in Chicago

Finding a dog

Finding the perfect dog is well worth the time spent researching, preparing, and visiting pet centers. While you’re sure to find a good dog all year round, shelters in Chicago get particularly crowded during the spring, summer, and fall. People are more active and thus more likely to spot strays outside. Spring and summer are also commonly known as “kitten season,” so you may also find yourself with an additional feline friend, too.

Many shelters will hold adopt-a-thon events in summer with special perks like discounted fees. Check local news sites and find the next one near you.

Now, let’s get more specific. If you have no idea what type of dog you’d like, you can browse common characteristics of different breeds on the American Kennel Club website. Select a few that you think will suit your living situation to help narrow your choices, but keep your options open. Your new best friend may come in a form you never expected.

You can also check out aggregated websites like Petfinder or Many shelters will list their available animals here, so you can view dogs from multiple places at once.

Once you find a dog that piques your interest, contact the shelter ASAP to schedule a visit.

Banned dog breeds in Chicago

The City of Chicago doesn’t ban specific breeds of dogs, but several towns in the surrounding area do (specifically Addison, Buffalo Grove, Golf, Lincolnwood, North Chicago, Markham, and Maywood). That said, some landlords won’t allow dogs of certain breeds on their property.

It’s difficult to prove a dog is a specific breed based on looks alone. “Pitbull,” for example, is a meaningless term often used to refer to any dog with muscles and a broad jaw—even those of mixed heritage. And, unfortunately, most dogs in shelters fit this description, especially those at Chicago Animal Care and Control.

CACC can help you explain to your landlord that so-called bully breeds are unfairly stereotyped and that it’s nearly impossible to determine a dog’s breed by its appearance. Any dog breed can be a lovable couch potato.

The adoption process

The amount of time between finding the perfect dog and taking him home can span hours or weeks, depending on where you go. Generally, the process goes like this:

  • You meet your new pet at the shelter. It’s always best to meet a dog prior to adoption, just to make sure the two of you click.
  • You then go to the adoption counselor, who will help you complete the process. They may be able to give you give information about the dog and his background.
  • The counselor will then contact your veterinarian (if you have one) and your landlord (if you rent) to certify that you have A) a doctor to care for your pet and B) permission to own a dog on the property, respectively.
  • The adoption counselor will guide you through the basics of new pet ownership, telling you things about the first vet visit, the cost of owning a dog in Chicago, correcting behavior, and more.
  • If you’re visiting a shelter that offers same-day adoptions, this is the part where you pay the adoption fee and take home your new dog.

This entire process can take an hour or two, so make sure to schedule enough time. Keep in mind that many agencies will stop adoption services at least 30 minutes before closing.

Adoption can be extended by days if your shelter (or a person fostering your new dog) asks for a home visit to make certain that:

  • You’re allowed to own a dog at that residence, and
  • Everyone in the home consents to a new pet.

If you get a pet from an international rescue, it may take weeks to fly the animal to the United States. Be patient—the payoff is worth it.


If you live in Chicago, you must register your dog with the Office of the City Clerk. To help enforce this municipal code, dogs must have a license to enter pet-friendly areas of the Chicago Park District. In addition, many pet daycare, training, or boarding programs will only take licensed dogs.

The City Clerk’s website will tell you everything you need to know about registering your dog in Chicago.

How much it costs to adopt a dog in Chicago

We’ve collected fee information from three of the most well-known pet adoption agencies in the city:

PAWS Chicago

  • Cost: $300 for adult dogs, $400 for puppies younger than seven months. Adopters can get a refund of $100 by proving successful completion of obedience training within four months of the adoption date.
  • What it covers: spay/neuter, vaccinations (all appropriate based on age), microchip, leash and collar, lifetime support with your pet, free starter pack of dog food from Merrick, free VCA Healthy Start Certificate to cover initial medical costs.

