It’s hard to pin one number to the cost of pet adoption. The main factors that influence how much it will cost are where you find the pet and their current health. If you’re looking to adopt, there are two types of organizations to seek out:
1. Privately funded shelters: These are the most common sources for pet adoption.
2. Animal rescues: These are groups of volunteers who foster animals in their homes while Fido waits for placement in a forever home.
There is a wide range of fees you may be asked to pay upon adoption, but few shelters or rescue groups ask for more than $250. Their goal is ultimately to place animals in loving homes, so creating a high financial barrier to adoption is in no one’s best interest.
While some adoption processes can cost as little as $50, be wary of what this may mean in terms of the medical care your new pet has received. In this article, we’ll walk you through the administrative and medical costs that are typically included in pet adoption and provide tips for how to save on adopting a dog or cat.
The administrative fees behind pet adoption vary based on where you’re picking up your new best friend, but most include the following:
General care: The adoption fee typically helps to cover the animal’s care (food, transportation) while it’s waiting for a new home.
Identification: Most adoption services will provide a tag and collar, which usually run about $10 at pet supply stores. There are some shelters that include the cost to microchip your animal in the adoption fee. According to Petfinder.com, the average cost for this service is $45. While this may sound like an unnecessary spend, microchipping ties into most shelters’ goals: health and security for as many pets as possible.
It’s rare to find an opportunity to adopt a pet for free, but there are a few ways to save. Try these:
Adopt during a high-occupancy time for shelters: Seasonal bumps tend to happen in midsummer and after the winter holidays, although this varies year to year. If you’re not in a hurry, wait for an adoption drive or local event when fees may be waived.
Adopt specific breeds: While some shelters regularly offer discounts for certain harder-to-place breeds, you may live near a breed-specific rescue that has lower adoption fees.
Adopt an older animal: Generally speaking, the longer the dog has been in a shelter, the more pressure there is to find them a good home. The result: a lower price tag.
Adopt a smaller pet: We’d never want to advocate abandoning your dreams of dog ownership because a cat is thriftier, but it is something to consider if your heart isn’t set. The smaller the animal, the cheaper the care: parakeets eat less than bullmastiffs.
The main portion of your pet adoption fee can be attributed to medical costs. This is also where you’re likely to find you’re already saving by going through a shelter or rescue group (sorry, Craigslist).
General veterinary checkup: Before sending a pet home with its new family, most shelters and rescue groups require that the animal be assessed by a veterinarian. As it’s not optional, this is included.
Spay / neuter: The typical cost to spay or neuter your pet is $100 to $200. This often makes up the majority of the adoption fee. By partnering with nonprofits and veterinary services, shelters often get a better deal than you’ll find on your own. If your fur baby hasn’t been spayed or neutered yet, the ASPCA has a great tool on its website to help you find free and low-cost spay / neuter programs near you.
Vaccines: Your fee usually includes a few common vaccines, which will vary based on what kind of pet you opt for, and this includes how old your pet is and what is known about their background. For puppies, consider this list of shots recommended by the American Kennel Club: it’s important to ask what shots your new pet has received and what the vet recommends before taking your new friend home.
Anti-parasite treatments: For the health of any animals in the shelter or foster home, your pet is likely to come to you dewormed (if necessary), having received an initial tick or flea treatment. If the pet you’d like to adopt has been on medication in the shelter, you may be given a supply to last through the first two weeks or month, based on the animal’s needs.
Check your local shelters for deals. For example: one of our favorite Chicago-based shelters, PAWS, has a program called the Featured 5 to help dogs get out of its shelter. If you bring one of these five dogs home, you get additional medication, food, and a training consultation with your adoption.
Outside of promotions like this, you may find that a counseling session with professionals at the shelter or rescue is included to help your new pet transition into your household. Most shelters have professionals on staff who you can call for tips and tricks when it comes to those initial behavioral hurdles. Discounted classes may be available as well: don’t hesitate to ask!
This is a sector in which everyone has the pet’s best interest in mind: if you have concerns about being able to afford or care for your new pet’s needs, reach out to the shelter and have a frank discussion about the cost of care.
If you’re itching to get started or simply curious about locations offering up pets for adoption, check out petfinder.org. We also love the folks over at the Humane Society for their services around the country.