Get us in your inbox

A person holding a cat in their arms.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Where to adopt a pet in Melbourne

Looking for a furry (or feathery) friend? We've rounded up our city's top spots for fostering or adopting dogs, cats, birds and more

Written by
Tracey Cheung

Thinking of adding a fur-ever friend to your family? Consider adopting one from a rescue shelter instead; they're chock-full of adorable pets full of love to give, eager to be taken home by a loving owner. There are so many heartfelt rewards of adopting, and we think it beats buying a pet from a pet shop. 

What are the benefits of adopting a rescue pet?

Firstly, you’ll feel good knowing you are helping to reduce the number of pets in animal shelters or being euthanised. You’ll also instantly feel their love and appreciation for you giving them a second chance at life.  What’s more, they often come already socialised and toilet trained with basic manners through their previous time in foster care. “Then it’s just about reinforcing the existing desired behaviours and building on these,” says certified applied animal behaviourist Dr Kate Mornement.

It can be expected that your adopted pet may be a little anxious or timid, but Lara Shannon, a certified dog trainer and behaviourist and National Pet Adoption Month ambassador says, “Seeing them then transform into a calm, loving and playful companion makes any challenge more worthwhile.”

It can also be a more financially attractive option over buying a pet, as the fees are lower and they come already desexed, microchipped and vaccinated.

What should you consider before adopting a pet?

Lifestyle and personality

Consider factors like whether you have the time to exercise, train and spend time with your pet. Do you go away a lot and can you arrange for someone to care for them when you do?

Home and life circumstances

Consider what your home and life circumstances are not just now, but also in the future. Do you have the space to accommodate the pet you want? According to the RSPCA, having a pet can be a ten to 15-year commitment. Do you have future plans to move house, relocate overseas, or start a family? Some shelters may need to see approval from landlords to ensure that their animal doesn’t have the distressing experience of being returned to the shelter.


Next, consider the financial costs you will incur for a pet. 

Vickie Davy, the founding director of Pet Rescue, says “A rescue pet doesn't have a fixed price tag. It depends on age, breed, size, species and even location. Adoption fees can be anywhere from $50 to a few thousand dollars. Rescue groups might drop the adoption fees for pets that often take longer to find a family - senior pets, big dogs, or pets with special needs.” These fees do go back to the rescue shelter so another animal can be adopted.

Then there are the costs of caring, says Dr Nicole Rous, a Melbourne veterinarian. “For example, for dogs, the most expensive pet, annual food can cost on average around $1800.” Then there are vet and preventative care costs such as wormers, grooming and pet insurance, and each item can be in the hundreds and thousands of dollars. 

What type of animal will suit you? 

The staff at rescue shelters will have the expertise and passion to help you choose the right pet and breed for your lifestyle, circumstances and personality. Research the breed-specific needs of your new pet such as common temperaments to ensure a good match with you. 

Throughout March, PETstock, as part of National Pet Adoption Month welcomes you to come into its stores to learn more about pet adoption and fostering. You're also encouraged to consider adopting differently this year, by considering a pet that may be a little different to what you had hoped for and yet may be better suited to you. Perhaps you want a dog but don’t have the time to walk them every day - would a cat better suit your lifestyle?

For example, according to Dr Rous, greyhound breeds are lovely, loyal, intelligent and gentle. So much so, that in a new and world-first initiative launched earlier this year, retired greyhounds will be retrained to serve as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) companion animals for Australia’s Federal Police. Dr Rous says they may just need some transition training to help them move from kennel life to a domestic home.

Dr Kate Mornement says. “For those concerned about being in the office and leaving their pet, a bonded pair could be the answer as they have each other for company.”

Once you've found your match, explore our list of dog-friendly parks, pubs and more or our guide to spending the weekend in Melbourne with your cat.

Where to adopt a pet in Melbourne

According to Gumtree Greys, thousands of greyhounds are destroyed every year in Australia. It’s their mission to rescue them, predominantly from the racing industry in Melbourne and Queensland, and place them into appropriate loving, permanent homes through foster care. 

Under foster care, these greyhounds learn how to be pets after years of living in small enclosures. Gumtree Greys covers all the vet costs for these dogs while they’re in foster care. The organisation even has a program where it will help pair your workplace with a suitable greyhound.

Gumtree Greys is in desperate need of people who can open their homes and hearts to fostering a greyhound. Many greyhounds who have been through the fostering program are also available for adoption. The adoption process involves an application and home check to assess your lifestyle and requirements and make the best match. The adoption fee is $350 with a two-week trial period and includes support from expert matchmakers and lifetime support from the organisation. 

Most of us are familiar with the amazing animal care and protection services RSPCA has been providing since 1980. It runs an Adopt a Pet Program where you can browse animals on its online RSPCA Victoria Adoption Centre. Once you see one you feel is a good fit, you can drop into the centre located in Burwood to discuss the adoption to ensure a pet match. The RSPCA will want to know how the pet will live, so showing them photos of your backyard will be helpful. Its range of animals includes ponies and horses, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits and poultries. Puppies range from $600-1200 to adopt while adult dogs range from $450-$1200 to adopt. 


Petbarn provides in-store adoption centres to make rescue pets more accessible to the public to help them find a loving home. It partners with rescue organisations that bring their cats to Petbarn, where they stay in cat condos while waiting for a loving owner to take them home. Petbarn stores only do cat and kitten adoptions through its in-store adoption partners, which include the RSPCA.

No pet is adopted until a thorough interview is conducted with the potential pet parent. There are multiple locations across Melbourne but check on the website to see which ones have these in-store adoption centres. 

