Best 5 Dog Rescue San Diego, CA & Shelters in San Diego (2023) 

Dog adoption is a beautiful thing. There are millions of pets in shelters and rescues waiting for forever homes. Adopting a dog can help homeless animals and set an excellent example for others.

Dog adoption isn’t suitable for everyone, and it’s not something you should get into lightly. Getting a dog is an important decision that will affect your life for many years. If you’ve decided dog adoption is for you, this is excellent news!

Bringing an adopted dog into your home should be a rewarding experience for you and your family. Before looking for your future best friend, arm yourself with the knowledge to navigate the world of dog adoption and make the best possible decision.

We’ve compiled a list of the top San Diego dog rescue & shelters with an adoption guide.

Top 5 Dog Rescues in San Diego & Shelters

Adoption is an alternative that benefits everyone when it comes to acquiring a pet: the family, animal protection entities, and, of course, the dog itself

Shelters across the country house approximately eight million companion animals each year.  Yet, nearly 50% of them are euthanized due to the shelter’s lack of resources.

Dog Rescues & Shelters

1) Second Chance Dog Rescue

Second Chance Dog Rescue (SCDR INC, dba Second Chance Dog Rescue) is a non-profit 501c3 organizations dedicated to saving homeless dogs.

They rescue, rehabilitate and re-home dogs, primarily from local shelters, as well as dogs surrendered by their owners for various reasons, and dogs from Baja California, Mexico. Once they receive a dog, they provide medical care, including spay and neuter, and any necessary rehabilitation.

Second Chance Dog Rescue have an application process for those interested in adopting one of their dogs. Upon approval of the application, the dog and the adopter enter into a two week “transition” or foster period, to make sure it’s the right fit for the family and the dog.

After completion of a successful foster period, Second Chance Dog Rescue may do a home visit before they finalize the adoption.

Second Chance Dog Rescue Information and Details:


Dog Rescues & Shelters

2) The Rescued Dog

The Rescued Dog is a non-profit, all-breed dog rescue in San Diego, CA. They consist of a network of fosters and volunteers dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating dogs in need throughout California and Mexico. They are committed to placing dogs in loving, forever homes and educating adopters on the responsibilities of dog ownership. The Rescued Dog strives to work with shelters and other rescue groups to create a better world for homeless pets.

Established in 2013.
The founders of The Rescued Dog forged the rescue bond during the rescue volunteer work together at a local dog rescue. They recognized in each other a mutual respect for the rescue human friends and the dogs The Rescued Dog were helping to rescue. When the time came to start The Rescued Dog own rescue.

The Rescued Dog collective mission was clear: save at-risk dogs from high-kill shelters and place them in loving, forever homes for the benefit of the dogs and humans alike. They believe the best way to end pet overpopulation and animal cruelty is a unified front with local shelters, other rescue groups and the community. While The Rescued Dog is currently a foster-based rescue, The Rescued Dog long-term goal is to have a kennel and training facility, which will enable us to increase The Rescued Dog number of rescues and take time to train and, if needed, rehabilitate dogs in need.

The Rescued Dog Information and Details:


Dog Rescues & Shelters

3) The Animal Pad

The Animal Pad Established in 2010.
The mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and find former homeless dogs the best homes possible. The Animal Pad was founded in 2010 because They saw a dire need for action in the local shelter systems.

Millions of dogs are put to sleep every year in shelters across America and they need to change that. The Animal Pad hope that TAP can put a dent in those numbers and help to greatly reduce the amount of dogs that are euthanized every day by educating the public on the importance of spay/neutering their pets, adopting vs. buying.and treating dogs with the love and respect they so deserve.

A few years ago, the turned The Animal Pad attention to the street dogs of Mexico as there is very little help for them. Since then, they have developed a large rescue network in Baja California. Please note that they are NOT a shelter and any found pets cannot legally be accepted at The Animal Pad facility.

The Animal Pad Information and Details:


Dog Rescues & Shelters

4) Lucky Pup Dog Rescue

Since 2010, Lucky Pup has rescued medium and small breed dogs (along with a few BIG mutts too!) from Southern California’s highest kill shelters in the counties
north of San Diego. Dogs have been transported into Lucky Pup rescue.

They are a small rescue founded in San Diego, California. Lucky Pup dedicated team of volunteers save shelter dogs from death row throughout Southern California’s many high and quick kill shelters

Lucky Pup have rescued some of the most vulnerable, desperate, injured and ill dogs in these shelters.
Even dogs that other rescues overlook because of behavior or expensive vet care that is needed.

Lucky Pup are a dedicated team of volunteers, fosters, transporters and donors.

Lucky Pup Dog Rescue Information and Details:


Dog Rescues & Shelters

5) Rover’s Retreat Dog Rescue

Rover’s Retreat Dog Rescue provide dog rescue and dog adoption by placing rescued dogs in foster homes and providing care and a safe haven for them until they are ready to find their “furever” homes. They have foster homes from the Los Angeles area all the way down to the San Diego region.

The rescue was born out of a need to be an advocate for dogs who can’t speak for themselves. Rover’s Retreat dog rescue is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization staffed only by volunteers

They rescue dogs and place them in foster homes until they are ready for adoption.

Rover’s Retreat Dog Rescue vaccinate, spay/neuter, microchip and provide any additional care such as surgery or rehabilitation. They help the dog to get ready to be placed in a happy home.

