Thank you for choosing to adopt an animal. By choosing to adopt a pet, you have already joined the ranks of those saving lives, and for that we thank you! Through this process we hope that your life with your new pet will be happy and fulfilling. Because adopting a pet is a life-long commitment and not one to be entered into lightly, adopters must be at least 18 years old with a valid state-issued ID card. Please read the below adoption process carefully.


Sharing your life with a pet can bring happiness, comfort, and plenty of fun for an individual or family. With a little forethought and planning, you can find the ideal pet and begin to enjoy all the benefits that pet parenthood can bring!

Before selecting a pet, consider your lifestyle. Are you away from home for long periods of time? Some pets get lonely by themselves while others are content with the solitude. If you wish to travel a lot, who will care for the pet while you are away? How much yard space is there, and is it fenced? If you rent or live in planned community, are you allowed to have pets, and if so, are there any breed or size restrictions?  If you need to see a list of pet-friendly rentals, click here.

Reflect on your resources. Are you prepared for the expense of adoption, routine veterinary care, training, grooming, a healthy diet and supplies? If the animal becomes ill, it may need emergency hospitalization or a specialist.

Determine if the time is right. Getting a pet of your own is a big commitment. Dogs and cats can live up to 20 years and some birds can reach 70. Parents should be prepared to step in to take care of the pet if a child begins to lose interest or just gets too busy.

Before you visit, check out our shelter hours.


Boy with DogWhen you come to the shelter to select a pet, keep an open mind. Put old biases aside and use your head and your heart. Your pet will be a part of your family for years, so base your decision on your objective observations. Talk to our staff members and volunteers. They are very familiar with the animals and can give you good insight into which pet is right for you.

You might want to prepare a list of questions to ask the shelter staff. How would you describe his personality and behavior? Does he like children? How is he with cats? Ask any and all questions that are pertinent to your needs.

Some of the animals you see might be on their “stray hold” which means they are waiting for an owner to come forward and reclaim them and aren’t available to be adopted just yet (click here to view our stray hold periods and learn how to reclaim a pet). Some animals may also be listed as “rescue only,” which is usually due to a medical or behavior issue. If you are interested in one of these pets, please ask to speak to a manager, as adoption may be an option if the fit is right.

Please note that we cannot make any guarantees as to the health, age, and/or temperament of any pet in our care. We do our best, and provide full disclosure of what we do know about the pet, but many animals come to us with no history or vet records, so much of our work is a guessing game and what we observe in the time an animal is with us.


Once you have selected a pet you would like to meet, you will need to fill out an adoption application. Simply click on one of the application types below, fill it out ahead of time, and bring it with you.

Dog Application

Cat Application

Small Critter Application

Anyone who wishes to submit an application must do so in person. We cannot accept applications submitted via fax, email or any other means. Unfortunately, we sometimes must deny an applicant for adoption when it is in the best interest of the animal, the applicant, and/or the community.

Spend time with the pet(s) you are considering. Take them out of their cage and hold them. If it’s a dog, go for a walk. Talk to the staff about your needs and expectations.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t find a match on your first visit. Be patient and visit often. The shelter receives new animals every day and your special friend will come along.

Please note that we cannot make any guarantees as to the health, age, and/or temperament of any pet in our care. We do our best, and provide full disclosure of what we do know about the pet, but many animals come to us with no history or vet records, so much of our work is a guessing game and what we observe in the time an animal is with us.

THE MEET & GREET (Dogs only)

After you’ve selected a dog that you’re interested in adopting, and have completed an adoption application so you can meet him or her, we ask that you bring all members of your household as well as any current dogs to the shelter to do a meet and greet. Here’s what you should expect:

