Unwilling: The Bias Against Poor People Who Want to Save Shelter Pets

The Grayson Co Humane Society in KY expresses the following popular belief on its website:

If a new owner is unwilling to pay very much for an animal, it’s likely they’d also be unwilling to pay for proper care in the future – such as heartworm and flea/tick prevention, proper food, and vaccinations.

I have raged against versions of this false and discriminatory belief for years.  Not only is the claim itself baseless, it costs shelter animals their lives.  This occurs either as a direct result of steep adoption fees – because shelters kill animals instead of allowing them to be adopted for reduced or waived fees, or as an indirect result – because rescue groups tie up foster home space with animals they require exorbitant fees in order to adopt while saying they are unable to pull more animals off death row at their local pound as they have no space.  In both cases, healthy/treatable pets are being killed and I am opposed to that.  Therefore, I want to grind this myth into the dirt.

As animal advocate Christie Keith notes on her Dogged blog:

[L]et’s look at the idea that people don’t value pets they haven’t paid for.

We know this is not true because of the data that exists on this topic, looking at pets acquired for free at special adoption events.

We also know it’s not true because the single category of pet least likely to end up in a shelter is a pet given as a gift.

And every one of us involved in rescue should know it’s not true because we have houses full of pets we got for free, who we’d do anything for. I certainly never loved my free pets less than my adoption-fee or breeder-obtained pets. I never spent less money on them, treated them less well, or fought less fiercely to save them from illness and injury.

And really, by that logic, pets from puppy mill outlets should be considered the most precious of all, as they cost the most to obtain. Do you believe that to be true? I didn’t think so.

What I’m saying is this: Organizations should seriously question whether or not adoption fees are interfering with the fulfillment of their mission.

And while animal welfare groups are at it, I hope they will consider Christie’s recommendations for generating revenue outside of adoption fees and why this makes a world of sense.

For the record, I love my free pets unconditionally.  I specifically sought out a pet with a reduced/waived adoption fee when I was last looking for a pet.  The backlash for doing so consisted of a number of people who don’t know me condemning me as an animal abuser, hoarder, etc.  Some vowed to add my name to their Do Not Adopt lists and to circulate warnings against me to rescue groups in hopes of preventing me from obtaining a pet.  My reason for wanting a pet that cost very little money (which no one asked me) was that I don’t have much and the less I spend on adoption fees, the more I have to put into vet care and related expenses.  Responsible and sensible – not in any way “unwilling to pay for proper care”.

Ultimately I got a shelter dog for free and gave the person who volunteered to transport her to me the cash I had set aside for an adoption fee.  She expressed her surprise and gratitude, noting that not only would it help her with the cost of gas but also the cost of a new tire she had to put on her vehicle that morning.  And because it wasn’t a large amount of money, I was able to pay for the vet care the dog so desperately needed right away.

For those who condemn poor people as being “unwilling to pay for proper care”, you have a lot to learn.  I hope you step outside of your tiny box and see compassionate pet lovers as they really are very soon – before too many more animals die as a result of your bigotry.  People of all income levels love animals and want to save them from being needlessly killed at so-called shelters.  Let them.

60 thoughts on “Unwilling: The Bias Against Poor People Who Want to Save Shelter Pets

  1. My thought is thus: Over at the low cost spay/neuter clinic, we get daily calls from people who want free heartworm meds, free vaccines, free spay/neuter surgeries… because they have limited incomes/receive disability/are single parents/on unemployment/receive public assistance and they RESCUED the animal in question and so there should be free services available. If these folks can’t afford an $80 dog spay or a $15 rabies vaccine, then they didn’t rescue the animal in question and don’t need a pet. Then there are the ones who call wanting us to treat a sick or injured animal – again for free, for the same reasons outlined above – and they get VERY upset when we tell them we don’t treat sick or injured animals, with the inevitable exclamation of, “But I RESCUED this puppy and I can’t AFFORD vet care, so you HAVE to help me!” So no, after hearing these same sob stories over and over and over, day in and day out, no, no, I do not believe poor people need pets.

    1. Whether you believe we need them or not, we HAVE them. Coming up with solutions to the problems you encounter would be useful. Decreeing something that will never happen is not.

      1. Exactly. That’s why I contribute to the “pay it forward” TNR program in my area – to pay for TNR costs for people who couldn’t otherwise afford it (and be fair – if someone dumps a momcat and her six kittens on your property, even low cost s/n is going to add up FAST), but want to do the right thing.

        Start a program where donors can help out in paying for services (“want to help, but can’t adopt or foster right now? Pay it forward – help someone keep their pet out of the shelter with our new program!”). Get sponsors to back it. Apply for grants (both to back your program and emergency care grants like IMOM’s LuvBug grant if it’s an immediately life threatening condition).

        Make it work.

