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Dog Adoption Fees Explained

How Much Does it Cost to Adopt a Dog?


By Jackie Kelly


A common question among dog adopters is, "Why are adoption fees so high? Shouldn’t adopting a dog be free, or at least super cheap?" To these people I say, remember, you get what you pay for.


When you purchase a purebred from a dog breeder you may be paying anywhere from $500 to over $1,000 for your new puppy, but often that’s all you're getting for that cost. When you adopt a dog from a shelter, your adoption fees are going to pay towards the cost of care your adopted dog has received while at the shelter. Which is why adoption fees are often adjusted based on the age of the dog you're adopting. Here is a breakdown of what a good shelter has already put into your dog before you even adopt.


Spay & Neuter


The average cost for veterinary care varies greatly depending on your geographical location (city vs. country), the size of the dog requiring care, as well as the dog's overall picture of health and how it influences the complexity of treatments. That said, the average dog spay or neuter can range from $45-$175 for an animal shelter. However, this doesn’t include the cost of pain relief medication that the shelter will also be responsible for, which is another $10-$30 dollars. If you were to get your adopted dog spayed or neutered on your own it could cost you anywhere from $200-$500 plus, depending on said variables.




The cost of intake vaccinations for dogs to prevent Distemper, Parvo, Kennel Cough, and rabies can cost approximately $40 for the animal shelter — if not more. If your adopted dog has been in the shelter for a few months it has most likely received a monthly booster to keep it safe from shelter related illness. If you were to pay for these vaccinations yourself you could be paying anywhere from $20-$150 dollars


Parasite Treatments and Preventatives


Monthly flea tick and ear mite treatments as well as heartworm preventives for dogs are another monthly cost for animal shelters. De-wormer medications are often given preventatively as oppose to waiting to see evidence of worms. These treatments can cost approximately $10-$30 assuming that no labs are need. Lyme disease and heartworm tests are also another cost the shelter will incur to ensure that your dog is in good health. If a dog tests positive, Lyme disease treatment can cost anywhere from $20-$100 depending on the size of the dog. However, if a dog needs to be treated for heartworms the treatment can be extremely costly, and on average it’s at least $1,000 if you were to pay for it yourself.





A good shelter will not allow their animals to leave the premise without first being microchipped. Although a lot of pet owners insist that their adopted dog will never get lost, shelters see it happen all the time — whether it be as a result of a natural disaster or an unfortunate accident. The cost for a shelter to microchip an animal is approximately $20. However, the cost to microchip your dog on your own can range anywhere from $45-$60.


Food, Shelter, and Comfort


The cost to feed a dog for a month in an animal shelter can range greatly based on the resources of the shelter, but a general ballpark estimate is round $40-$60. This does not include special diets for dogs that need weight loss food or dog food for specific digestive needs. Then there are toys, treats, bedding, and other necessities that the shelter provides.


Extreme Conditions


If your adopted dog is on anti-anxiety medication, eye drops, or antibiotics, the shelter will try to recuperate the cost through the adoption fees as well. This also includes X-rays, echocardiograms, and other specialized treatments. This means that part of your dog adoption fees will go towards animals that need additional care even if your adopted dog was lucky enough to have a clean bill of health. 




Some animal shelters will provide you with a bag of food to go home with so you can slowly adjust your new dog to the brand you’ve chosen to feed it. Collars, ID tags, and leashes may also be worked into the adoption fees. If you’ve adopted a puppy or a dog that was transferred from one region or shelter to another, the cost for the transportation might be added into your dog adoption fee.


Remember that most of these non-profit organizations do not receive Federal or State funding. The dog adoption fees make caring for the animals in the shelter possible. More often than not the regular day-to-day operations, the cost for animal shelter agents, veterinary staff, etc., gets paid for by the shelter’s ability to fundraise and acquire donations to keep themselves afloat rather than just through adoption fees for animals. Additionally, most adoption centers will explain what their adoption fees include, like the Villalobos Rescue Center or Dachshund Rescue adoption process and fee pages, which give a more anecdotal explanation of their dog adoption fees.


Image: a katz / via Shutterstock


Originally published on Pet360.com


Comments  5

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  • Purebred dogs
    11/03/2012 07:48pm

    You say, "When you purchase a purebred from a dog breeder you may be paying anywhere from $500 to over $1,000 for your new puppy, but often that’s all you're getting for that cost." What an extremely biased and totally inaccurate piece of trash...

    Reputable purebred breeders have unbelieveable costs involved in the providing a quality puppy to you. Proper facilities in which to shelter their chosen breed--housing, utilities are staggering these days! Premium foods, vaccinations, licenses, vet checks, medical screening from OFA, CERTS, etc., registration, showing costs--average cost of showing a dog/bitch to it's championship $30,000 if you show yourself!-- spaying/neutering and replacement of breeding dogs and bitches, care of those elderly dogs for 10 or so years after they are past normal breeding age. Advertising and production of instructions/aids to new owners of puppies, maintaining relationships with new puppy owners (answering questions and providing care instructions) and possibly receiving a puppy back at any time in the future should the new owners be unable to care for it over the course of its lifetime...And you want to talk about veterinary costs---a caesarian for a female unable to deliver runs $1200.00 if it happens to be during the normal working hours of the veterinarian..$1500.00 to $2000.00 or more if in the middle of the night. Then the pain meds, follow-up trips for suture removal and check-ups post caesarian.