  • Dress your dog in a sturdy collar or harness, but no correction collars or retractable leashes, please – they can affect the meeting!
  • Remember that your dog is likely to be excited meeting new friends in a new location, and expect him or her to act that way. We’re okay with that!
  • We’ll start with parallel walking and we may let one dog lead so the other can sniff and vice versa. This lets them adjust to the other dog and get used to their scent and behavior without being confrontational.
  • If things feel right, next we’ll move into our play yard where the dogs will get to spend some time together off-leash.
  • You’ll have plenty of time to talk with our staff and explain how you’re feeling about the meeting. Please, if you’re having any reservations, now is a good time to voice any concerns or ask any questions. If you’re a little nervous about how your new friend will do once at home, we have a Foster to Adopt program. Simply pay the adoption fee and you may take your new friend home for 72 hours. Please remember that pets have their own personalities and it can take some time for their true selves to emerge. The pet has been through a lot of changes in a short period of time!
  • At the end of the 72 hours, come back to finalize the adoption or if your chosen pet is not the right match, bring the animal back for a full refund. Don’t feel bad, but we ask that you provide us with information about the pet’s behavior at home, which will help us make a better match with another family.

going home

Man & Woman with PetsAfter completing all of the above steps, you may take your new pet home! Please bring a collar and leash for dogs and a carrier for cats and small animals. If you don’t have these items, no worries, we have a gift shop with lots of cute pet accessories, including leashes, collars, bowls, toys, and even clothing! We will also give you a sample bag of Hill’s Science Diet dry food, which is what we feed the animals in the shelter. If the pet is on any medications we will send you home with a few days’ worth to get you through until you can visit your vet. We will provide you with an adoption packet with lots of information such as the “Two-Week Shutdown” which helps with acclimating your pet to your home; and of course all of the pet’s medical records and personality information. Our adoption counselors will review the packet with you before you leave.

To make sure you’re prepared for the first night at home, we recommend having the following items:

  • Bowls (one for food, one for water)
  • Collar & Leash (don’t forget the ID tag!)
  • Litter box and litter for your kitty
  • Bed
  • Crate for your dog
  • Cat carrier
  • Toys for your new friend!

Spay & Neuter

If the animal you’ve chosen is not already spayed or neutered, we will collect a $50 “good faith” deposit from you. You will be given a HASP (Harford Animal Sterilization Program) certificate and a list of veterinarians who accept our certificate. Please read the certificate carefully and discuss with your vet so you are aware of what the certificate covers – there may be additional costs associated. You have 60 days (or 60 days after the animal is 6 months old) to get your buddy spayed or neutered. Once you have gotten the procedure done and can provide a receipt from your veterinarian, your $50 deposit will be refunded to you (or you may choose to donate it back to the shelter to help us get other pets spayed or neutered) and HSHC will reimburse the vet for the procedure.

Dog Licensing

Every dog in Harford County MUST be licensed. A dog license helps to document your pet ownership and helps ensure that dogs in our community are vaccinated against rabies. The law requires a license for all dogs older than 6 months and for those residing in Harford County for more than 6 months.

There is an $8 charge for a temporary dog license when you adopt. Our staff will submit your license application to the Harford County Department of Licensing & Permits and in 6-8 weeks you’ll receive your dog’s permanent license in the mail. To obtain a new license (for new County residents/new pet owners) or renew an existing one, please have your dog’s valid rabies certificate handy and click here.

For residents of other counties, please contact your Animal Control agency and they can advise you about your county’s licensing requirements.

Fees & Applications


Puppies 8 weeks-11 months: $250
Dogs 1-5 years: $160
Dogs 6-9 years: $95
Dogs 10 years and older: $35
Includes: Spay/Neuter (see Spay & Neuter section above for details), distemper vaccination (DHPP for dogs), rabies vaccination (if age-appropriate), canine kennel cough vaccination, de-wormer, heartworm test, flea & tick preventative, microchip, free sample of Hill’s Science Diet food, and general exam.

Dog Adoption Application


Kittens 8 weeks-6 months: $125
Cats 7 months-5 years: $95
Cats 6 years or older: $45
Includes: Spay/Neuter (see Spay & Neuter section above for details), distemper vaccination (FVRCP for cats), rabies vaccination (if age-appropriate), FeLV (feline leukemia & FIV testing), de-wormer, flea & tick preventative, microchip, free sample of Hill’s Science Diet food, and general exam.

Cat Adoption Application

Small & Barnyard Animals

Rabbits: $25
Guinea Pigs: $20*
Rats: $10
Hamsters, Gerbils & Mice: $5
Note: Guinea pigs may not be adopted for breeding purposes. Female guinea pigs who are not spayed may only be adopted to homes where they will NOT have contact with intact guinea pigs of the opposite gender.

Small Critter Adoption Application