      2. My vet sometimes treats pets for free. I know this because they have a sign up on the counter for a fund named in honor of one of these animals. Customers are invited to donate to the fund if they would like to help cover some of the costs associated with providing care for these patients. Every animal related business that occassionally provides free services could do this same thing. To me, it makes me like my vet that much more to think of her as a compassionate person who, in addition to running a business, also sometimes donates services and goods for pets in need. And setting up the fund is way more productive than putting up a sign saying “Poor people do not need to have pets” or whatever. It’s one solution to a common problem, instead of a complaint about it.

    2. Do you think it’s better to kill animals than to adopt them out with no or reduced adoption fees? And are you assuming that these people demanding free services represent the majority of poor people?

      IMO this is the crux of it – “… the less I spend on adoption fees, the more I have to put into vet care and related expenses.” This applies to almost everyone, not just poor people. Most of us have limited incomes (do you know a lot of people who have unlimited incomes?) and have to make choices about how we spend our money. That’s what budgeting means – if I spend more on x I have to spend less on y. Less money spent on adoption fees means more money for other things that will benefit the pet, whether that’s vet care, beds, toys, whatever.

    3. a lot of senior citizens on a small income, take care of a vast amount of the feral cat colonies in my town. I do not judge them, or expect this to go on for ever. if all of us could at least volunteer our free time or donate to these great people, less animals will be unwanted. or even killed.that is not hard to do. but we choose to complain and go on about how others care for their animals. Lets be positive and take action!

    4. If the animal would have otherwise died in a shelter, then yes, the owner DID rescue them. Even if that animal then goes on to develop an ailment that the owner can’t pay to fix, and the animal is humanely euthanized so they don’t suffer…the owner STILL rescued them.

      I used to feel the same….but in the end, we can’t say animals are dying for lack of homes and then cut out a large segment of the population at the same time. A shorter life filled with love is in fact better than no life at all. That we’ve forgotten this is something I can’t condone.

      My JJ was a ‘free’ cat. To date, he’s cost me well over 30,000 (and that’s not counting routine care, only his surgeries and emergency expenses.) But let’s say that after the first 10,000 (or 5,000, or 2,000) I simply couldn’t afford to do it anymore. Let’s say that first 10,000 resulted in five years of life….would he not have been ‘rescued’? If the ONLY operation I could have paid for was to remove his infected eyes, but I couldn’t also afford to neuter him or vaccinate him…would he not have been rescued? If I had to ask others for help to cover that 30,000…would he not have been rescued?

      1. To add, because I know some people would see 10,000 or 2,000 dollars being too much as reasonable, but would still say someone who can’t pay $80 shouldn’t have a pet…

        Where, then, is the line? WHY is not being able to afford very high treatment like chemo or MRIs reasonable, but not being able to treat severe diabetes or manage or parvo is not, and means the animal would have been better off euthanized years before that point? There’s always someone else would could have done more.

  2. Yeah, like the guy in Memphis who was “unwilling” to pay $889 to get his three dogs back. Just because he can’t cough up almost $900 on the spot doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love and care for his pets.

    I have seen people sell their belongings to pay for vet bills. I’ve seen people hold bake sales, take second jobs, and take out loans to pay for vet bills. I’ve seen people jump through all kinds of hoops to pay for vet bills to get their animals the care they need.

    These people are good pet owners. For a shelter to dismiss them as “not good enough” for a pet is just plain wrong.

  3. “Amen”!! I cant “like” this blog topic enough! Drives me nuts to hear people say that! My Sadie Sue was a free adoption as she was a Lonely Heart Club Member (at UPAWS for over 60 days). All UPAWS Lonely Hearts are free adoptions (paid for by a local business and by sponsors). I paid it forward by sponsoring another cats adoption fee. But even if I hadn’t sponsored another cat it would be ok – Sadie Sue needed a good home and I was happy to give her that. Why have these wonderful pets sit in a shelter or worst at other shelters (not UPAWS) be killed. It makes zero sense! So why not reduce or have no fee rates and help them find loving homes – It is so backward to say if you are not a certain level income you wont care for the pet! Or if you didnt pay $$ for the pet you wont care for it! WHAT?? Our shelter staff does not make much at all and they would do anything to care for their personal pets! Plus yes, they are young and in college – oh no!! Another no no! Bottom line, please dont judge!

  4. I want to make it clear that I am not wealthy, and thanks to the economy I am no longer even middle class. I have done without a great deal to make sure my kids and pets are taken care of. I have seven dogs and three cats. All are altered at my expense; all are utd on vaccines & hw meds; all get annual hw checks; all at my expense. I would give every one of them up if I were no longer able to see to these basic needs. One of the dogs has chronic demodex – another was badly injured in a fight – I paid for every last cent of their care out of my pocket. In the event of catastrophic injury or illness, there are grants available – but even then I would pay as much as I could of the expenses myself.

