A “free” dog isn’t the bargain you think: Why rescues charge an adoption fee

I am a foster mom and volunteer with Sit With Me Dog Rescue.  I’m currently fostering this crazy hound/dane mix (he’s a 100 pound puppy!):


As a foster and volunteer, I know first hand how much time, energy, and money goes into a dog rescue.  There are some volunteers within the rescue who literally live and breathe it, plus a network of dozens of other people all contributing in the way they can.

Every so often people complain about the “cost” of adopting a dog.  Hey, I get it. I’d love everything to be free too.  But economics do not allow that. There is a cost to our throwaway society, in which people treat their companion animals like disposable items.  And that cost is largely borne by the shelter system, and the rescues that work tirelessly to save animals from the prick of euthanasia.

And part of that cost, necessarily, is borne by the people who adopt the wonderful dogs who the rescues work so lovingly and diligently with to prepare them to be best dogs they can be.  Sometimes the dogs are shellshocked, and other times they have been dumped off unceremoniously rather than provided with medical care.  The loving arms of rescuers bear a heavy load, and none of them are making a single penny for their troubles.

While I can understand on a base level the rationale that charging less would result in more adoptions, it also will result in bankrupting rescues.  Volunteer-run, limited resource rescues.

Here is a Facebook post that was made to Sit With Me’s Facebook page this morning that explains why adoption fees are so necessary.

We received this email this morning. We thought long and hard about the kind of response that might educate the reason why rescue centers charge an adoption fee, and in this emailers opinion, a ridiculous adoption fee. There is still information we could gave added about how dedicated our volunteers are and how not a single one of us receives a penny for our time (and we cover our own gas for all of the transporting we do too).

We wanted to share the interaction in hopes of helping people understand why our adoption fee is what it is. 

“Hello, I just wanted to say my opinion on something, there are so many families that would adopt a dog but I find the adoption fees absolutely ridiculous. The price for dogs in general are crazy. $400 Is in my opinion too much, $200 would be sufficient to get these dogs adopted. Isn’t that the goal?”

Samantha: A recent Sit With Me intake
Samantha: A recent Sit With Me intake

Sit With Me’s Response:

Thank you for sharing your opinion. Hopefully we can help answer your question.

The simple answer is no. The goal is not to find homes for these dogs for an adoption fee that makes the future of the rescue unsustainable.

The goal is to be a sustainable group that can continue to find the best homes for dogs in need while also providing the dogs with the care previous owners neglected to provide.

$400 does not even begin to cover the cost of the vet care the dogs receive with us. In 2013, for example, on average, each dog cost approximately $1,000 to vet. That means we fundraised and volunteered outside of the regular rescue work to raise the other $600.

You are not paying for the dogs. You are paying for their health checks including vaccinations, vaccination boosters, spays/neuters and their microchip. Ìt is rare though that the dogs don’t need a little extra care such as medication for infections or deworming. In Timn’s case, he needed lumps removed that turned out to be cancerous; thankfully, the margins were good and he is doing well.

We want to be able to continue to give healthy dogs the best homes who will continue to love them as we do. And those homes, by paying the adoption fees are then helping us continue the work we do, saving animals that might never have had another chance (all of our dogs are from shelters where they would have been euthanized in the shelter system).

While you are welcome to purchase from an online ad for a low cost or free pet, beware of both the financial and stress that may come from this. You would have to, assuming you are a responsible owner, get the above vetting done, in at least three different trips to the vet. Four if the dog is a pup. The costs would be over $400. That is of course assuming the dog is healthy to begin with (not all online sales are honest and not all backyard breeders breed with health histories in mind). And beware of puppy mills too where dogs are bred within inches of their lives with rarely any medical needs met. Purchase one of those pups and you make cruelty profitable.

Then there is the issue of behaviour. What is the dog going to be like in a new home? Is he/she crate and/or house trained? Does he/she know commands? How is he/she off leash? Is he/she okay around kids/dogs/cats ? What happens when you take the dog home and you cannot handle the dog whatsoever? If you paid an a fee to a shelter, they will want you to return the dog but most will not return the fee. And if you purchased the dog online, often the previous folks disappear or tell you this is now your problem, which it is. Buyer beware.

We know our dogs. We provide them full vetting. We can tell you what works for them and what doesn’t. We help match you to a dog that will fit your lifestyle needs. You adopt a dog but you gain a support system and a community of dog lovers who, should you need advice going forward, we can either provide it or direct you to the right sources. You also receive an extendable week long trial to see if the dog you adopt is a fit in your home too. This means the financial commitment you make will not force you to keep a dog who is not a fit.

So all in all, we feel we have a very sustainable program for the wellbeing of our dogs, to not be tossed around ever again. And that is our goal.

Thanks for listening and we hope this makes sense to you and changes your views on what rescue is all about.

(PS If you want to adopt Gendry the hound/dane, email adopt@sitwithme.ca)


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