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Fee versus Free: Animal Adoption

But, I am saving a life...why are you charging me so much? When adopting an animal some gasp at the cost. This certainly can be the make or break for some adopters, but let's put some perspective into why the fees can be a couple of hundred dollars to save a life.

First, let's look at the difference between animal control shelters and rescue organizations.

Animal Control Shelters are run by municipalities. Their fees for adoption are always going to be lower than adopting from a rescue for a few reasons.

Vet care

Transport: Animals at shelters are usually brought in through owner surrender or are picked up as a stray. There is no transport involved, which saves money for the local government.

Medical: Shelters will only be able to render the minimal amount of medical care for each animal that comes into their care. This is based solely on budget. So, the animals that come from shelters will ALWAYS still need to be medically assessed after adoption.

Food: Shelters sustain their food based on municipal funding and donations from the community. The amount of food provided to the animals in their care is significantly less than in rescues just based on length of stay alone.

Length of Stay: The length of stay for an animal at a shelter is less, as shelters will usually have an absolute maximum length of stay for an animal. If the animal is not adopted by a certain date, unfortunately, the animal will be euthanized as shelters cannot maintain animal care for extended lengths of time simply based on their resources.

Rescues are run by volunteers and donations. Rescue adoption fees can range between $79 - $600 depending on location, age, breed, etc. This cost is based of the amount of rescue that actually goes into these animals.

Transport: There is most likely transportation involved in each and every rescue animal saved. Rescues are constantly pulling animals from out-of-state, animal control shelters or rural areas. These pulls require vehicles, personnel and gas.

Medical: After a rescue animal arrives at a rescue, the first thing the rescue does is assess the health of the animal. This medical evaluation can range from between $50 - $300 depending on the needs of the animal. The animal will always have to be altered as well. If the animal is not spayed or neutered prior to arriving at the rescue then this can add around $150 at minimum to the cost of the rescue of the animal. Keep in mind also, rescues are always taking in animals that are in rough physical shape. Sometimes prior to an animal arriving they will already know the animal will require a $3,000 surgery.

Vet care

Food: Food donations are a must for rescues. Rescues typically use whatever they can get their hands on through donations, but sometimes certain animals will have allergies or diet restrictions such as weight management or urinary tract issues, which will require specific types of food for that animal.

Length of Stay: There is always a minimum length of stay for each rescue animal. This is not because the rescue wants to keep the animal from a family, it is because they need to assess the animal, medically treat them, determine their likes, dislikes and needs. It is important for rescues to do this for the safety of the animal and the safety of the adopter. Some animals are not always adopted right away, too. I personally know of at least five dogs who were in rescue care for 2 - 5 years before being adopted. The costs for pet care over this amount of time is significant for a rescue.

Ultimately, rescues need to ensure the health and well-being of the animals in their care, and it costs a lot of money to do that. So, for $200 - $300 you are getting a companion that is fully vaccinated, altered, microchipped, leash trained, crate trained and happy, which is a steal!

And, remember, it may cost you a few hundred dollars to adopt that animal now, but it will be pennies within pennies if divided per wet-nosed kiss, per tail wag, per moment of comfort and per laugh they bring you, which lasts way beyond when they leave us on earth.

Share with us your rescue stories and experiences with adoption in the comment section.

See you on the wild side,



P.S. Thank you to Purple Paws 2nd Chance Rescue in Virginia for their feedback on animal rescue!

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