Adopting a dog from the shelter not only makes good economic sense, it makes you a hero to a dog who may have been in real danger of being euthanized. The average cost to adopt a dog from the shelter varies, based on several factors.
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The cost of adopting a dog from the shelter depends on a number of variables. In most cases, adoption fees are generally smaller when the dog is from a government entity such as an animal care and control facility -- what used to be referred to as "the pound." A county facility has more resources than a private shelter, which relies on public and private donations and grants. At a county facility, the fee may include more add-ons such as vaccines, sterilization, veterinary checkup and, in many cases, free dog training.
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Specific breed rescues are usually comprised of breeders or other aficionados who want to help place dogs that are members of a particular breed. The shelters usually work with these organizations by referring potential adopters who are seeking a specific breed, and many of these organizations have their own private shelters or network of foster homes. The cost of adopting a dog from one of these organizations varies greatly, from zero up to about $250. Petfinder.org, the largest database of adoptable pets, has a policy that the most a shelter can ask for in adoption fees is $250, assuming that any higher costs are profit. Generally, the longer the dog has been in rescue, the smaller the adoption fee, because the volunteers are motivated to find the dog a home.
Shelters often sponsor special events such as adopt-a-thons at which the average cost of adopting a dog is reduced for the event. A dog who is older is considered less adoptable, so the adoption fee will often be lower on an older dog than it is on a younger dog. This is generally true in most cases, but particularly so during special adoption events. Also during these events you can expect bonuses, such as free dog training or grooming, dog supplies, baked goodies for dogs -- and a good time to be had by all.
Many shelters take part in special promotions sponsored by national corporations such as PetSmart and Purina, as well as national nonprofit animal organizations such as the ASPCA. One such special program is the PAWS Seniors for Seniors promotion whereby senior citizens, usually age 60 and over, can adopt an older dog for little or no money at all. One such example is the program offered through Palm Beach County Florida's Animal Care and Control. The Seniors Saving Seniors program matches potential adopters aged 62 and up, free adoptions of older dogs who come already vaccinated, microchipped and sterilized. Another such national promotion is the Pets for Patriots program, which pays part of the adoption fees at shelters around the country for active-duty members and veterans of the armed services.
Since shelters, rescue facilities and county-owned dog shelters vary from city to city, county to county and state to state, it's difficult to come up with an average price but generally speaking, you can expect to pay anything from nothing up to $250 to adopt a dog. If a dog you want comes with a price tag over $250, you are most likely dealing with a breeder, not a rescue. Shelters are highly motivated to find homes for dogs who are considered un-adoptable, such as those with medical problems, senior dogs and dogs who are just plain funny-looking. You may be able to get them to reduce their adoption fee in such cases. Shelters are sometimes reluctant to give animals away for free because they are concerned about prospective owners who may not be able to afford veterinary care. When negotiating for your new family member, consider all the relevant factors, including the costs of lifelong care.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.