How Much is That Doggie in the Window?

A while ago, I blogged about the dangers of offering pets for free on Craigslist. That post still gets a lot of traffic. Just yesterday, somebody commented “I think the real threat is from those animal care homes that flag free ads yet charge a fortune to rescue animals. $300-500 for a dog is absurd.”

I’ll come back to that in a minute.

Sometime during the past couple of weeks, I was made aware of a family member who had gotten a rescue pit. This dog was the third to join that household. The rescue person who had the pit was asking $150, but my young family member refused to pay that, citing it as ridiculous. His attitude was “if you want to find a home for that dog you can give it to me.”  Apparently the rescue person was desperate, and called the young man back the next day and gave him the dog for free.

I’ll come back to that in a minute, too.

When a rescue group gets an animal, a number of things happen. First, the animal has to be vetted. That means a distemper/parvo/corona vaccine, a rabies vaccine, a bordatella vaccine, and sometimes leptospirosis and lyme disease vaccines. Then the dog needs to be wormed. That usually means a fecal test and dewormer . Then there is a heartworm test, heartworm preventative if the dog is negative or heartworm treatment if the dog is positive ($500-$1,000) Then, the dog needs to be spayed or neutered at a cost determined by the size of the dog. That price increases if there are any complications.

God forbid the dog should have any other health issues: ear infection, eye problems, tapeworm, broken bones, injuries, dental problems or mange.

You can see by the table to the left, that barring complications, to get a dog ready for adoption has a base cost of $261-$316 all the way up into the thousands of dollars if the dog has other health issues. These costs are what 501(c)3 animal rescue groups are constantly raising funds for.  More funds are needed if the rescue group doesn’t have their own kennel facility and needs to board an animal, if they microchip their rescue dogs, or provide obedience training or rehabilitation, or if they need fees to pull animals from kill shelters. And then of course the rescue group incurs the cost of feeding the dog for the entire time it’s at their shelter.

So getting back to the comment from a reader: how absurd is an adoption fee? Even one as high as $300 (although personally, I’ve never heard of a fee higher than $200). Isn’t it ultimately worth it to pay an adoption/rehoming fee for a dog that’s already been vetted? And why shouldn’t a rescue group be entitled to recoup some of the money they’ve spent to make an animal adoptable? Money recouped is money that can be spent to save another dog, and so on, and so on. People don’t bat an eye when they pay a breeder $200, $500 or $2,500 for a dog, yet balk at a rehoming fee.

And getting back to that young man who wouldn’t pay $150 for the rescue pit: he found out that 3 dogs and a baby were more overwhelming than expected, and now he and his girlfriend want to get rid of the pit.  If he had paid $150 for the dog, might he have valued it more? Tried harder to make it all work out? People tend to value what they pay for.

Quit complaining. Pay the adoption/rehoming fee so the next dog can be helped.

About yelodoggie

Ariel C. Wulff is an author, artist and animal advocate. They have been involved in pet rescue for over twenty-five years. They have written two books about their true-life adventures living with an ever-changing house full of pets: Born Without a Tail, and Circling the Waggins, and a guide to animal advocacy using the Internet as a tool: How to Change the World in 30 Seconds". Wulff also wrote a pet column and book review column for the Examiner, and was a contributing editor for They attribute their love of animals to having been raised by Wulffs.
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7 Responses to How Much is That Doggie in the Window?

  1. While I have paid the fee for a shelter cat in the past (and balked at paying that fee) I’ve never thought about the cost of things from the shelter’s point of view. Unfortunately, while I’m all for people adopting from shelters rather than breeders, I do think that the fees can be a bit exorbitant – especially in this economy. It would be nice if they offered a sliding fee scale, based on what a person can afford to pay.


  2. Lu says:

    This is so true. Someone complained to me that one of our rescues was “in it for the money,” when they were saving older and sickly dogs at great personal expense.


  3. Beth says:

    We gladly paid the fee for our rescue pup. The rescue group saved him on his last day at a shelter, quarantined him for a month to be sure he was healthy, neutered him, gave him all his shots, and fed him up to a healthy weight. Once we had satisfied their requirements, we took home a healthy, happy dog. However, if necessary, they would have cared for him for the rest of his life. Personally, I think that the fees charged by reputable rescue groups are worth every penny.


  4. Richa says:

    The shelters and rescues i have worked with all have decent fees and they can account the tests and surgeries as well.
    But theres this one 501c3 rescue with adoption fees anywhere from 600 to 1200 bucks, and they mostly have younger, more adoptable, small breed dogs and very very very few dogs with health issue. I also found that most of their spay and neuter are almost free because that gets done by residents at the vet college near the rescue. I just dont know what to think about them because they just claim vet and transport costs everytime someone questions them. In Seattle, with so many great rescues working to help not just local dogs but dogs and cats from all over the country, this one is like a sore spot.


  5. Robin says:

    I agree that a rescue fee is needed but I draw the line when it goes over $150.00 and the reason why is this: Lot’s of rescues that I have worked with can pull dogs for free or at a discounted rate. Some shelters (not all) spay and neuter the animal when it comes in or before it leaves the facility (and those that don’t offer a coupon to have it done at a local vet). So the cost comes in if the dog has issues that needs a vets attention and at that point most rescues start fundraising to help pay the cost. When a rescue charges more then $150.00 – $100.00 it leaves people asking what exactly are they paying for and why am I going to pay that when I can go rescue a dog from death row at the local shelter for $65.00 (which here, includes the spay or neuter and their shots and tag). What needs to happen is Vets need to work with Rescues and the costs need to be brought down. It should never cost thousands of dollars to help an animal when a rescue is bringing the dog in. The high cost of care is what keeps people from owning an animal or making sure they are taken care of because they can’t afford too take them to the vet. And until this is in control more and more families will opt not to own a pet because they can’t afford to do so and more animals will sit waiting for homes. Adoption fees are necessary but there has to be a limit.


  6. Jenn says:

    I have rescue dogs that I have paid up to $400 for. That one is a 240 lb mastiff who had a lot of vet bills and we were totally aware that he was going to need regular vet care for chronic issues for the rest of his life. I was more than happy to pay it. I also foster dogs. I always buy all of the food myself and pay a lot of vet bills myself for my fosters because it can be so difficult for the rescues to raise money. I do this for the dogs. I also generally take in dogs who are harder to place knowing that they may be with me as a permanent foster dog. I’m a sucker for the elderly dogs and dogs who might have some issue that others “don’t want to deal with”. I’ve also paid part of foster fees myself to help get dogs adopted. Some dogs just run up a huge tab. It’s not their fault… If you don’t want to pay a big fee from a rescue, you can always go to those kill shelters and adopt a dog for as low as $60 or $80. But remember, you’ll have the spay/neuter fees, heartworm tests, etc…. to pay for afterward anyway!


  7. kayla says:

    I’ve gotten dogs and cats from people who couldn’t care for them and from breeders. I’ve also gotten animals from the pound. I got a free kitten, and a got a shelter kitten for $75.00. The shelter kitten cost money, but included in the fee, was her spay and all of her shots plus microchipping. The free kitten cost me upwards of $200 for the spay and shots and she’s not even microchipped. Shelters are the way to go. Pay the fee and enjoy everything it entails, plus bask in the fact that you’re saving a life.


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