Start with the American Kennel Club (919-233-9767) to get contact information of your preferred breed’s club; from there, you’ll get a list of AKC breeders.
Once you’ve found a breeder, be prepared to answer questions like, “What happened to your last dog?” and “Why do you like this breed?” along with grilling about where you live and how many people will be interacting with the dog. You’ll have to meet the breeder a few times, too, and few live in New York, so be prepared to travel.
Try to meet your prospective puppy’s parents. Ask for photographs of other litters.
There’s often a waiting list for popular dogs, but it’s a small world and a breeder can refer you to someone who has a litter coming sooner or a shorter list.
Make sure you get the AKC registration papers. The breeder will register the litter, but you have to file the purebred certification to show or breed the dog.
If for some reason you have to part with your dog later on, don’t expect your money back. Though breeders will always take a dog back, your pet was sold with the understanding that you’d keep it for its lifetime.
Animal Care & Control (212-788-4000) works with the city and is required to take in all animals; if they’re not placed after seven or eight days, the animals are euthanized. The other five shelters—the ASPCA (212-876-7700), the Humane Society (212-752-4842), Bide-A-Wee (212-532-4455), Animal Haven (212-274-8511), and BARC (718-486-7489)—can select the animals they take in.
Before you go, call your local vet, explain that you’re adopting a dog, and ask him to be one of the three references you’ll need at the shelter. When you get there, bring I.D. listing your current address, a letter from your landlord that says it’s okay to have a dog in the apartment, and the references.
A disinterested third party, like a trainer from Follow My Lead (212-873-5511), is a good companion (although you’ll have to pay for his time). He’ll help discern the right dog when you’re overwhelmed by dozens of adorable wagging tails.
All shelters require a donation, which ranges from $55 to $200, but that covers spaying, neutering, and services like free checkups, health insurance, even microchip implants. Finally, register your dog with the Health Department, at nyc.gov, in case it gets lost.