Shelters, rescues, and humane societies need to charge adoption fees to cover their costs for caring for the dogs while they are there. 

Many dogs come in sick, injured, or with behavior issues that need to be taken care of. The costs of vet care and training is not cheap, and the only way shelters can keep saving dogs is to charge an adoption fee. 

What is the average adoption fee for a dog?

Dog adoption costs can range from $50 to $500. The average dog adoption fee is $300. This usually covers the dog being up to date with vaccinations and spay/neutering. 

The cost of vaccinations and spay/neuter for you to go take the dog to a vet would be more than $300. In essence, you are getting a bargain when adopting through the shelter. 

Why are adoption fees so high for dogs?

The chart below shows the average, bare minimum costs for a shelter to care for a dog every month. The chart will help you understand why adoption fees are higher than you think they should be.

The Cost of Operating Animal Shelters

Intake exam$50
Routine vaccines (DHLPP, Bordetella, Rabies)$50
Heartworm test$25
Heartworm, Flea and tick Preventatives$15/month
Behavior assessment$15
Operation costs*$50/month
Total cost per dog$380

The cost increases for each month the dog is in the shelter.

*Even though some rescues run 100% volunteer-based, there are still costs involved to keep the operations running. Some costs to consider are staff, office supplies, building rental, cleaning supplies, laundry, outreach, and advertising. This cost is going to vary widely depending on the organization set up and location. I’m guessing $50 is an under-estimated cost.

To save a dog it cost a shelter a bare minimum of $380 and go upwards to $3,000 per dog. This doesn’t even include toys, bones, and other enrichment products that many shelters use to help keep dogs comfortable during their stay. 

Additional Dog Adoption Costs 

Other medical issues are more common than you may think. When a shelter brings in a stray dog or an owner surrender, they often have unknown health problems that quickly add to the cost of caring for the dog.

Medical ServiceCost
Dental Care$25 to $500
Heartworm treatment$500 to $1,500
Parvo treatment$500 to $2,000
Lyme disease treatment$500 to $1,000
Coccidia$200 to $400
Roundworms, tapeworms, hookworms, whipworms$50 to $200
Xrays$150 to $250

The cost to treat a dog with heartworm, worms, cancer, parvo, dental disease, Lyme disease, or any other numerous conditions will increase cost by thousands of dollars. 

Most shelters are not out to scam you for your money. But there are some rescues that do not make sure dogs are healthy before adoption, which is why finding a reputable rescue is so important.

How to save money on adoption fees

Many shelters will reduce adoption fees for senior dogs and/or dogs that have been in the shelter too long. 

Adopting a senior dog has so many benefits, like skipping the puppy potty training and chewing phase. You also won’t have to guess how big the dog will get. Senior dogs need less exercise and are often less needy than a puppy.

A Free dog is never free

How can I get a free dog?

If you are concerned about the cost of adopting a dog, then reach out to friends and family members to see if they know anyone looking to rehome their dog. 

I do NOT recommend searching for a dog for free on buy/sell websites like Craigslist or Facebook groups. 

Any responsible dog owner is not going to give their dog away to a stranger for free. If they do, then you are taking a huge gamble on inheriting serious health or behavior issues. 

Recommended reading: What’s the Difference Between a Dog Rescue and Humane Society or Shelter

A free dog is never free unless you know and trust the person you are getting the dog from. 

If you are on a tight budget, then consider creating a budget before adopting a dog. If you can’t afford the $200-$300 adoption fee, will you be able to afford the monthly cost of owning a dog? No judgment here, just be honest with yourself. The cost of dog ownership can range from $100 per month and up.

In conclusion

Dog adoption costs vary depending on your location, the shelter policies, and the age of the dog. Having a dog has so many benefits, adopting and saving a life will fill your heart, but could also empty your wallet, LOL. If you ask me or many dog owners, they will tell you it’s more than worth it. But also something to think about when considering the long term care for a dog. 

I hope this helps you appreciate the time, effort, and financial commitment that shelters put in to save just one dog’s life. 

Up next: Tips for Adopting a Rescue Dog

About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}