    As for those people not representing the poor – four to six calls each day are from people expecting free care. That adds up to a pretty fair percentage. And think of this: Is it kinder to give a pup to someone who can’t afford basic exams, and have that pup die of parvo – or is it better for that pup to be euthanized and spared that agonizing death? If you could see the gross neglect that I see every day, you might change your opinions. Go drive around a poor neighborhood – those dogs tied to trees are the norm, not the exception, and I’m willing to wager money I don’t have that most of them have never seen a vet.

    As for not valuing “free” pets – Two of my dogs are foundlings; the other five are from the shelter. My cats are all three foundlings. I never said I valued the “free” ones more than the ones I got from the shelter. The best (and by far the most expensive) dog I’ve ever had was a “free to good home” puppy. She had lymphoma & was euthanized 2 1/2 years ago and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. It’s not what you pay to obtain an animal that matters – it’s what you’re willing/able to sacrifice for that animal that counts, and if you can’t afford a $15 rabies vaccine, you’re not doing that animal any favors.

    1. “I want to make it clear that I am not wealthy, and thanks to the economy I am no longer even middle class. I have done without a great deal to make sure my kids and pets are taken care of.”

      Ok, so you’re saying that you’re poor, and your pets are well taken care of. Your point is…?

      “As for those people not representing the poor – four to six calls each day are from people expecting free care. That adds up to a pretty fair percentage.”

      Does it really? How are you doing this math? What percentage do you think it represents, and do you really think it’s fair or reasonable to paint all poor people with this same brush?

      “Is it kinder to give a pup to someone who can’t afford basic exams, and have that pup die of parvo – or is it better for that pup to be euthanized and spared that agonizing death?”

      False dilemma and appeal to emotion – two logical fallacies in one sentence. Nicely done!

      “Go drive around a poor neighborhood – those dogs tied to trees are the norm, not the exception, and I’m willing to wager money I don’t have that most of them have never seen a vet.”

      Are you assuming I never drive around poor neighborhoods? I live in a socioeconomically mixed area in East Austin – my street is relatively wealthy, but as you go south (and to some degree east) it gets poorer and poorer. I’m about two blocks from a poor area, and there are patches of them all around me. I drive, walk, and bicycle through them quite often. I walk my dogs through “poor neighborhoods.” I have found and returned dogs to people in “poor neighborhoods.” I don’t see this rampant neglect and abuse you’re referring to. I do know some people who leave their dogs outside a little more than I think they should, but that’s not unique to any particular demographic.

      “It’s not what you pay to obtain an animal that matters – it’s what you’re willing/able to sacrifice for that animal that counts, and if you can’t afford a $15 rabies vaccine, you’re not doing that animal any favors.”

      It seems like you’re kind of missing the whole point.

    2. So, you’re poor, and take good care of your pets; you’re not the problem.

      It’s all those OTHER icky poor people who are beneath you who can’t be trusted with pets. Pets whom you would rather kill than let go to homes of people–just like you.

      If someone finds the food to feed their pets, gets them the vet care they need no matter who pays the bill, is a loving advocate for their pets’ needs, gets frankly and obviously upset when they think they’ve connected with what their pet needs and find out they haven’t–that’s not what I consider an unworthy pet owner.

      And there’s that awkward little fact that freecpets are not more likely to be surrendered, and gifts are the least likely to be surrendered.

      Your preference for killing animals rather than let them go to homes you perceive as being beneath your social class is noted.

    3. You realize you are arguing that you yourself obviously don’t value your pets, since you got some of them free? That’s the entire point…the arbitrary and unfair assumption that if someone can’t pay a large adoption fee, or simply doesn’t WANT TO because they would rather use the money to more directly benefit the animal…they don’t deserve to have that animal. You can’t apply that standard to others, but not yourself fairly. By your own standards, EVERY pet adopted should come with a high price tag as ‘proof’ the owner is capable of later paying more…including all of your own pets.

  5. It’s evident to me that I’m addressing people who have never had to realistically consider the true impact of poverty on pets. If someone cannot afford to pay her own rent or buy her own groceries, then how is she going to take care of a pet? Anyone?

    1. Heather – It’s possibly true that everyone here except you is wrong. Or possibly that’s not true.

      I have not only considered the true impact of being low income on pets, I have lived it. I am living it.

    2. “It’s evident to me that I’m addressing people who have never had to realistically consider the true impact of poverty on pets.”

      Really? Just because somebody doesn’t come to the same conclusions as you do about something doesn’t mean they’ve never realistically had to consider it. As a matter of fact you are addressing people who have been or currently are poor pet owners. And your question has already been answered – people who care about their pets will make sacrifices to take care of them.

