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Pet adoption fees – why is there such a big spread among different organizations? You’ve walked into an animal shelter, found and fallen in love with a cute little poodle, or a beautiful tabby.  You fill out the questionnaire, and are approved.  Then they tell you the fee – you’re in a state of disbelief.

While compiling the shelter directory, I have come across all ranges of fees.  At the low end, a few shelters and rescues ask for a donation of your choosing; at the highest, I’ve seen adoption fees up to $700.00.  Some shelters charge more for puppies than adult dogs, some charge more depending on how much vetting they’ve done beforehand.  Many shelters will give a discount if you’re adopting a senior animal, or if you, yourself, are a senior.  Some even give veteran’s discounts.


In my opinion, a reasonable fee for adoption is $350.00 or under.  Many shelters would argue that, if a high adoption fee is an obstacle to a family, then they won’t have enough money to take their pets to the veterinarian when needed.  I disagree.  Although I would not have paid an adoption fee of over $350.00, I spent $1,400.00 at the veterinarian when one of my rescue dogs was bitten by a copperhead (she’s fine now).  There is a vast difference between an optional fee (there are other shelters and rescues you can go to) and a fee paid out of necessity (snake bite).

As we all know, there are too many abandoned and unwanted animals in our country, and it is best that we allow as many as possible to go to a forever home.  Now, of course, no one is advocating that people who are financially strapped should own a pet – whatever meager resources those families have should be put towards necessities for the humans.  But we have to avoid the social and financial elitism that sometimes creeps into even the most well-meaning shelters.

Cats and dogs are not only for the well-off – working class families can and do provide loving homes for these animals.  And, although maybe not perfect, a loving home is better than a kennel any day.

cat playing with coins


This is absolutely true, as anyone who has been to a veterinarian recently can attest.  Vet bills are high and likely to go higher.  And, although shelters generally receive a discount, it’s not a large one, and does not reduce the cost dramatically.  But no shelter or rescue should expect to recoup all their costs from their adopters.  There are options.

  1. Concentrate more on fundraising. This takes time and effort and a dedicated Board of Directors.  But with a little imagination and a whole lot of sweat, a lot of funds can be raised through events.  If you’re close to a shelter which charges high adoption fees, offer to help raise some money – via yard sales, Tastefully Simple parties (or the like), etc.  You can designate these funds to go towards vetting, or towards any other portion of the services you would like.
  2. Limit the animals taken in, or the services provided, or the area covered. Some rescues are overwhelmed by trying to do too much for too many.  Finding even one companion animal a safe place to remain for the rest of their lives is emotional compensation enough.  The few can be hurt, by trying to do too much for the many.


The easiest, and most practical thing to do is to find out what the fees are before you walk in the door.  Many organizations post them on their websites.  Some, however, do not.  So you’ll need to make a phone call to those rescues.  If the fee is more than you’re comfortable paying, look around for more economical organizations.

If you’ve already fallen in love with your new family member, and find out the fee is higher than you can reasonably afford, you have three choices.

  1. You can swallow hard and pay it anyway.
  2. You can try negotiation (I DO NOT recommend this, as many shelters will be insulted and turn you down flat).woman holding dollar bills
  3. Walk away and find your new family member at another organization.  This is probably the best solution.

In no way am I suggesting that shelters who ask for high adoption fees are making money from their adopters – they most certainly are NOT.  If you have the money, it’s certainly a good use for it – please pay the full adoption fee, and help those organizations stay in business.  They do a lot of good.

And, if you adopt from an organization that only asks for a donation, please make it the largest you can reasonably afford, so that they, too, can continue their mission.

What I am saying is, don’t let high adoption fees keep you from rescuing a dog or cat in need – adoption fees vary all over the board and your new furry friend is waiting for you somewhere.

So, what’s your opinion?  How much would you be willing to pay?

Money Photo by Madison Kaminski on Unsplash

Photo of cat with coins by imarksm from Pixabay

Woman holding dollar bills photo by Sabine Peters on Unsplash

pet adoption fees