Thursday, February 18, 2010

How Much Does a Pet Cost?

AARF is raising our adoption fees. Starting March 1, adoption fees for dogs will be $225 and cats will be $150.

I know there will be complaints. I know some of our supporters will say those fees are too high. I have heard it before - "If you really want to find homes for those pets, why don't you just give them away or charge what the shelters charge?"

Do you know how much it costs to rescue a pet and get him/her ready for a new home? The ASPCA has a detailed chart outlining the costs of a new pet. For dogs, the estimated first year cost is between $1314 and $1843. For cats, the first year cost is $1035. This costs include spay/neuter, initial vaccines, supplies, food, ongoing medical cost, bowls, collars, etc.

For each pet in the AARF program, we provide spay/neuter, full vaccines, testing for heartworms for dogs and FIV/FeLV for cats, and a microchip. We also buy them all collars, leashes, litter boxes, and toys. And we feed them every day. And if an emergency arises, we cover those medical costs, too.

Our intial vetting costs are approximately $350 per dog and $300 per cat (and these are prices with generous discounts from our partner veterinarians and spay/neuter clinics). Even if we had no other costs, the newly raised adoption fee won't cover the vetting costs. And rarely do the expenses stop there. Pets coming out of shelters almost always have respiratory infections. Many dogs need training to help with socialization to get them ready for a new home. Sometimes they need to be boarded when the foster parent is out of town. All dogs need heartworm preventative medication. And every pet needs to eat, every day.

AARF spends about $700-$800 per year per dog and $600-$700 per year per cat while they wait for new homes. Some are more, much more, very few are less. So, we "lose" about $500 with every adoption. If we were running a business, we would have shut down years ago.

Thankfully, we have incredibly generous donors and great fundraising planners, and we somehow find ways to make up a lot of that $500 loss. But we don't always, and we rely on the flexibility of others who help us get these pets ready for new homes to keep doing the work we do.

So, is it wrong to ask the new families to contribute $25 more toward the cost of getting their new pet healthy, socialized and ready for their home? If someone walks away from a pet over the raised adoption fee, they probably would also walk away from a pet when he or she is sick or needs training or needs extra care.

I never want AARF to be accused of making it too expensive to adopt a pet. We aren't trying to make money, or eliminate adopters because they can't pay the adoption fee. But even at the new prices of $225 for dogs and $150 for cats, our adopters are getting a deal.

** On a side note, I don't mind if AARF is accused of being too stringent or having too difficult of an adoption process. Read our volunteer director Melanie's thoughts about "tough" adoption policies, and why we feel our process is so critical. **

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