Guide for First Time Pet Adopters

October 02, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Guide for First-time Pet Adopters

Being a pet photographer, I know how many of you feel passionate about adopting your animals. I also often get request to volunteer my time by taking portraits of adoptable animals or donate a package to help raise money for the organization. It may surprise you to learn that I don’t always say yes.


Here’s why…When I adopted my guy, Fred, I was told by the adoption agency, “Fred is really nervous around people, he was actually kept in a cage for several years after being rescued off the streets of Brooklyn as a baby.” I was heartbroken. How could anyone do such a thing? A few months later, I learned that it was board member of the rescue who was involved with it. And, if you can believe it, she was still on the board.


Because of this, I now have specific questions I always ask and attributes that I look for in a rescue agency. But if you’re a first-time adopter, how would you know where to begin? Well, this month I asked two of my favorite pet small business owners to weigh in – Marghaerite LaMorte from Pawsitive Vibes and Amanda Gyetvay from Pawtecting Paws. Below is what they had to say.



Margherite LaMorte- Founder Pawsitive Vibes and volunteer at AMA Animal Rescue Brooklyn, NY

Having volunteered at animal shelters and also having adopted my pets from animals shelters, I’m happy to share these strategies for finding a rescue to work with.

  • Stalk them on social media! Are they transparent? How do they take care of animals? What is their community saying and commenting on?
  • Read their google reviews. Don’t just look at the overall score – read comments and see if/how they respond to negative reviews.
  • Volunteer and see what’s happening firsthand. This is probably the best way to gauge the culture of the organization.
  • Speak with volunteers at an adoption event. Have a casual conversation and ask why they like working there. You’d be surprised at how much people want to share.
  • Determine if their values align with yours. For example, if your goal is to save senior Pit Bulls, then look for rescues with that specific mission in mind.
  • Listen to your inner voice. Your intuition will usually tell you if something doesn’t feel right. Always listen to that little voice.
  • CHOOSE A BAD RESCUE. I know this sounds counter intuitive, but some cities have contracts with agencies to handle their “animal care & control”.  In many cases these are High Kill shelters because their primary goal is animal control, not adoption. If you really want to make a difference and save an animal, your best bet is to adopt from one of these agencies and get the animal out of there as soon as possible.

Once you’ve identified the rescue you want to work with, fill out an application and give them some general parameters about what you’re looking for (adult male cat, Pittie puppy, etc.). Keep the list general. Then, ask to visit the shelter so you can interact with several animals. In many cases the animal you choose will be the one that you connect with and speaks to your heart.

Another reason to not to go in with a specific animal in mind is that animals behave very differently in shelter environments than they do when they’re in a relaxed home environment. That dog you thought was a little too energetic was just sitting in a cage too long and needed to expend some energy. That cat you thought was timid was just scared of kids tapping loudly on the glass when she was trying to sleep.

Here's how my adoption experience went with my first cat:

I was adamant that I wanted a female Tuxedo kitten. My nephew had just come to visit with his Tuxedo kitten Selina Kyle and I wanted a cat EXACTLY like that. (I actually wanted Selina, but I couldn’t convince him to give her up. Go figure.). 

I trolled the usual online sites like Petfinder, Adoptapet etc, looking for the perfect cat. Lots of research, phone calls and visits later, I found the perfect Tuxedo kitten. I filled out the paperwork and expected to take her home the next day, after her last vet appointment. 

The next day, after her vet visit, the rescue informed me that she had a heart condition and they were not going to adopt her out until she got the care she needed. That could take weeks.. or years. (another sign of a good rescue – they want to do what’s best for the animal). 

To console myself, I visited another rescue to get an emotional fix. While there, I interacted with a gray and white male kitten. At 3 months old he was already a large boy.  He climbed up to my neck and started licking me. I FELL HARD. I completed the paperwork, they did the reference checks, and five hours later we were driving home. So instead of a little Tuxedo girl, I wound up with a big gray boy.  And he’s the love of my life. Once I allowed my heart to lead, the rest fell into place.



Amanda Gyetvay - Founder Pawtecting Paws


What To Look Out For When Adopting From Rescues:

It is so important to ensure that you are:

  1. Adopting from the right shelter/rescue
  2. Adopting the right fit for your family + lifestyle


A good rescue is going to ensure of this and will turn down anyone they feel would not be a good fit for their available animal. First thing first, you should be filling out a form online for the animal you are interested in adopting. Although this may be a LONG form to fill out, it is great because it shows the rescue truly cares about the animal being placed in the right home and that you are not going to harm the animal in any way.

Some questions you should consider asking the shelter:

  • Why is the dog/cat/etc here?
  • Does the dog/cat/etc have any known medical issues?
  • What is the best thing and the worst thing about this dog/cat/etc?
  • Has the dog/cat/etc been temperament tested?
  • Where do most your animals come from?
  • What happens if I cannot keep the animal I adopt?

Some things to watch out for in iffy rescues/shelters:

  • Does not let you meet the dog/cat/etc before adoption day
  • Takes animals directly from transport vehicles to adoption
  • Does not take the animal back
  • Adopts out animals younger than 8 weeks
  • Does not share/offer full proof of vaccinations
  • Adopts out animals that are not spayed or neutered
  • Staff feels more like a sales rep
  • Rushes adoptions

Some things to look for in GOOD rescues/shelters:

  • Takes care of the animal’s mental health
  • Has veterinarians support
  • Has reviews/social media proof/support


We have been in business for a little over a year and have given back to over a dozen rescues whether it was a monetary donation, products (such as treats, toys, blankets, food, etc), and have hosted an event that raised over $15,000 for a local rescue!

We are so grateful for rescues such as: Brick City Rescue, Pawsaver Rescue, Priceless Pet Rescue, No More Pain Rescue, Twenty Paws Rescue, Shore Saves Rescue, All 4 The Dogs Rescue, Taking Care of Paws Rescue, and all the amazing rescues out there who DO RIGHT by the dog/cat/animals they are taking in and finding the PAWfect homes for!