Before getting a pet, no matter where you get it from, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, and foremost, make sure that your entire family is ready, willing and able to care for a pet. Make sure that there is total agreement about the type of pet that you will be seeking. And, make sure that everyone knows what type of pet is absolutely not allowable for any reason!
If you are a first time pet owner, make sure that you understand what that means, exactly. Do you know the basic needs of the pet that you have in mind? Do you know the approximate expense involved? Adopting a pet means adopting an entire lifestyle as well, so do some research on the various breeds of pets to make the best choice for you and your family. If there is any possibility of allergies with your family members, then by all means visit shelters and pet shops and watch for reactions before making the leap. Also, consider taking your children to areas where they might interact with different animals and watch how they behave. Some children are just not big animal lovers, and they should never be forced to pet or talk to one, especially if they are afraid. A fearful child may make a dog or cat apprehensive enough to bite.
Where you live will determine the size or type of the pet that you should look at adopting. If you are an apartment dweller, your lease may not allow any pets at all, or may restrict you to certain small, caged pets. Small homes and small yards will rule out larger breed dogs who need lots of room to roam and stretch out their big legs. Some toy breed dogs are not appropriate with younger children- they tend to be hyper, delicate and will nip at the drop of a hat. Make sure that you ask lots of questions during the adoption process- if you do not know what to expect of a certain breed, make sure to do the research, ask the questions or look for another pet option.
Again, before even going to the shelter to adopt a pet, know what you would like to find, and what you do not want to bring home. Make sure that everyone knows from the start of the process what your intentions are- including the shelter staff. Do not let an overzealous worker talk you into a pet that is not really right for you or your family. This is a serious commitment, and not one that should be taken lightly.