We love all dogs, regardless of their origin stories. And we know everyone makes the right decision for their own families. But rescue dogs hold a special place in our hearts. Are you thinking about rescuing a dog in Philadelphia but wondering where to start? Thankfully, you have a LOT of great options because the Philly rescue scene is robust. And truthfully, this list is just the surface. The local rescue community is made up of many small rescues (some completely foster-based) and more traditional shelters, all working together to save as many pets as possible.
With over 20,000 animals entering the shelter system each year in Philly, we can all play a role in saving a life. Here is a good primer if you are looking to rescue a new best friend.
Animal Care and Control Team (ACCT)
ACCT is our City’s “open intake” shelter and is our region's largest animal control provider. They are mandated to take in every dog, cat, turtle, bird or other pet that crosses their threshold. ACCT also provides animal control services for the City so these are the folks that come out if there is a stray dog on the loose. As such, ACCT’s animals are in URGENT need of rescuing because more and more animals flow in each day. Unlike other rescues that can simply say, “We’re full!” ACCT must accept every stray or surrendered pet. (Most of the rescues listed below will “pull” animals from ACCT, working as a team to save as many pets as possible.) ACCT has a big job, and placed nearly 13,000 animals in loving homes in 2023. Rescuing from ACCT will literally save a life, opening up a kennel for the next pet that needs it.
Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS):
PAWS is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving the most vulnerable pets in the city. PAWS has been at the forefront of the rescue community for many years. With three locations in Philly (Old City, Northeast Philly and Grays Ferry), you’re never too far away from your future best friend. Their adoption staff and volunteers work tirelessly to match dogs with the adopter's lifestyle and preferences. Along with adoptions, PAWS also offers resources to help support Philadelphia pet owners, including low-cost veterinary services and behavior assistance. (Providing low-cost care allows pet owners to keep their pets at home when life throws curveballs.) PAWS also holds festive adoption and rescue events throughout the year including the ever-popular Mutt Strut each fall.
Our best friend, Jax, was adopted from PAWS in 2012.
Morris Animal Refuge:
Philly boasts a lot of “firsts” and the Morris Animal Refuge holds the title of America's first animal shelter. Founded in 1874, their motto on the website is “America’s First. Philadelphia’s Forever!” Check out their “History” for an interesting review of their timeline. Located in the heart of Washington Square West Morris has been rescuing lives for over 100 years. This refuge is known for its dedication to making the adoption process as smooth as possible, and they often provide post-adoption support to ensure a seamless transition. In 2023 they saved over 1000 pets. Well done Morris!
Street Tails Animal Rescue:
Street Tails has been giving homeless pets better lives since 2001. Street Tails “pulls” animals out of ACCT with their mission to find loving homes for Philly’s homeless, unwanted and abandoned pets. Street Tails often rescues medically-challenging pets that would otherwise not be given a second chance, relying on the support of the community to get these pups the veterinary attention they need. You can visit their small adoption Center in Northern Liberties to meet their lucky pups.
City of Elderly Love:
As the name suggests, this foster-based rescue works with saving older dogs and cats. They also offer hospice care for pups who find their way to the shelter in the final chapter of their lives. Loving fosters / adopters will make sure these special dogs get a shot at love and stability when they need it the most. If you're looking to provide a comfortable home for an older canine companion, COEL is the perfect place for you. They believe that every dog, regardless of age, deserves a chance to live their golden years surrounded by affection and attention.
We really just scratched the surface here with rescues in Philadelphia. There are some rescues that save thousands of pets per year and then there are foster-based rescues that may save a few pets each month. But every life saved should be celebrated! Rescues in our city work together to move as many pets into loving homes as possible. When you rescue a pet, you open up a “space” for the next pet in need, perhaps saving TWO lives.
We hope this gets you started as you start your journey to finding your forever friend. We are grateful that Philadelphia has such a dedicated dog rescue community!