We expect a lot of things when we adopt our pet from the shelter — excitement, joy, nervousness — but rarely do we expect sticker shock.
Yet so many adopters are surprised to see the fee to adopt their new fuzzy pal.
Why is it so expensive to adopt an animal from a charity, and where does that money go?
The Price of Adoption
Some animal shelters adopt out their animals for free, though, in most cases, those free adoptions are promotional or available only for certain individuals (such as senior citizens). In almost every pet adoption, there is a nonnegotiable fee.
It may seem silly to have to pay to save an animal, but bear in mind what your adoption fee actually covers:
- Food and water
- Possible medical care
- Care and handling from a trained professional
- Shelter maintenance
- Staff wages
Every day that your pet was at the shelter waiting for a new home, she was given the care and attention that your adoption fee now helps pay for. And even if your adoption fee is higher than what you were anticipating, remember — it is helping to keep your local shelter open and save countless animals.
The Cost of Sheltering Pets
You probably already have pets, and that means you know how much it costs to keep Lady happy and healthy. Regular expenses for pets include:
- Grooming supplies
- Maintenance medications (such as flea and heartworm preventatives)
- Annual vet visits and vaccinations
It adds up quickly — and that’s not even including the unforeseen expenses, like emergency vet visits, boarding or professional training.
Imagine all those costs multiplied by 10, 20 or more. Even when some items or services are donated, shelters face staggering expenses to keep their doors open, staff paid and pets cared for. On top of the usual pet care, shelters also must pay:
- Property taxes
- Insurance (that’s a big one with animal shelters)
Adoption fees are one way shelters attempt to cover these costs.
Adoption Fee Differences
Shelter costs can vary. Some shelters are run entirely by volunteers, so they save the cost of paying their employees.
The location and size of a shelter can make an enormous difference to the shelter’s budget. Many rescues work only through foster homes and have no physical headquarters, saving the overhead costs of a facility. Other shelters have sprawling facilities with cruelty departments, staff veterinarians and certified trainers.
Adoption fees are different depending on the shelter or rescue you adopt through. Even 2 shelters in the same city can have completely different adoption fees and policies. Each organization sets its prices based on costs of caring for its animals and provide services to its community.
Adoption Fees vs. Donations
Lots of shelters have fundraisers for specific causes — to renovate the facility, to pay for a certain pet’s operation, to spay or neuter the shelter’s pets. When you donate money to the shelter, often you can request how your donation is used and ask that it be applied to the renovation fund, Muffin’s surgery or the spay/neuter fund.
Adoption fees, on the other hand, are rarely earmarked for a specific fundraiser. Instead, they are placed in a general fund used for shelter operations, including payroll, utility bills, pet food and more.
Sometimes shelters offer a special discount on adoption fees, as seen in this video:
A Small Price to Pay
If you adopt Lady the day after she comes into a shelter, it might seem ridiculous that you have to pay the full $200 adoption fee. After all, she didn’t cost the shelter that much.
Unlike a pet store, where the cost of the puppy you’re buying is considered the value of the dog, the fee that you pay when you adopt an animal is a necessary contribution toward the services provided to all of the animals in the shelter. For that reason, you’ll pay $200 whether you adopt an animal who has been in a cage for only 1 day or one who has been at the shelter for a year.
From supplies to vet visits and training, pets can get pretty pricey, especially with those initial costs. But an adoption fee is a small price to pay for a best bud.
And that fee doesn’t just set you up with an awesome, furry friend. It also plays an integral role in keeping countless other pets in your community cared for until they find their very own families.
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