The Anti-Cruelty Society

  • Cost: $150 for adult dogs, $250 for puppies younger than five months.
  • What it covers: spay/neuter, vaccinations, complete veterinary exam, heartworm test, registered microchip, certificate for a complimentary exam at a VCA hospital, complimentary trial of pet insurance, post-adoption health support, and one pet accessory.

Red Door Animal Shelter

  • Cost: $200 for dogs
  • What it covers: spay/neuter, vaccinations, complete veterinary exam, heartworm test, registered microchip

Generally, adopting a dog in Chicago costs between $150 and $300.

Where to adopt a dog in Chicago

The following shelters are well-known by local Chicagoans for their dedication, knowledge, and service.

  • Chicago Animal Care and Control: A city department dedicated to ensuring the humane treatment of animals. CACC is capable of responding to any animal situation in the city; in fact, they helped arrange the human capture and transfer of national reptilian icon Chance the Snapper. They offer same-day pet adoptions seven days a week.
  • ALIVE Rescue Chicago: Their Introverts for Life program seeks to place dogs who don’t get along with others of their species into appropriate homes. Households approved to participate get their dog for free, meaning they don’t have to pay the standard $300 to $375.
  • Chicago Canine Rescue: Created specifically to rescue dogs that are elderly, disabled, injured, or otherwise likely to be slated for euthanasia.
  • Felines and Canines: One of Chicago’s first cageless, no-kill cat shelters rescues dogs, too!
  • Famous Fido Rescue: Rescues animals from high-risk situations and provides services to advise pet owners in crisis situations.
  • One Tail at a Time: In addition to adoptions, One Tail focuses on protecting vulnerable animal populations and provides care for sick CACC animals.
  • PAWS Chicago: Arguably the city’s most well-known shelter and sponsor of many social events.
  • Red Door Animal Shelter: Also takes in rabbits, chickens, and pet ducks, and offers pet food assistance for low-income or fixed-income owners.
  • The Anti-Cruelty Society: Provides low-cost veterinary care and temporary pet housing for owners undergoing financial uncertainty.
  • Wright Way Rescue: Brings pets from rural animal control shelters to Chicago to help them get adopted and reduce euthanasia rates. If you’re looking for or can handle a puppy, you’ll find many little ones here.

Creating a care budget

People say that owning a dog is like having a child, and they’re not that far off. Dogs are our family and our best friends and, just like children, they rely on their parents (that’s you!) to take care of them financially.

Don’t worry; you won’t have to save up for four years of college! But getting a dog is a financial commitment that you should be prepared for.

Annual dog expenses include:

  • Food
  • Routine veterinary exams and the occasional odd appointment (yes, your dog will get into something he’s not supposed to)
  • Treats and toys
  • Dental care (professional cleanings and home products)
  • Boarding/travel accommodations
  • Dog walking services
  • Pet insurance

You’ll also have to buy some things that will need replacing as they wear out, such as:

If you’re thrifty, you can get some of these items and services for a steal. Keep an eye on store sales events, neighborhood garage sales, and promotions at your veterinarian.

Savings tip: The volunteer-run Chicago Animal Care and Control Facebook has a handy list of low-cost vets and resources to help with animal care bills.

Getting ready

Before starting the adoption process, take a little time to prepare your home for your new pet. Pet-proof your space by securing or removing dangerous chemicals, foods, and electrical items.

Then, it’s time to go shopping! Here’s an easy checklist of items to make sure you’re prepared for your new dog:

  • Food and food bowls
  • A leash and collar/harness (some agencies include one or both in the adoption fee)
  • Toys for play and mental stimulation
  • Treats for training and bonding
  • Enzyme cleaner for accidents
  • A crate that fits your dog

That last item is particularly important, as a crate serves as a safe space for your dog to stay in while she adjusts to her new surroundings. You may also want to pick up some grooming gear if you’re adoping in a dog with long fur.

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 Chicago.

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