      1. BTW this should be obvious, but by “poor pet owners” I mean low income, not bad at owning pets. Some people apparently think those are the same thing, but obvs my point is that they’re not.

    3. Sweetheart, you’re talking yo an audience of people active in pet rescue, a fair number of whom, including your hostess, are low income.

      It’s possible we’re not the ones who have failed to think this through.

    4. Which is why we need programs like food banks, low cost/free s/n, pay it forward vet programs. These things help keep animals out of the shelters and in their homes. Pet retention.

      And sometimes people simply don’t know any better – they don’t know what kind of regular vet care is needed. They don’t know about s/n. This is simply a matter of education.

      The rest – the bad pet owners whether rich or poor – who fail to make their pets a priority in their lives, who know better, but don’t try to do better, they’re just assholes. And last I looked, those happen across all socioeconomic classes.

      1. pet food banks, low cost pet clinics are a great thing. We all need to volunteer so the ones that can not afford pet care can access these services at a reduced or even free fee. I m so lucky to help out and see that the so called poor, are able to keep their pets . and not be shamed by the local ANIMAL CONTROL front counter agents processing the surrender forms!

  6. oh, my – I am SOOO glad that this was posted in your blog. The ‘cost’ of an animal absolutely does NOT make a difference in the care it receives… I work mainly with birds, but the principle is the same. I take the same (hopefully excellent ) care of the birds that I purchased from a local parrot rehoming organization as I do for the birds I purchased from bird stores as I do for the ones that were given to me because the original owners were no longer able to keep them.

    I do believe that people need to have some sort of an ’emergency’ account, whether that is a credit card, separate bank account or ‘piggy bank’ fund in case of emergencies. But I also truly believe that the majority of people DO.

    So many generalizations in the name of ‘saving animals’ that are just not, in the long run, any benefit to the actual animals.

    1. I am low income, foster animals till they find there forever homes. I don’t have a credit care, don’t have money set aside, but what I do have is a very large net work of friends and I have raised thousands of dollars in the last year and a half for non-emergencies surgeries to improve the quality of life for animals in my care There is help out there and people willing to help with funding. All you have to do is look and ask..

  7. I have certainly never been wealthy, and have been pretty darn poor most my adult life but I have always found a way to pay for my pet’s needs. All my foster kittens/cats I adopt out are free, with donations appreciated. I got $0 from one adopter, who went on to spend $800 on vet care to treat his allergies (she knew he had allergy issues prior to adoption.) I actually just talked to her yesterday and this little kitten, who I got out of the shelter the night before he was supposed to be euthanized, who weighed in at under a pound at 10 weeks old and had about 10 different things wrong with him is now alive, healthy, 11 pounds and her best friend in the world. She is low income, on only social security, and cares for him better than some care for their children. He was free.

    Some very poor people won’t care for their pets. Some very wealthy people won’t care for their pets. Income doesn’t really have much to do with it at all. I helped trap cats at a massive estate a few months ago… The owner was a doctor, their cars cost more than my home. They had never bothered to spay their outdoor cat and had a population explosion.

  8. I’m so glad to see this post, but I’m also sad that this continues to need to be said, and that there are still people who think low-income people shouldn’t be allowed to have pets. And as mikken said, we need to have more programs such as free s/n, food banks, and other assistance programs. We have those for humans, and should have them for non-humans as well.

    1. yes, and is so easy to help people and animals in need. prevention is key, be a good neighbor, do not judge, j
      help animals in need ignore peoples criticisms!

  9. My county has a program started by volunteers.. “Caswell Pet Lifeline” They help provide food for pet owners to keep pets being surrendered to the shelter, they spay/neuter low cost every Tuesday, they trap spay/neuter feral cats… If your county doesn’t have help for low income people .. start a program !!!

  10. Every time you talk about this I repost it on FB. And it usually means I will lose some followers. People hate this story. But if I lose some I always get some to see why saving lives is primary, and you don’t have to be rich to care about homeless pets. Posted again!

  11. I know a number of well off people who shouldn’t have pets, and a number of poor people who make their care a huge part of their budget, then have a catastrophic illness hit the pet,. Those folks NEED HELP.

    One very well off guy had a German shepherd. She had a growth on her withers. He wouldn’t spend the $300-400 to have it removed. It started weeping from the skin splitting, and as she lived outdoors, got maggot infested. I cleaned it up when he came mooching to me, a vet tech neighbor, and told him to at the least, clean it daily with iodine soap. Three months later he called me in a panic. She was on the verge of death. He’d slacked off cleaning it, and she was maggot infested and septic, and smelled like rotten meat. I told him to take her to be euthanized. He blubbered that he couldn’t because he LOVES her. So once again, I cleaned her up, expressing maggots out of her living flesh, washing pus and filth out of her coat and skin, gave her antibiotics, and kept her for a week recuperating. I told him that no matter what, (I was renting my home from this jerk) if he brought her back like this again, I was turning him in for abuse. All it took was a daily cleansing with betadine to stop this. But four months later she was dead. I was told she smelled and was maggot infested again.

