How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog?

adopt a dog vector

It may sound cliché but the best part about adoption is really having the chance to give dogs a second chance at life. With animal shelters having no choice but to euthanize around 3 million cats and dogs every year due to overpopulation, you can’t help but feel a sense of pride in having been able to do your part.

In addition, adoption will cost you so much less than buying from a pet store or from a breeder. So, not only do you get to save a life, you get to save money too.

Buying vs. Adopting

Whether buying or adopting, acquisition costs fall along with a wide range of costs, depending on the specific dog, the breed, age, and where you get them from, which are all big factors.

Breeders and pet shops usually charge premium prices for dogs as they either have or claim quality pedigree lines – with individual dogs costing as much as $500 to $2,000.

However, this does not preclude these dogs from the other maintenance costs listed above, nor does it mean that they’ll not have other medical issues in the future. In fact, in modern welfare circles, it’s now seen as unhealthier for dogs to be specifically bred along lines and that mixed-breed ‘mutts’ are likely healthier.

Animal shelters and rescue groups will almost always have lower fees for their animals as they are not for profit and the animals are strays or have otherwise unknown backgrounds.

Save a Dog, Save on Cost!

Dog adoption fees typically range from $50 to $300, depending on the animal and the area you are in. Sometimes, it’s even free for senior dogs and less desirable breeds.

But it could even reach up to $400 or more if spayed/neutered, vaccinated, microchipped, and health checked or when getting the dog from breed-specific rescue groups. If you are in a small city where it simply has a lower supply of dogs coming into the shelter, costs may be higher.

The specific cost will depend on both the age and breed of the dog. Puppies are the most expensive because they are the most in demand and will cover the upper range of the price – costing between $200 to $300.

Smaller breed dogs are also more costly than larger breed ones because they are more likely to be adopted. These dogs will fall between $100 to $200 on average.

Large breed and senior dogs would be on the lower end of the price range – anywhere between $50 to $150.

Now, the cost to adopt a dog depends on whether you adopt from a shelter or a rescue group. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages, so better learn the relevant facts first before making a decision.

  • Municipal Animal Shelters

Municipal animal shelters or “dog pounds” are government-funded establishments where stray animals are kept. While numerous charity shelters adhere to a “no-kill” policy, most municipal shelters still resort to euthanasia to address overpopulation and contagious diseases. Luckily, this has decreased over the years as a positive effect of adoption and sterilization of pets.

There is minimal screening process when adopting from a municipal shelter, thus, doing so is relatively easy. The cost is also generally cheaper. Some dogs would have already been dewormed and spayed or neutered, so that’s less cost for you.

The drawback of adopting from a shelter is that you will get little to no information about the dog’s traits and history. Dogs from shelters are stessed and in close quarters with other dogs, so they are more likely to be sickly.

The cost of dog adoption varies from shelter to shelter. For instance, Kenai Animal Shelter in Alaska charges a small adoption fee of around $20. Adopting at Seattle Animal Shelter in Washington, on the other hand, ranges from $100 to $375, inclusive of spay/neuter surgery and vaccinations, among others.

  • Rescue Groups

Meanwhile, rescue groups are non-profit organizations fully committed to caring for abandoned and abused animals. Euthanasia is never an option for them; that is why they usually require monetary donations from benefactors.

Some rescue groups operate an animal shelter while others have a network of foster families for their dogs. Rescue groups may focus on local dogs, dogs from far away or even specific breeds.

Pet adoption cost from a rescue group might be more expensive than adopting from a shelter, but its extensive screening process allows you to find the perfect match of a pet for you. Plus, rescue groups tend to have the pets fully checked by the vets before offering them to the public – from vaccinations, heartworm treatments, blood works, to as serious as surgical removal of tumors; they got it all covered.

There are numerous adoption agencies available for you to choose from.

To give you an idea, here are some of their rates:

  • Peppermint Pig Animal Rescue in Ohio: $95 – $150
  • TLC Animal Shelter in Illinois: $175
  • Tails of the City Animal Rescue in California: $300
  • Animal League in Port Washington, New York: $100 – $350
  • Animal Haven in New York, New York: $295 – $450

choosing a dog in an animal shelter

What Do These Facilities Invest in Dogs?

