Animal Adoption FAQ How To Adopt a Dog or Cat

Frequently Asked Adoption Questions

If you are looking for a certain type of pet, first check our website (it is updated every time a pet becomes available or is adopted) or come down in person to browse through the kennels and cattery. When you see an orphan pet you like, you can proceed to the front desk to receive more information on your selected dog or cat and fill out an adoption application. Your pet application will be reviewed by one of our Adoption Counselors and the potential pet will then be taken out so the two of you can interact.  If you decide you’d like to adopt your new furry friend, and your application shows you to be a good match, you’ll be able to pay the adoption fee and begin life with your newest family member.

We adopt out cats, dogs, puppies and kittens.

Helen Woodward Animal Center pets come from a variety of sources, such as transferring from public shelters to relieve overcrowding, working with local dog and cat rescues, as well as owner surrender. Pets are relinquished by their owners for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is because of a move, allergies or a lifestyle change.  All surrendered pets have passed our rigorous medical and behavioral screening.

Call us for an appointment to learn about our requirements. Each pet must pass a health and behavioral exam. Because we are a limited access facility, we can only accept pets on a space available basis, which varies by species and age. We accept only healthy pets.

Our Adoptions Department does not, but we do have an award-winning modern boarding facility, Club Pet.

No.  By law, all stray animals MUST be taken to a local Animal Control agency, such as San Diego County Department of Animal Services.  This allows owners who may have lost these pets an opportunity to find their furry family member.  Helen Woodward Animal Center is only allowed to take pets from overcrowded shelters, rescue partners or pets that have been relinquished by their owners.

Throughout the year, families bring injured animals and wildlife (orphan birds, raccoons, opossums and other assorted “critters”) to Helen Woodward Animal Center. In many cases, these animals have been injured and need immediate medical care. Because Helen Woodward Animal Center deals only with domestic pets, we refer these animal lovers to other agencies in the area that deal specifically with wildlife. This takes up precious time that can make a major difference for animals that require special care and feeding. Here in the San Diego area, we refer “Good Samaritans” to these wildlife rescue organizations: Project Wildlife 619-225-9453 or Wildlife Center 858-278-2222 or 619-921-6044


These organizations can provide care for injured and orphan wildlife of all kinds.

If you are seeking a specific breed of dog or cat, we recommend that you periodically check the website to see if the desired breed is available. A wide variety of new pets are made available throughout the year. 

The Pet Protection Agreement® is a service you’ll only find at Helen Woodward Animal Center. We know the last thing you think of on the exciting day you bring a new family member home is, “What if something happens to me?” The Center wants to make it easy to consider this issue.  

In the adoption packet you take home, the Center provides a Pet Protection Agreement. This pet trust template is a simple way to name a pet guardian and leave instructions for the care of your new furry friend. The Agreement:

  • Was created by attorney Rachel Hirschfeld.
  • Protects pets if their owners are unable to care for them, either during life or after death.
  • Is valid in all states.
  • Has the express purpose to establish continued care for one’s pets should the owner become unable to do so.
  • Can include all their pets on this one simple Agreement.
  • Is a legally binding way to provide for your pets’ wants and needs for a lifetime.

Kittens are seasonal. We start receiving litters usually in May and they are available through November. Puppies are often available year-round. Be sure to check with us for our selection.

We feel very strongly that the choice must be made by the person caring for the pet. Many of our orphan dogs and cats have been relinquished because the client was given the pet as a present. Because pets are a lifelong commitment, it is very important that there be a bond between pet and owner. It is standard procedure that the primary caregivers meet the pet before we approve the adoption.

Due to limited space, please call the Adoptions front desk at 858-756-4117 ext. 1 to inquire about our current needs.

No, but our paid staff is dependent on the help of volunteers to care for all the orphan pets. They walk, bathe, socialize and help them feel more at home while they are here. We also have volunteers at the front desk to help with paperwork and phones.


If you would like to volunteer, click here for more information.

If you would like to FOSTER orphan pets, click here for more information.

Due to Hurricane Hilary, all  departments will be closing at 3pm today.  Stay safe!