Are your little ones clamoring to bring a four-legged friend home? Pets can make a much-loved addition to the family, with their dynamic personalities and ability to form tight-knit bonds—not to mention the sense of responsibility they can foster in a child. But before you family welcomes little Fido into your clan, you and your kids should sit down to discuss all that's involved in the pet acquisition process.
We asked Lourdes Bravo, assistant director of the ASPCA's adoption center, to weigh in with advice for families interested in adopting a pet. First and foremost, she says, "you have to be cognizant of how much a child can participate in the care of a pet. A child is not going to be the main caretaker." Yet even though parents need to be willing to supervise pet care, kids of all ages can do their part to pitch in. Children ages five and under can take care of simple tasks, like filling a pet's water dish. As your kids get older, you can shift more of the responsibilities to them, whether it's cleaning the cat's litter box or taking the dog for a walk.
If your brood isn't ready for the full-on commitment of a dog or a cat, Bravo recommends a "starter pet," like a fish or another small animal. She also recommends general obedience training for all kinds of pets, especially dogs, to foster family bonding and give the pet a sense of structure. "Pets do better with a schedule, when there's some consistency, just like children. They need to have some boundaries," Bravo explains.
Ready to commit to a cat or dog? Click through our slide show to see some adorable family-friendly canines and felines—all of them are currently up for adoption—or head to one of these NYC pet adoption centers to meet the furry friend your brood has been waiting for.
RECOMMENDED: NYC pet guide for families
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Scroll through pics, videos and personality profiles of more than 5,000 adoptable cats and dogs at the site of the ASPCA, the nation's oldest organization for the humane treatment of animals. If your kids have their hearts set on a puppy, know that all adopters must pay for a five-class obedience course ($50).
Cost: Dogs $75–$200, depending on age and breed; kittens under six months $125; cats from six months to three years old $75. There's no fee for cats over age three.
Requirements: Must be at least 21 years old, provide a photo ID and proof of address (for example, a utility bill), and fill out a survey.
To foster: To take care of a critter that's up for adoption—or can't be adopted at the moment, due to illness, maternity or other reasons—e-mail Ben Li'Gon (firstname.lastname@example.org) to set up an interview. Applicants must also complete a two-hour class on caring for an animal.
ASPCA Adoption Center, 424 E 92 St between First and York Aves (212-876-7700, aspca.org)
Animal Care & Control of NYC
With locations in all five boroughs—three care centers, plus receiving locations in Queens and the Bronx—AC&C takes in more than 30,000 animals each year, most of which are dogs, cats and rabbits (of all ages and breeds). If the critter your brood is eyeing was properly spayed or neutered (a requirement for any pet to be adopted in NYC), you can take it home with you then and there. Otherwise, you'll have to wait until the following day so your new family member can undergo the proper procedure.
Cost: Dogs $25–$150, depending on age and pureness of breed; cats $25; adopt two cats and the fee for the second cat is waived; cats one-year-old and over are free; rabbits $50.
Requirements: Must fill out an adoption questionnaire, be at least 18 years old, and provide a valid photo ID and proof of current residence. If you rent, include your landlord's contact information as well.
To foster: Sign up for an orientation at Animal Care & Control headquarters at 11 Park Pl between Broadway and Church St.
Manhattan Animal Care Center, 326 E 110th St between First and Second Aves (212-722-4939,nycacc.org) •Brooklyn Animal Care Center, 2336 Linden Blvd between Essex St and Shepherd Ave, East New York, Brooklyn •Staten Island Animal Care Center, 3139 Veterans Rd West at Arthur Kill Rd, Staten Island
In addition to its Soho headquarters, this 46-year-old charity operates a mobile adoption center that travels throughout the greater New York and New Jersey area (one of its regular stops is Fetch Bar & Grill on the Upper East Side, which features Animal Haven and ASPCA pets on its adoption wall). In its weekly Caring Kids program, the shelter instructs kids and teens in animal care and current issues in animal welfare.
Cost: Dogs $250, puppies under one year $350; cats $150, kittens $175, pair $250.
Requirements: After filling out the in-person application, families are asked to provide a personal reference and, if they rent, proof that pets are allowed in their building. When adopting a dog, all family members, including existing pets in the household, must meet the prospective pup first.
To sponsor: Help support the no-kill shelter with a one-time or monthly donation.
Animal Haven Shelter, 251 Centre St between Broome and Grand Sts (212-274-8511,animalhavenshelter.org).
Bideawee, which means "stay awhile" in Scottish slang, has provided homes for pets in NYC for more than a century. See your gang's prospective pet in action with videos on the shelter's site, and don't miss—if only for the aw factor—the staff's monthly pick-of-the-litter series. The counselors on hand require that every family member meet the animal before it can be taken home.
Cost: Puppies under six months old $225; all other cats and dogs $150.
Requirements: Fill out the dog or cat application, and present a photo ID and proof that your landlord allows pets.
To foster: Bideawee is looking for families to care for puppies and kittens who are too young to be spayed or neutered. If you're interested, fill out an application form.
Manhattan Adoption Center, 410 E 38th St between First Ave and FDR Dr (866-262-8133,bideawee.org)
Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition
This Billyburg shelter makes sure families are serious about adoption by requiring applicants to pay a nonrefundable fee of $150. Head to the site for honest profiles (which point out, for instance, that a dog isn't all that kid-friendly) and online testimonials that will melt away any hesitations.
Cost: Dogs and cats are free, once you pay the $150 application fee.
Requirements: Must be at least 21 years old, fill out an application, and provide two forms of ID, two references, and a lease or letter from a landlord stating that animals are allowed at your residence.
To sponsor: If you're not ready to take a furry friend home, BARC welcomes sponsorhips. For $25 per month, your family gets special visitation rights with the pet of your choice.
253 Wythe Ave at North 1st St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn (718-486-7489, barcshelter.org)
The folks at this no-kill nonprofit take in cats and kittens from the streets, households and the city shelter and finds them safe homes. Prospective families complete an application and meet with an adoption counselor who can help find a suitable cat for their situation. Some of the cats up for adoption can be viewed at Kips Bay Petco (560 Second Ave at 31st St; 212-779-4550) and PetSmart (632 Broadway between Bleecker and Houston Sts; 212-475-0893), and adoption counselors are on hand at each location every Saturday and Sunday (noon–6pm).
Cost: Cats $100.
Requirements: Must fill out an application and meet with an adoption counselor.
To foster: City Critters encourages fostering to give kitties time out of a cage, or as a step toward adoption. Interested families undergo the same application process.(212-252-3183, citycritters.org)
•Anjellicle Cats Rescue (646-457-2130, anjelliclecats.com) •The Humane Society of New York (306 E 59th St at Second Ave; 212-752-4842, humanesocietyny.org) •Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals(animalalliancenyc.org) •Sean Casey Animal Rescue (153 E 3rd St between Caton Ave and Fort Hamilton Pkwy, Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn; 718-436-5163, nyanimalrescue.org) •A Tail at a Time(atailatatime.org)