Why are some pet-adoption fees so high?

We're kicking off a new series of Q&As about pet adoption! Once a month we'll select a reader question and answer it here. Have a question you'd like us to answer? Email us.

Q: I'm looking to adopt my next dog in order to save a life and help. It's very sad to see the outrageous adoption fees so many shelters are asking for these unwanted animals. I understand many shelters are giving them their shots, etc., but many vets will work with new owners on lower-cost care for pets -- so why don't the shelters? -- Stephanie D.

A: Hi Stephanie. Thank you so much for looking into adoption for your next dog! While searching Petfinder, you will find pets from more than 13,600 shelters and rescue groups -- each with its own adoption procedure and fees. Depending on the type of organization and type of pet, adoption fees can range from no fee up to several hundred dollars.

After the jump, some information on what helps determine an adoption fee amount, what that fee covers and how you can get a reduced adoption fee on a great pet.

Adoption fees are donations to help support the care of animals in shelters or rescue groups. If you were to pay a similar fee for an animal through a breeder or pet store, not only would you not be helping a pet in need, you'd be paying for intentional breeding that has led to an overpopulation of pets.

Adoption fees help cover the medical care of the animal while he or she waits for a new home, as well as food and transportation costs. These fees help to provide care for the other animals in the shelter or rescue group who may have medical bills that are much higher than any possible adoption fee. The money also acts as a donation to help support the organization as a whole, allowing the group to continue its efforts to rescue and rehome pets.

An adoption fee can end up saving you money! Shelters and rescue groups usually cover initial veterinary costs to prepare the pet for a new home. Adoption fees often include:

  • Veterinary wellness visit and exam $50-100
  • Spaying or neutering $150-300
  • Distemper vaccination $20-30x2
  • Rabies vaccination $15-25
  • Heartworm test (for dogs) $15-35
  • Feline Leukemia/FIV test (for cats) $30-50
  • Flea/tick treatment $50-200
  • Microchip $50
  • Deworming $20-50
  • Collar and an identification tag $5-10

TOTAL: $425-880 (Few shelters or rescue groups would ask this much for an adoption fee.)

Free pets usually come with no medical care, so while you may initially save on an adoption fee, the medical costs will add up quickly. Purchased pets are also often not spayed or neutered and may not have a full set of vaccinations, adding to the expense.

Many shelters and rescue groups have reduced adoption fees for adult or senior pets or waive fees during special events. We recommend that you "like" your local shelters and rescue groups on Facebook to learn of their upcoming events.

Good luck!

Do you have a question you'd like us to answer? Email us.

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Checklist for New Adopters from Petfinder.com

Things to Consider Before you Adopt a Dog

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