Rover’s Retreat Dog Rescue Information and Details:


Dog Rescue & Shelter Online

We hope that one of the shelters listed above can help you find your future dog, but if for some reason that doesn’t happen you can always opt for different alternatives.

For this reason, we’ve added these alternative platforms. These platforms will help you connect with people who have dogs for sale or adoption near you. It can be a great alternative in looking for your future pup within the comfort of your home.

AKC Market Place

Finding trustworthy dog breeders, groomers, and trainers can be challenging. AKC Marketplace is your trusted resource to help make a lifetime of responsible dog ownership safe, happy, and healthy.

AKC Marketplace® is the only website that exclusively lists puppies from AKC-Registered litters, so you can choose a breeder with confidence.

Adopt A Pet

If you want to give an abandoned puppy a second chance, a shelter is definitely the place to find a dog.

Adopt a pet is North America’s largest non-profit pet adoption website. They help over 21,000 animal shelters, humane societies, SPCAs, pet rescue groups, and pet adoption agencies advertise their homeless pets to millions of adopters a month, for free.

Puppies for sale Today

Puppies Today has over a decade of experience, established in 2008. They pride themselves on connecting loving families with new furry friends and have happy customers all over the nation. They provide all of their customer’s puppy payment plans and health guarantees to ensure the best experience and peace of mind when adopting a puppy through their service.

Dog Rescues & Shelters

Check Out Our Dog Breeders Page :


How much does it cost to adopt a dog?

Generally, it will cost around $50 to $150 for a dog – and because typically shelters and rescuers give pets medical treatment, you’ll save money on a medical examination; you’ll also likely save on spay or neuter surgery, which can cost around $50 to $300.

Aside from the puppy’s price, it would be best to consider the expenses that would come with it. For instance, you may want to get the essential things for your puppies like grooming tools, food, and shelter.

What kind of dog should you adopt?

If you have decided to adopt a dog, you may want a mixed breed dog. Or, you can have your heart set on a specific dog breed. It is possible to adopt purebred dogs from shelters and rescues if you plan ahead. However, if you’re not set on a particular breed, you should still have an idea of ​​the type of dog you want.

Consider age, size, care needs, health concerns, and activity level. Have your wishes in mind before you go looking. Better yet, create a list of dog characteristics that is divided into three areas:

  • What do you absolutely need in a dog: Do you have children, cats, or other dogs? The dog you adopt must be able to get along well with everyone in your home. Are you in an apartment or small house and need a small dog? Are you allergic to certain types of dogs and need a hypoallergenic breed? These are just some of the things to consider.
  • What you would like in a dog but can live without: Maybe you have a soft spot for a specific breed but will be happy with a mix of that breed. Maybe you want a dog with short hair, but don’t worry about a little extra grooming if you meet a big long-haired dog.
  • What is not acceptable to you: these are dealbreakers. What qualities would prevent you from even considering a certain dog? Dimension? Temperament? Maybe you have a fear or dislike for a certain dog breed. Perhaps you are renting out your home and have to meet specific rental requirements.

Write everything down and take the list with you. That way, when you go out and see all those cute faces, you will know where to start.

When not to adopt a dog

It is best to avoid adopting a dog in the following circumstances:

  • You are in the process of moving
  • You are remodeling or repairing your home
  • You are about to have a baby (it is usually best to have the baby and let life stabilize a bit before introducing a new dog)
  • It’s the holiday season ( dogs aren’t meant to be gifts and holidays are usually too hectic for a new dog)
  • You or someone in your family is going through other major life events (the new dog may be lost in the shuffle or be overwhelmed by chaos)

The Dog Adoption Process

Well done! You have found your new dog. Now is the time for formalities. Most organizations require an application before they can adopt. This is to prevent pets from falling into the wrong hands. While it may sound like an interrogation, these groups have policies in place for a reason. Fortunately, many people have no problem getting approval.

Some groups require a waiting period before bringing your new dog home, possibly due to a medical procedure that has been done. Some dogs may have a waiting list, so ask questions beforehand.

Find out what the adoption fee includes (vaccines, spay/neuter, etc.). Before signing the contract, learn what you expect from yourself and what the group will do to help you. If the dog is too young to be spayed or neutered, the contract will require it to do so in the future. Also, find out what happens if you can’t keep the dog.

Most organizations ask you to return the dog to them if you can no longer care for it (don’t give it away to someone else). Find out what is known about the dog’s history and what health problems, if any, were noted while the dog was in their care.

Final Thoughts

Remember, it can take a long time for a dog to adjust to a new home. You and your family will need time to adjust. You may notice that your new dog has behavioral problems, fears, phobias, or lacks training. If the adaptation period is long and complex, it’s a good idea to seek the assistance of a dog trainer or behaviorist.

You may need to consult more than one. Be patient and follow the advice of the experts. If you feel that you have genuinely exhausted your options, you may decide to give up on your new dog.

Remember to try to get your dog back to the place of adoption first. If this is not an option, you need to be responsible and find a good home for your dog. I hope you never have to be in this situation.


  • Brooke Jessica

    Dr. Brooke Ramos completed her undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine degree from North Carolina State University. She practiced for several years in Raleigh, NC prior to moving to Winston-Salem in 2007 to be closer to her family. Her special interests include internal medicine, geriatric care, preventative care, and holistic medicine. She has always had a deep love for all animals and believes in treating each animal as if it were her own. She currently has one cat but plans to have multiple dogs, cats, and hopefully horses when space permits.