    Income does NOT make a difference in the quality of a pet owner. Compassion, effort, and care does. Some folks deserve the help, and I will do all I can for them. Others deserve to rot in hell.

  12. I’m not trying to say what’s right or what’s wrong, but with your recent adoption – had ALL of the vet work been done prior would you be more willing to pay an adoption fee? Like, pending no accidents or out of the ordinary sickness if you didn’t have to bring your dog in for anything until her next round of shots are due in a year or 3 years depending how you roll because the group/shelter had incurred all of these expenses and guaranteed that everything had been taken care of? (I know your girl was skinny and had parasites so all of this would of been taken care of including a spay/dental/worming/treatment/any surgery)….Just curious.

    1. That is a good and fair question with perhaps a longer answer than you might desire. *If* a rescue group sent out a plea that said something like: We’ve had this dog for several months. She has been vaccinated, x-rayed, heartworm tested and is on preventive. Her infected ears have been flushed under anesthesia and treated with 3 different medications to resolve the problems. She has had blood work run several times and been treated for both chronic anemia and lepto. When she was healthy enough, we had her spayed and microchipped. She now appears to be healthy, no longer leaks urine and does not have any vet care needs anticipated before her next rabies booster in 8 months.

      I would agree that sounds like a dog in good shape who has been well cared for by the rescue group. And if they wanted to charge say, $350 for her, that would be a bargain when viewed against the cost of the vet care if I would have had to pay for it myself. Here is where the BUT comes in for me:

      No one can guarantee (and I don’t expect them to) that the dog will not need vet care for 8 months. It’s possible she could begin leaking urine again tomorrow or the chronic anemia could return or because she was in such poor health to begin with, some other issue could become apparent that wasn’t obvious before.

      Secondly, producing the lump sum of cash for the adoption would not be possible for me. In the case of my vet, she works with me either by allowing me to make payments or by focusing treatment on the most urgent needs and tackling problems over time, by setting priorities and discussing options. I never had to pay her an amount like $350 all at once and was still able to get the dog the care she needed.

      I hope I explained that in a way that makes sense. To my mind, this underscores the need for rescue groups to generate revenue through means other than adoption fees. In the case of my dog, they wouldn’t be able to charge what they spent on vet care for an adoption fee. So they are already subsidizing at least some of their costs. If they were to revamp their business model and generate most or all of their revenue from sources other than adoption fees, they would also be opening up an avenue for increased adoptions and increased lifesaving by being able to adopt to people like me.

      1. It’s a good answer and I”m glad it’s long. Do I feel if a pets life is in danger that adoption fees should be waived and all effort to get said pet out the door should be made, yes. However I’m with a teeeeeeeny adoption group in Canada and we do charge an adoption fee. It’s very low in comparison with other groups in the area – $220 for pets 7+ $275 for pets 6 and under. We microchip, vaccinate, worm, spay/neuter and do a dental if needed – this costs us about $400+ for a male dog and $600+ for a female, plus if anything else is wrong at that time we take care of it. One dog who had been kicked in the face and had a broken tooth, infection, issues down south and some other things that needed to be taken care of in addition to the regular stuff, cost us about $2500 with a rescue discount – we adopted her out at $275. Some dogs don’t require a lot of vet care (the few owner returns in good shape that we get back, most need dentals though….) but these dogs help off set the dogs like the one above. We do try to generate funds via other means – donations, auctions, picnics etc. but that $220-$275 helps when we get slammed by dogs with major medical needs (dentals, OY!).

        While I agree that you can never predict the future as far as your animal’s health, having an adoption group eat those initial cots (getting the pet healthy and sterilizing it) for a minimal adoption fee is actually cheaper than doing it on your own. I essentially tell people that they’re getting a fully vetted pet at an extremely discounted rate, they’re free to shop around and see how much it would be to get all the vet work done themselves. My dogs aren’t in danger of being put down though, they’ll stay in foster care until a great family is found for them.

      2. This goes back to examining your group’s mission. If your goal is to help a select few animals (e.g. only purebred Flatcoated Retrievers who wind up homeless) and hold them for as long as it takes for someone to meet your requirements, including the adoption fee, then you are succeeding. If your goal is to save as many lives as possible from death row at your local pound, you may need to re-examine your methods.

      3. On the other hand, when I adopted a purebred cat – my first Sphynx – from breed rescue, there was only a nominal adoption fee because the rescue network at that time preferred to get cats into homes quickly rather than foster them for a long time. To facilitate that, however, potential adopters signed onto a waiting list and were vetted well in advance.

        I’m not at all sure this would work for any but a small-volume rare-breed rescue, though.