Lost Dogs’ Home has been running for more than 110 years and is one of Australia’s largest animal shelters with two locations: Cranbourne and North Melbourne. Cats and dogs are available for adoption, which doesn’t involve applications and works on a walk-in basis. However, you can browse the site first before going in to see which pets take your fancy. The adoption fees range from a suggested donation of $50 or more through to $800 depending on the animal you are looking to adopt.

You can also apply to be a foster carer. The Lost Dogs’ Home runs an Adoption Ambassador Program where people can adopt directly from specially trained foster carers, so they don’t need to return to the shelter environment. 

Other services you can utilise include a vet clinic, comprehensive pet training and lost and found service.


Lort Smith is a non-profit Melbourne institution that has been serving the people and animals of Melbourne since 1936. The animal hospital is in North Melbourne, while its adoption centre is in Campbellfield. Both locations have a vet clinic.  It also offers a broad range of animal health and welfare services, including a Pet Therapy Program, community outreach programs and kitten kinder and dog training.

Lort Smith has a philosophy that it will never euthanise an animal that is capable of being rehomed, no matter how long it takes. In addition, it's primarily a foster shelter, meaning that while animals patiently wait for their forever families, volunteers take them into their own homes whenever possible. This provides the animals with a home environment and socialisation, which in turn makes them easier pets to adopt.

You can browse Lort Smith's adoptable animals online and appointments can be made to visit the adoption centre. The centre now also accepts walk-ins between 10am and 3pm from Monday to Saturday. 

Although Lort Smith mainly adopts out cats and dogs, it also often has other animals available including rabbits, guinea pigs and ferrets.

Located in Glen Iris, Save-A-Dog Scheme is a community-based not-for-profit animal welfare organisation where you can adopt dogs and cats via an application form after browsing the "animals for adoption" section of its website. The organisation will only contact successful applicants, and then there will be a meeting to ensure a quality matching process. General animal viewing times are only by appointment. For a rough idea, the adoption fee for kittens is $300 and for puppies, $500. Fostering is also available here and the organisation welcomes you to get in touch to discuss this.


A relatively new rescue shelter located in Craigieburn, Second Chance Animal Rescue (SCAR) has been running since 2015. It works to rescue, rehome and rehabilitate displaced and abandoned cats and dogs. Browse its animals online and then arrange a meeting to start the pairing process. You may have noticed SCAR on Channel 9’s ten-part documentary series The Pet Rescuers. In exciting news, SCAR will return for another season, so it might be worth watching to see what happens behind the scenes.

SCAR provides a host of other services that you may find helpful, such as a Community Animal Hospital, dog grooming, a puppy school, behaviour training and a cat boarding facility if you need to be away. 

You can also apply to become a foster carer with SCAR to help an animal transition to being ready for adoption.

Located in Wandin, Kiwi’s is a not-for-profit organisation that helps reunite lost birds as well as rescue lost, abandoned, or neglected domestic birds. The rescued birds are then available for adoption. Kiwi recognises birds are unique creatures, so it prefers the application process to take place in person and it doesn’t have a list of its birds online. You will need to make an appointment to visit the rescue. 

Volunteering there can give you some hands-on experience with different breeds. Kiwi notes that birds can be messy, noisy and expensive and to consider these factors when thinking of getting a pet bird. You can get a feel for this when you volunteer, too. 

The shelter states it's facing an increasing number of people surrendering their birds for various reasons, including loss of interest and not having time anymore to look after them. Consider the longer life span of birds, which can range from ten to 15 years for a canary to 65 to 100 years for a sulphur-crested cockatoo, and whether you can commit to this.


Rabbit Runaway Orphanage is a non-profit organisation and charity located in Olinda that has been run since 2003 by couple Judi and Bryce Inglis. The couple provides care for sick, unwanted, stray, or mistreated rabbits, while also doing a lot of work in the community with local councils, pounds, and vets. 

Judi and Bryce only allow their rabbits to be adopted into good indoor homes. The adoption process involves making an appointment and sending a photo to them of your setup. There is a two-week trial with your furry friend to ensure the rabbit is a good fit for the family.  Their adoption fee is $120 per bunny, and all the animals are desexed and vaccinated before being placed into their permanent homes. 

Their foster program differs from others in that it aims to provide a permanent home for bunnies with existing health challenges. All vet bills are supported if needed. RRO even offers a free bunny dating service to find the right companion bunny for your bunny!

Volunteering there can be a great way to learn more about rabbits and how to care for your own, and it is much appreciated, being a fully volunteer-run orphanage. RRO is open Tuesday to Saturday between 1-4pm by appointment.

Can't adopt right now? Consider fostering instead

What to know about fostering
Photograph: Shutterstock

What to know about fostering

If you feel like you can’t commit long-term to a pet but would love to try and experience the joys of animal companionship, most of these centres have a foster program where you can temporarily look after pets. Foster pets are typically animals that are not ready for adoption yet and need some extra help first.

Most importantly, fostering saves animal lives by providing a stable caring environment while a more permanent home is sought. According to Save the Dog Scheme, it can also help animals restore confidence and trust if they have come from a difficult situation, helping them to learn how to bond again, have good manners, and be tolerant and loving. This can increase their chances of being adopted. 

Food, treats, toys and even vet treatment are covered for most of these foster programs. If you fall in love with your foster animal, you could enquire with the shelter about adopting it. 

Dr Rous says, “You can also consider fostering a puppy or being a relief carer through Guide Dogs, Seeing Eye Dogs or Customs.”

If after reading this article you decide you’re not quite ready to adopt or foster, consider supporting one of these worthy organisations through donating or volunteering, so they can continue to do their great work. Most adoption centres don’t receive government funding so are reliant on community and volunteer support.

    You may also like
    You may also like