The good thing about getting a dog from a shelter or a rescue is that many of the initial medical costs are actually already covered by them such as preliminary vaccines and more significantly, spay/neuter surgeries.

These organizations can invest anywhere from $200 to $500 into each dog before you even see them, so adopting from them is economically a great option. For animals with very complicated medical concerns, facilities with animal clinics may spend even thousands of dollars on the cost of surgeries and follow up management and care.

More than half of the states in the US have laws requiring all animals to be spayed or neutered before they can leave a shelter. This is not only beneficial from a welfare viewpoint but very convenient as it eliminates the need for a new owner to arrange the procedure at a private veterinary clinic.

If you do need your dog fixed though, one would expect to pay depending on the location of the clinic. Fixing a female dog, also known as spaying, also costs more than neutering a male dog, as the surgery is more complicated to perform.

Many humane societies do offer low-cost spay/neuter services however, so researching what is available in your area is key. If you are adopting a puppy, it will likely be fixed as long as it’s at least 2 months old.

Other Potential Costs When Adopting a Dog

Under the assumption that the dog has not received the full essential pet care treatment yet, here are the things you need to provide for your new pet:

  • Vaccines – Puppies generally will receive between 5-7 vaccines up until they are 4 months old. After that, it’s commonly recommended to get booster vaccines every 1-3 years depending on the vaccine. The core vaccines include the distemper combination vaccine and the rabies vaccine. Expect to spend around $50 to $125 for initial shots and $40 to $100 for any boosters that may be required.
  • Deworming – Deworming medication is applied several times for preventative care. Puppies generally need 8 doses of dewormer up until they are 6 months old. Dewormer can be given at the vaccine appointment and costs around $5 to $30. Adult dogs only need dewormer at most once a year, but it is ultimately up to the owner.
  • Sterilization – Some people choose to have their pooch sterilized for its health benefits. Most shelters will already have your dog spayed or neutered before you adopt. The cost of spaying or neutering varies greatly depending on the dogs size, age and what kind of clinic.
  • Microchip – If you would like to be able to track your dog, you could pay for microchipping services and give you peace of mind in the unfortunate event that your fur baby goes missing. You can avail this service starting at $30 to $60 while some agencies offer this for free.
  • Licenses – Certain areas in the US require dogs to obtain licenses. Typical cost is around $10 to $20 but could reach up to $100 in some states for unaltered ones.
  • Dog Training – Many dog-owners seek professional help to make their pets well-behaved and potty-trained. Private lessons cost around $65 to $175 per hour and $150 to $200 for group classes. For people who work during the day, using a dog walker or dog walking service is usually the most convenient option, and they usually will cost $14 to $40 per walk.
  • Food – Your dog is going to through major changes so try not to overwhelm it so much. Feed it its usual food for the first few days or so – make sure to ask the shelter for this information.

Most estimates of monthly food costs are between $20 to $50. Dog food prices range from around $4 for 12.5-oz can to around $50 for a 22-lb pack.

Parting Words

Dog adoption has become increasingly popular nowadays. Many believe that it is a better option than buying a brand-new dog because of the countless homeless dogs that need a family to welcome them into their home.

It may seem logical to think about what we can save upfront in acquiring a pet, but the real pet adoption price is what we have to spend once we bring our pet at home. Sometimes, even the cost of the dog becomes irrelevant once we faced the reality of pet care in terms of money and time we need to spend for them afterward.

But at the end of it all, whatever you have invested to a pet becomes immaterial once we realized the intangibles it brings to us – joy and unconditional love.

Animals are entitled to the so-called five freedoms when under the ownership of people: freedom from hunger and thirst, from discomfort, from pain, from fear and stress, and the ability to express normal behavior.

If you have decided that you can provide a rescue dog with these five needs, then you deserve a pat on the back – what you are about to do is an incredible act. You are not only taking on a huge responsibility, but you are actually saving a dog from misery and possible death.

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