  13. Unfortunately, I have seen many rescues/animal advocates speak of not wanting to adopt out to “poor people who can’t afford their pets” and “sending them to the same conditions that brought them to the shelter.” Many times this is code word for not wanting to adopt out to minorities. I’ve seen some very ugly statements and actions made by these folks. The sad thing is that kind-hearted poor people are our best opportunity to gain market share from backyard breeders and reduce shelter intakes in the long-run (i.e. adopt out sterilized animals instead of intact animals).

    1. That is a very good consideration. I’ve seen many lower income families who dote on the family pet, and they are eager to learn when you offer them some information about how to take better care of their animal. They will sell things, offer to work off their pet’s vet bill, and borrow to make their pet well. Their dogs are a source of friendship to lower income kids that doesn’t judge their clothes, shoes, and toys by what they cost…or judge anything at all, for that matter. And if the kids are lucky enough to run into the right person, the dogs can introduce the kids to things like obedience and agility training, giving interested kids a way to have fun and even start a career. There is scientific proof that petting a dog can lower blood pressure and improve moods in people. Saying a ‘poor person’ won’t take good enough care of a pet is garbage.

  14. Yeah, seeing this go negative, so much for trying to strike up a positive dialogue from both sides of the coin. Fact is had you adopted your dog through certain organizations that initial cost that you were saving to put towards her care at your vet wouldn’t of been necessary, it would of been done. We adopt to low income, we adopt to people without fences, single, students, apartments, people with young kids as long as the dog is kid safe, cats, other dogs etc. Does the older big black male dog sit in adoption for a while? Yeah, because we had no inquiries on him. I’ve turned down ONE adoption in the time I’ve been doing this and it wasn’t because of the people (who were welcome to adopt a different dog), it was because of the dog who had special adoption rules due to the fact she’s a trained coyote killing dog and should never be let off lead in a dog park and had to go with someone who understood prey-drive. But yeah, okay – assumptions all around.

    1. But you can never guarantee that all of the vet care is done. Anything can come up at any time, and again, the more spent on the adoption fee, the less there is left for future vet care. As for only having turned down one adoption, you seem to be missing the point that your high adoption fees are turning people away before you ever even see them.

      1. I’m looking at a bill for the last dog we got – just for the vaccinations, neuter and a microchip it was $653.64 (Don’t believe me? I can scan it and post it). Had we not done this, this cost would of been passed onto the next family who took this boy in – in reality our $275 is actually more low-income friendly than getting an dog with no vetting for free and taking on the vet expense yourself. No you can’t guarantee a dog’s health forever but you can take care of the basics and anything that’s wrong at that moment (Dentals, hernia, worms, fleas, ticks, broken bones, etc), when in reality would need to be taken care of by whoever took in the dog anyway.

      2. I understand treating dogs costs money, and that even your high fees may be less than the cost to to the owner to have everything done themselves. However, the way most rescues work here is that most of the cost is covered by various types of fundraising other than the adoption fees, and the adoption fees are much lower. IOW you can get a fully vetted dog from a rescue for $50-100. Sometimes you can get fully vetted dog from the municipal shelter for $0. Their usual adoption fee is $75, but they do free events when they get too full, and right now they’re running a $20 holiday special.

      3. Agreed, sarahjaneb. My local SPCA is running a “home for the holidays” special – all animals (s/n, vetted) over a year old are free to approved applicants. They state that they will gladly accept donations though, if you want to donate. Kittens are reduced fees at $40. And they’re open Christmas Eve 12-5.

        It’s like Shirley says – depends on what your goal is – and if it’s to get as many animals into homes as possible, then making animals inexpensive/free is a good way to do it.

  15. Fact is (at least in Canada) I can’t afford to get a dog with no vetting and have all the work done, I can afford the $275 adoption fee though.

  16. I foster for a small local rescue. It’s just one woman doing as much as she can. The adoption fee she charges is just enough to fully vet the dogs she rescues (but its still capped at $200 so even if it costs above and beyond that it doesnt go up). All dogs get fixed and all their shots. Every now and then she gets a dog in that doesn’t need all that and she will let that dog go for free. But as most in rescue know, it’s not often dogs don’t need some vet care. Without adoption fees dogs don’t get the vet care they need when pulled from kill shelters (did you know there’s also fees for rescues to save dogs from kill shelters? They are called pull fees). If more people donated to local rescues maybe this plan of “no adoption fees” would work but they don’t! At least not enough to save as many dogs as the adoption fees enable them to. As a foster mom I already spend a lot of my own money on food for my foster pups and gas to help transport dogs to the vet and what not. I’m tired of hearing about so many people demanding a dog for free when I know the rescues struggle to get enough money to save the dogs they do and watch so many others die for lack of funds…it’s not about someone not caring about an animal because they got it for free. It’s about needing money to adopt out healthy animals and having money to pull more shelter dogs from kill lists.

