Best 5 Dog Rescues in Southern California & Shelters in CA (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 Southern California dog rescue & shelters with an adoption guide.

Top 5 Southern California Dog Rescue & 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) Pet Project Foundation

The history of Pet Project Foundation’s animal rescue efforts spans more than 30 years. In the early 1980s, a group of concerned San Clemente animal lovers met with city officials to determine how to best provide care for the lost and abandoned animals in their city.

Out of this meeting the first San Clemente Animal Shelter was born through a partnership between volunteers – who called themselves FOSCA (or Friends of San Clemente Animals) – and the city. The city provided a trailer to shelter the animals as well as animal control services while the volunteers ran the shelter and paid for all food and medical care needed.

The initial operation was run on a shoestring budget with volunteers relying heavily on donations from the public to help keep the shelter in operation.

These dedicated volunteers always had one primary goal in mind – to build a shelter that from the ground up was designed to be a comfortable, pro-humane haven for homeless animals. In 1996, their dream was realized with the opening of the current location of the shelter. At that time, the city of Dana Point also entered an agreement to begin sending its homeless pets to the shelter, and thus was born today’s San Clemente-Dana Point Animal Shelter.

Pet Project Foundation Information and Details:


Dog Rescues & Shelters

2)  I.C.A.R.E. Dog Rescue

I.C.A.R.E. Dog Rescue is all about heart and they have some of the biggest hearts around!

I.C.A.R.E. was founded in the Fall of 2010 and quickly gained the reputation of helping and rescuing dogs that no one else would help. I.C.A.R.E. Dog Rescue efforts are not limited by how sick a dog in need might be.

However, the rescue does not end with the pull from the shelter. Many of I.C.A.R.E. Dog Rescue dogs have had a long road to recovery before they can find their forever homes. Because they choose to rescue those dogs that need us the most and are thought to be “unadoptable,” many of I.C.A.R.E. Dog Rescue dogs are being treated or have been treated for pneumonia, kennel cough, coccidia, giardia, and other serious conditions.

They have nursed those that are extremely emaciated, those diseased with parvo, those with broken limbs, and those whose spirits have been broken so terribly that they need to be taught how to feel love and know trust.

The I.C.A.R.E. Dog Rescue Information and Details:


Dog Rescues & Shelters

3) The 4Life Animal Rescue

After 10 years of successfully rescuing, training, rehabbing, and re-homing hundreds of dogs, 4Life is a non-profit, entirely volunteer-based animal networking organization focused on Southern California

4Life Determined to continue to help 4Life community, they have converted to an animal networking service. If you need help re-homing your pet, you’ve found an animal or need help and don’t know what to do, If you are able to keep your pet until an adopter is found, they can help you network your spayed/neutered animal and provide you with helpful re-homing tips and an adoption contract. If you want to foster an animal, you can fill out 4Life foster application.

The 4Life Animal Rescue Information and Details:


Dog Rescues & Shelters

4) BARC Adoption Center

BARC is a non-profit animal rescue that through donations and a small group of very dedicated volunteers saves thousands of lives each year.

BARC Adoption Center Information and Details:


Dog Rescues & Shelters

5) Laguna Beach Animal Shelter

The Laguna Beach Animal Shelter was started in 1975 by a group of dedicated volunteers, The Pet Responsibility Committee (now PUP Laguna Beach), who lobbied the City of Laguna Beach to purchase the old Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals building on Laguna Canyon Road for use as a shelter. Today, the shelter serves the residents of Laguna Beach and Laguna Woods by providing temporary care of sick, injured, and strayed or abandoned animals rescued by the animal services officers in the City of Laguna Beach and the City of Laguna Woods.

At any one time, the facility houses dogs, cats, birds, and a small number of other animals. Every abandoned animal that comes through the Shelter is held for seven days for reclaiming by its owner. As a small community, the claim rate is extremely high at 80%.

They have been very fortunate to receive support from the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter community, the local veterinarians

Laguna Beach Animal Shelter Information and Details:


  • Address: 20612 Laguna Canyon Rd, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, United States
  • Website:
  • Phone: (949) 497-3552

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.