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On Discounts on Adoptions

Here's a Gray Matter for you (or maybe not): A humane society near me is doing a cat- and dog-adoption promotion this month. You can adopt a dog for $75 rather than $100, and if you adopt a cat for $50 you can get a second one for half the price.

With record numbers of animals being abandoned due to foreclosures and the economy, and let's face it, adopting a dog or cats isn't going to save you any money, do you think it is irresponsible to offer discounts? If someone is going to adopt because of the lower price, how on Earth are they going to be able to provide for the animal(s)?

This sounds like a short-term savings, and it is, but in the case of two cats, you've just doubled your monthly expenses. And I admit to having very expensive (care-wise) dogs, but I imagine that the average dog must cost at least $1,000/year, right?

Two questions:

1.    What do you think about discounted adoptions (or even giveaways)?

2.    If you don't mind sharing, on average, what are your "pet"-related expenses?

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ian Smith #

    I think modest discounts are not necessarily problematic; I imagine that they can be used to get someone's attention…to stop their eyes as they glance over a sea of advertisements.

    Significant discounts that would encourage people who could not afford to care for an animal would be a problem. Ideally, there would be some sort of financial screening prior to adopting out an animal that would catch most of these cases.

    July 8, 2009
  2. Robert Garnett #

    I would rather have an animal adopted to a family that might appear to not be able to afford it and have it returned at a later date then kill the animal today. Probably most of these "discounted" adoptions are sucessful and those that are not at laest the animal lives to fight another day and become available for re-adoption.

    July 8, 2009
  3. A nearby SPCA shelter that was overflowing issued a plea to the public last month and then gave 50 cats away for free ( A woman who adopted a kitten was quoted as saying: "I think if the prices came down … it wouldn't get this bad." As if the price of adopting from a shelter is what's causing them to overflow!

    I agree with you that lowering the adoption price is seriously wrong-headed. It feeds into the whole mentality of buying "pets" on a whim and then abandoning them when the novelty's worn off, which is, in fact, one of the main reasons the shelters are overflowing. I also think that if $25 is what's going to make or break one's decision to adopt an animal that one shouldn't be taking an animal into one's care in the first place.

    I have three cats now. My food and litter costs alone (since one of my cats has asthma and a food allergy and requires special litter and a certain type of food) are generally around $120 a month. Sophie's asthma alone carries with it monthly expenses of $25-80, since she uses a puffer and needs a check-up every few months. So we're looking at $145-200 a month in expenses.

    One of my older boys died a few weeks ago after a lengthy battle with hepatitis and a biliary tract infection. During the last month and a half of his life, I easily spent over $1500 on medication, vet visits (a few of these after-hours emergency visits), blood tests, ultrasounds, etc. If someone would balk at paying an extra $25 to adopt a companion animal, I wouldn't want to see that person's reaction when faced with the veterinary bills that come with caring for companion animals. Routine visits and dental cleanings alone can add up, never mind a serious but treatable illness.

    July 8, 2009
  4. I really don't know what to think about discounts; will the promise of $50 savings really encourage someone to adopt an animal they can't otherwise afford? Are potential adopters that flighty? I know in my case, the decision to adopt a(nother) dog is something I sat on for months before actually going through with it. The adoption fee was never a consideration, because even the most expensive fee (I think the most I ever paid was $200) is peanuts compared to supplies, vet bills, food, etc.

    My problem with these "specials" has more to do with the language used. Some of the local shelters in Kansas City have been advertising kitten and cat "sales" on the radio, and though I'm glad to see them getting the word out…I dunno. Phrasing adoptions and adoption fees in terms of "discounts" and "sales" makes it sounds as though the animals are just another product up for grabs. I know it's not the intent, but sometimes the commercials are almost indistinguishable from ads for grocery stores and car washes.

    As for monthly expenses, I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I've no idea! Costs are so chopped up – a little food here, flea and tick meds there, a round of vet bills twice a year. If I had to guess, I'd say around $3,000 a year, give or take; more if we have an especially bad year and someone needs surgery. (But that's for five dogs and a cat.)

    July 8, 2009
  5. The average yearly care cost for pets is something like $500 – $1000 per pet. I looked it up once.

    Our average is actually pretty close to that. One year was incredibly high, but that was odd.

    To keep costs low, we do these things:
    – use pet "insurance"
    – feed quality foods
    – keep cats indoors
    – take them in for regular check-ups

    I think the "sale" mentality is problematic, but worth doing. It winds up saving lives.

    July 8, 2009
  6. Deb #

    I have insurance, which comes out to be about $350/year, iirc. (I only pay it once a year, so I can't remember off the top of my head.) That doesn't include regular vet expenses, but is a safety net for big unexpected expenses.

    Other than that, and routine vet visits, I think my expenses for one cat are about $400 or so. Keeping in mind that I'm not going for bargains on the food or litter, both of which could be gotten much more cheaply. Though imo this is also a short-term savings, because keeping them healthy longer is going to win out (on so many levels) in the long run.

    I'd be interested in seeing some numbers, if it is tracked at all, to look at how many more are adopted during these "specials" and how many are successful adoptions. It would be cool if there was an "exit poll" as well, to see if and why the "sale" brought them in, and some other pertinent questions that someone more clever than me can think up.

    Though a $25 difference obviously is only a very short term savings and logically shouldn't matter given the long term costs of caring for cats and dogs, I think it is indicative of other things in our society that "bargains" catch our eye. I also think that most people know on some level that the "bargains" rarely save them money, but there is some weird compulsion for many people to consider something just because it is "a good deal."

    I don't think the price someone pays to adopt a cat or dog is a marker for how well they'll care for them. It could be that these people going in during the sale times had been thinking about adopting for a while, and having a timed deadline during which they can save $25 is what finally gets them to make the decision to adopt. (If you were going to adopt anyway, $25 saved is $25 saved, after all.)

    I guess I don't have a problem with discounted adoption prices, at least not until I have reason to think it is harming the animals being adopted out. I just don't have much info to go on at this point.

    July 8, 2009
  7. I have no problem with the incentive of a "sale" on adoptions… My belief is that most people who adopt an animal into their homes have good intentions. The other certain alternative is unthinkable…

    Up till 10 weeks ago I had 2 dogs and 2 cats… My beloved friend Midas was almost 18 years old and vet bills for him ran high during the last few years of his life… But generally speaking, my indoor cats cost about $600/year food & vet – And Backus about the same. Yet, every year there seems to be something extra and unexpected with one of them – and those figures will double in just a few visits to fix the problem.

    I'm about to change my vet though… which is going to be difficult since I've gone to her for so long. I'm switching because of her prices… She expanded her clinic to include an indoor (bone shaped) doggie pool… and "private", close-circuit monitored rooms for boarding. She's gotten way "out of my league". Beside, I'd rather find a vet that puts more time/money/effort into low-cost, community animal care projects… and less into posh accommodations. Hopefully, my vet bills will be reduced then too…

    July 8, 2009
  8. Ultimately, the whole problem is that we feel we can/should sell animals….IMHO.

    Given our current situation, I say – we do what we must, and a price reduction, assuming a continuous vetting process, shouldn't be the issue.

    I think it's the follow up, the investigation, and the general adaptability of the family to the pet that matter most.

    I have two adult vegan dogs, and spend I'd say between 500 and 800 each a year, food, vet, everything.

    All that goes out the window [as others have said] with an accident, a bite, a fight, a sickness, or a puppy/kitten etc…so in reality I think $1,500 per pet per year averaged over a lifetime is probably pretty close.

    July 9, 2009

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