      1. Which is why I get so frustrated with rescues who don’t keep asking themselves, “Can we be doing this differently? Can we be doing this better?”

        Try new things. Innovate. Try again. Find things that work and keep improving on them.

    1. Chelsea, there are lots of people who would love to help the animals but are full up and can’t take another, or maybe they live somewhere with a no pets policy, or maybe somebody in the household has allergies, or whatever. The main point is that they want to help but can’t help by taking in pets, and they may not have the time or the ability to volunteer for whatever reason. However, lots of these people have money. Maybe some can only spare $10 or $20, maybe some can give more, but the point is that if you can get money from these people then you can use it to save the animals and give them for free or at a much lower cost to the people who CAN take them into their homes.

      What are you doing to get money from these people? You say people don’t donate but why would they? You need to make sure they know that your organization exists and that they know what you do. You need to make it easy for them to donate. You need to make them want to donate. Marketing is a huge part of rescue, and not just marketing the animals. You need to market the organization itself. Maybe you think you’re doing it but if you’re not getting enough donations then you’re not doing enough of it or you’re not doing it right.

  17. Ooh, something near and dear to me. First, I will say that I have not been TO Grayson itself, but I’ve actively worked with them on transports and adopted my Krissie from them sight unseen. (They are also currently fostering Krissie due to the horrible circumstances I’ve been in this year in hopes that I’ll be able to bring her home to me before long. They ALWAYS take back their alumni if needed.) I’m also on their yahoogroup, and have met some of the others who are involved in helping them from a distance. Their adoption prices are fairly small compared to breed specific rescues etc (Cats and Kittens $55 Adult Dogs $85 Puppies $100), and they run on a shoestring budget (like most all volunteer rescue groups). I think that they may be correct in what they *mean*, but are stating it in a confusing manner. If somebody cannot spend $100 or under for an adoption fee, then how are they going to pay for routine vet care along with food and supplies?

    I would like to note that the quote states “unwilling”, which is not the same as unable. In the area they are in, there is definitely a fair percentage of people who just want a free dog and won’t take care of it, and will expect to replace it for free over and over again. It hasn’t as much to do with level of income as it is an issue of poor ownership (as in bad owners, not those in poverty). The volunteers work very hard to try and educate people in their area, but as we all probably know, sometimes people prefer to remain ignorant, no matter how hard we try. I’m not trying to “WhiteKnight” for them, but I didn’t want the general public to assume they are like some places that refuse to adopt to almost everybody, and then kill the animals and blame said public for it.

    1. “If somebody cannot spend $100 or under for an adoption fee, then how are they going to pay for routine vet care along with food and supplies?”

      When you first bring a new pet into your home, then in addition to the adoption fee, you might have to buy other things like beds, dishes, toys, collars, leashes, crates, litterboxes, etc. to get the pet set up. If you have to buy all of that stuff plus a substantial adoption fee, it ends up being a lot of money all at once and it can be overwhelming. Routine pet care is normally a lot more spread out, which tends to be easier for most people.

      1. Unless you plan ahead and already have most of the supplies… or are adopting an animal after a loss and still have many items you need.

        Right now I’m living with friends who have next to nothing, but were able to adopt a cat and pay the fee because they already had all the previous supplies from their recently deceased cat. Since said kitten won’t be neutered until he’s approximately 6 months old, they can save up for the price if they don’t find low cost neuter services.

        All I’m saying is that somebody demanding that a rescue or shelter give them a pet for free RIGHT NOW is quite possibly also going to be somebody who is unwilling to provide the care the animals needs.

        I personally think that income has very little to do with how well a pet will be cared for, and that people should be ‘vetted’ and questioned to determine how well they will try to do their best by the pet, and not the amount of income they have. Grayson does try to do that.

      2. Ok? Sure, some people might already have supplies, but just as often people don’t, and it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be bad pet owners.

        I don’t know how this turned into people demanding free pets. This is about the assumption that people who can’t pay high adoption fees shouldn’t have pets. The fact is that there are a lot of pets looking for homes and lots of people who don’t have much money but could provide great homes, and even if the *intent* is to exclude people who are “unwilling” to pay high adoption fees, they’re going to end up excluding some people who are unable.

      3. Okay, Grayson does not have high fees. If you cannot come up with the $100 or less to adopt, then you may need to rethink your choice to adopt (general you, not you specifically). I brought up the people demanding free pets because it happens regularly enough at Grayson to be an issue, which is why they have that blurb on their website.

        I think you’ll find that I’m often very much in agreement with pretty much everything Shirley posts on here, and in this case, I am as well. But, knowing the Grayson folks myself (granted, mostly online, but it’s something), I can say with confidence that they are not the type to pass over a decent adopter who might be short on money but long on love for a pet.