    You seem to have no idea of the cost of doing a good job of breeding quality purebred dogs.

    By the way, I'm really tired of reputable purebred breeders of dogs being equated with puppy mills. There are many, many reputable breeders of dogs--it is the responsibility of the public to research the differences between a quality breeder and a puppy mill but statements like yours falsely equating a "purebred" breeder with a commercial or poor quality breeder is very irresponsible and does no favors to the pet purchasing/adopting public in general.

  • what bunk
    11/03/2012 08:12pm

    as if breeders don't put any $$ into the puppies they sell and "shelters" do..
    the sales price ( not "apodtion fee' at a shelter also covers things not mentioned here .. like SALARIES and OVERHEAD.. and multi million dollar "shelters" not to mention pension plans for workers..and million dollar bank accounts
    There are so many fallacies in this article it is difficlut to pick out just one but here:
    "When you adopt a dog from a shelter, your adoption fees are going to pay towards the cost of care your adopted dog has received while at the shelter"
    so puppies that are easily sold a the shelters cost WAY more than older dogs.. and they stay in the shelter much less time.. so hmm why do they cost MORE and not less? easy..they are money makers.. why are small dogs shipped all over the country to be sold at shelters? because they are money makers.. while "pit bulls' go out the back door in body bags small dogs are "imported for sale"
    there is so much more.. but truth be known shelter dogs should be VERY cheap and cats should be free
    as for shots costing 40 per dog.. LOL.. you can buy 25 shots for less than 70 bucks most places.. and heck you have all of those volunteers to give them for free. and anyone than does not know that heart worm can be cured by giving ivermection.. a cheap and easy to administer drug should not be working in a shleter. $1,000 PLEASE.. that is so bogus. Worm meds cost next to nothing.. 16 oz of round worm treatment costs about 1o bucks and will treat about 50 -100 dogs..
    what does cost so much money is OVERHEAD and fixed costs for shelters.. things that remain the same if there are 100 dogs or only one in the shelter..
    the best way to buy a dog is from a breeder that health test the parents, present a puppy in good health with a vet check and at least a first set of shots and a vet check.. you are not getting "just a puppy" but a puppy that the breeder has worked hard to produce by breeding healthy dogs previously to your purchase.. want to ke4ep dogs out of shelters.. buy one from a good breeder.
    One thing is true in this article.. you get what you pay for and the money you pay for a quality puppy is never wasted.

  • typing too fast
    11/03/2012 08:28pm

    and see that I have made some errors.. but thanks to "livinginthewoods" I feel somewhat vindicated.. LOL what he/she says is so true.
    alsom I would liek to mention that many times you hear of "raids" on "puppy mills".. and how unhealthy the dogs are when taken.. those same dogs are frequently "up for adoption .. at very high prices) within a week.. those "horrible inbreed sick dogs"are "ready for "forever homes".. one thing about that.. over 20% of those dogs are returned to the shelter. That is according to the ASPCA themselves stats 20 % of dogs purchased from shelters are returned to shelters. you cannot say that about dogs purchased from good breeders.
    Keep dogs out of shelters.. buy from a good breeder

  • a business
    11/03/2012 09:49pm

    "Sheltering" now called a business..also known as the "sheltering industry" that should tell you something..

  • Shelter dogs
    07/15/2014 11:33am

    I don’t know of any multi million dollar shelters. I don’t know of any shelter employees getting rich and if they are offered pension plans what is wrong with that? It’s something offered by other employers. I have adopted two purebred dogs from my local shelter, one was an owner surrender and one was picked up by animal control as a stray. Both had/have health issues and they were addressed by the shelter. I have the reports on both dogs from the shelter vet, I know, especially with the stray, that a great deal of money was spent on his issues. Much of the staff at the shelters I know rely a great deal on volunteers but they do have paid employees. They spend a lot of time making sure the right dog is matched to the right person so they will not have dogs returned. You just don’t go in there and point and say I’ll take that one.

    I have also bought dogs from breeders so I will agree that the article was a bit off base. There are good breeders but there are some that do not pay attention to genetic health issues. I am very involved with a group that spreads the word about a particular health issue and I am in contact with a couple of thousand people who have a dog with this health issue. Many of the breeders will not stop breeding the dogs who pass on this gene. They deny the puppy they sold has it and it’s just a not deniable disease, there is a definitive blood test. Many of these breeders supposedly have stellar reputations, etc., but they keep having litters with this irreversible disease. They do not respond to emails, phone calls from their buyers, they refuse to listen and some even blame the owner, you did this. Total ignorance, it is not something ant owner does. So really, how can you find a good breeder, that can be tough.

    I will never go to a breeder again. It has nothing to do with being against breeders, I have no problem with people buying from a breeder but it is no longer an option for me. I want a dog who doesn’t have a home, I want a dog who is not considered highly adoptable for various reasons such has health, age, etc. Both dogs I adopted were older, one was darn close to being a senior and one was geriatric.

    I disagree that shelter dogs should be cheap, some of these shelters are no kill shelters and the adoption fee helps towards the dogs who will never be adopted, who will live the rest of their lives in a shelter. My dogs are worth every penny the shelter charged and then some. I know my geriatric dog’s adoption fee didn’t even come close to what they spent on vet care alone.

    And this comment:
    "Sheltering" now called a business..also known as the "sheltering industry" that should tell you something..

    Just not worth responding to, let each reader/poster decide for themselves if this is an accurate assessment of shelters.

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