By Michele C. Hollow
A friend of mine, who knows I write a blog about animal welfare, was taken aback when she went to adopt a puppy. The fee was just over $300.
“Is that an inflated price?” she asked feeling slightly miffed. She went to the shelter with good intentions, and had the idea that a puppy would cost somewhere between $25 and $75.
Her partner thought the puppy should be free. “After all, it’s in a shelter and they want to get rid of it,” he said.
Get rid of it! Ugh! I explained that the $300 fee included spay/neutering fees, veterinary care, shots, and housing. Running a shelter is expensive, and most of the people who work at shelters are volunteers. I know my local shelter (and many other shelters that I have contact with through this blog) are in need of food, kitty litter, cages, leashes, cleaning supplies, toys, and veterinary care. The $300 price tag is cheap compared to what a breeder or pet store charges.
“Take a look at the prices that the backyard breeders are advertising in the newspaper, the puppy mills are posting on the internet, or the signs hanging in the pet stores at the mall,” says Mike Arms, president of the Helen Woodward Animal Center (HWAC) in San Diego. “Compared to their prices, our adoption fees are very low.”
Adoption fees at HWAC start at $75 for an adult cat and $125 for a kitten. Adult dog adoption fees start at $195. Puppies start at $275. “When we say that the adoption fees start at this level, this means that the adoption fee for a highly-desirable pet (for example a purebred Golden Retriever puppy) could begin at $375,” says Mike. “It’s the law of supply and demand.”
The pets adopted from HWAC have received up to date vaccinations, medical and behavioral evaluations, and any necessary medical treatment.
“W are not in the business of selling dogs and cats,” says Mike. “We’re in the business of saving lives. And we firmly believe that life has value. If we start giving away pets with no adoption fee we are sending the message that they are throw-aways and their lives have no value. An adopting family needs to understand that they are receiving a precious gift when they take a new pet into their home.”
At the ASPCA
Adoption fees vary depending on the type of pet, and in cases of cats age 3 and older, there is absolutely no fee at all. Puppies and kittens are $125; if an adopter wishes to adopt a pair of kittens, the fee is waived for the second kitten. Adult dogs and adult cats up to age 3 are generally $75. “In some cases, the fee may be higher if the pet is a type of breed that is in high demand,” says Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the ASPCA Adoption Center. “In all cases, adoption fees do not even come close to covering the costs that we invest in each pet since every animal is medically examined and treated, vaccinated, behaviorally assessed, spay/neutered, and even microchipped.”
Most shelters around the country charge similar fees. Often, with cats, if you adopt one, the second is free. Prices cover housing, veterinary care, and spay/neutering fees. Cats tend to cost less than dogs. At the Humane Society of West Michigan dogs usually cost $125; kittens cost $95, and cats over a year old are free.
At Best Friends Animal Society in southern Utah, the standard dog adoption fee is $100 and the standard cat fee is $65. All cats and dogs are spayed/neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, and have a veterinarian exam them.
Return Rates and Fees
In an informal poll I took with shelter workers around the country, it didn’t seem to matter if the animals were free or over $300; the return rate averaged around 9 percent.
A study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, Oct. 12, 2009, by Weiss E. and Gramann S. found, “A comparison of attachment levels of adopters of cats: fee-based adoptions versus free adoptions suggest that no significant differences were found.”
So what is a Fair Price?
We know that breeders and pet stores charge between $495 and over $2,000 for pure bred dogs. Pure bred cats range from a few hundred to over $2,000. It’s hard to put a price on a shelter animal. Personally, I would never purchase a pet at a pet store or breeder. The Humane Society of the U.S. estimates that between 6 and 8 million dogs and cats enter shelters each year. I’m sure that we can all find our perfect pet at a local shelter or rescue group.
So is $300 and up too much? I told my friend to adopt that dog at her local shelter, and she did. What do you think?
And check out the contest that is going on at Pet News and Views.