        I’m only referring to Grayson when I say that they are pretty much right that if somebody that shows up to adopt from them, and is unwilling to pay the fee, then said person is unlikely to care for the animal properly as well. I can’t say they would waive an adoption fee for somebody who couldn’t swing it but really wanted to help, but I suspect that could happen behind the scenes if they felt the person would definitely provide good care.

      4. “Okay, Grayson does not have high fees. If you cannot come up with the $100 or less to adopt, then you may need to rethink your choice to adopt (general you, not you specifically).”

        $100 is relatively high, and I’ve already addressed this. It’s not just the adoption fee; it’s everything else.

        I did pay a $150 adoption fee for one of my dogs, because 1) I happened to come across him, fell in love, and couldn’t possibly have said no and 2) the “extra” $100 was supposed to pay for his heartworm treatment, even though it didn’t (long story.) However, if I were actually to go looking for a new pet and I had a choice about where, I wouldn’t even bother looking at rescues or shelters that had adoption fees of $100 or more.

        “…I can say with confidence that they are not the type to pass over a decent adopter who might be short on money but long on love for a pet… I can’t say they would waive an adoption fee for somebody who couldn’t swing it but really wanted to help, but I suspect that could happen behind the scenes if they felt the person would definitely provide good care.”

        Whether they would or wouldn’t waive or reduce the adoption fee is a really important question, and suspecting that it could happen doesn’t answer it. And if I were one of those people who couldn’t quite swing it, and I saw the quoted bit on their website, I wouldn’t even bother going. If they really want to attract as many potential adopters as possible, they’re doing it wrong. You can say that they wouldn’t pass someone over because they’re short on money, but they’re already driving them away with that little bit of nastiness on their website.

  18. I shared this story, my sister who is very sick and can not work due to her illness was fighting mad. She is confined to her home, only goes out for Dr. appts. Her dog is the only thing keeping her sain, her friend. She said “I do not have money if something terrible happened to him to get him vetted, I can not afford to go myself. But I love him and would make sure he eats before I do.”
    You do not choose to be poor, they do not choose to be a stray. I would much rather die being loved by a pauper than be bought, used for breeding, or worse fighting. Lets not forget Vick was rich. There are many neglected animals of wealthy, I adopted a champion Hackney that a lady paid $12, 000 for and put out in a pasture to starve to death.
    At the end of the day this is not a economic problem. .it is compassion and education imo.

  19. if we all worked at more aggressive spay/neuter, bylaws, closing down bloody puppy mills, ensuring that the bonus dollars in breeding was swallowed up by taxes, etc. etc. we might not need to have the conversation. not enough working on the cause, and always about the effect.

  20. Many years ago, I wanted to find a friend for my dog but the local humane society charged around a couple of hundred. I went to animal control but the small dogs that were available were always RTO or reserved by rescue (which charged at least a couple of hundred bucks). This was in the Seattle area. Maybe I didn’t know where to look (I wasn’t yet involved in rescue). I combed Craigslist looking for a cheap small dog, but the wants (tons of people looking for cheap chi’s or other small dogs up there) outweigh the supply and thought about driving to the other side of state where the chi’s were cheaper. I ended up getting a dog free from a friend of my sister’s. My free dog was already neutered, she was moving into an apartment and didn’t want to pay the fee (and he is a pom, who was bought at petstore for $2,000. Yes, $2,000. and he loves to bark). He also needed an expensive dental as in $325. I can say that I put off getting a 2nd dog until I could find one within my budget range (i.e. less than $100). I got one for free… except it cost more than adopting from the HS, but I couldn’t let him have a rotting mouth, could I? Of course, now, in Austin and in rescue I see free dogs all the time.

    I have also surrendered two cats a few years prior to that local no-kill shelter when I had exhausted my unemployment benefits (and wasn’t sure what I was going to do – no money period) and they were losing their hair from a flea infestation I had gotten from taking in a my first stray dog (didn’t really think that one through). Had I had a way to temporarily save them while going through it, I wouldn’t have surrendered them. Two months later I had a job and gotten rid of the fleas but my cats had been adopted out a couple of weeks after I surrendered them (we checked). From a screener standpoint, I’d rather the animal go to a home where money isn’t a issue (who wouldn’t) but most of the people I know in rescue are either low-income or middle class but because of what they do, money is oftentimes tight. I wouldn’t turn down someone for being low-income but I have asked what someone would do for medical care. I realize that a breeder may not ask but I want to know if the person has thought it through and has a plan and to give referrals of low-cost resources and vets that I know for them to use, if needed. Because I have been amazed at some of the estimates that I have seen vets provide for their services (the above dental I mentioned, the first estimate I got for the pom was $1200) and some of them would surely be outside of my budget, so I try to be proactive about that.

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