I was a veterinarian at an animal shelter for a couple of years. I have also adopted several dogs and cats. I thought I would share my thoughts on pet adoption.
There are several misconceptions about getting animals from a shelter. One misconception is that you can only find older mixed breed dogs. Well, I can tell you that you can walk into about any animal shelter at any time and you will find pure bred dogs there. While working in an animal shelter, I saw a large variety of pure bred dogs come into the shelter; everything from Shit Tzu, Maltese, and Yorkies to Saint Bernards, Standard Poodles, and Great Danes. So, you CAN get pure bred dogs at animal shelters. It is a little harder to get puppies, but you can definitely find a mature dog.
Now, the fact that you may not get a puppy is NOT a bad thing. There are big advantages to older dogs. First, they are through the chewing phase. So, you don't have to worry about the destructive puppy behavior. Second, many of them are already house broken; and if they are not, it is much easier to house break a mature dog. Finally, older dogs are less likely contract a contagious disease such as Parvovirus, due to having a mature immune system.
Finally, the misconception that dogs from an animal shelter are less healthy. Almost all animal shelters vaccinate the animals prior to releasing them for adoption. In addition, most will either spay/neuter the animal at the shelter or will provide vouchers for you to get it done through a local veterinary clinic. In addition, many of the shelters will test the animals for common diseases, such as Heartworm, Intestinal parasites, and many viruses. Also, most animal shelters will treat the animal for any disease/injuries that it may have when it comes into the shelter. So, in reality, most animals that are adopted are very healthy.
So, if you are thinking of getting a new pet, think about adoption. There are many wonderful animals out there in need of loving homes. They are more than ready to give you their hearts.