Sunday, May 1, 2011

How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?

"How much does she cost?," a woman asked me at adoption day yesterday.

It's a question that gets me every time, but I'm sure I'm overanalyzing the semantics. Surely most people mean to ask, "What is the adoption fee?" or "What donation should we make if we adopt the dog?"  I answer with the usual: "The adoption fee for dogs is $300. It's a tax-deductible donation that includes vetting costs, such as spay/neuter, all age-appropriate shots, heartworm and flea/tick preventative, etc."

But the idea that this dog could "cost" something really irks me. How could you pin a price tag on an animal's life? How could I ever tell someone what Karina is worth?

Well, this soon turned into an research project....

First I went to a local pet store—not a reputable chain that has made the wise decision to partner with rescues instead of selling dogs and cats. I'm talking one of those seedy mall pet stores. These places buy their dogs from puppy mills where female dogs are bred over and over and over again—without regards to the heredity, health or safety of the mom or pups. The puppies are kept in absolutely deplorable living conditions before being sold to brokers for a few hundred bucks before being passed on to your local seedy pet store.

I laid eyes on a lab puppy and asked a young woman working there, "How much does he cost?" The woman looked down at her clipboard, then said, "That lab? He's a sweetie. He's discounted to $1800." $1800!!!!!!!!! I almost fell over. My undercover-research poker face probably needs some work, because she followed quickly with, "But ma'am, we offer financing programs. If you can put half down now, our interest rates are very low...". The seconds of my life that would have been wasted by continuing that conversation were not worth it—not even for this research project.

Then I started to think about how much dogs "cost" from breeders. I'm sure there are many reputable breeders who care deeply about the health and safety of their animals and the breeds they represent. However, I still can not imagine doing this as long as there are homeless animals crowding shelters. But I digress...

I sat down at my computer and found this site of a breeder in California selling labs. (I know nothing of her reputability. I'm simply using her site for reference of costs.) The costs of her dogs averages around $2,000. (Others are $6,000!) But here's where I almost fell over for the second time in one day: If you leave a puppy with the woman past its 8th week of life, you can pay to have it crate trained—FOR $350 PER WEEK! (I was very shaken by this. I can't tell you the amount of time I've spent [and number of trains I've missed in the morning] trying to crate train my fosters.) She also says to email her regarding the cost of other training, such as sit, high five, leash, and house breaking.

Finally, I did a little more research into general veterinary fees (as I don't know actual amounts) in order to determine what Karina actually "costs."

   $1,900 = "Purchase price" (I realize she's not a purebred, but even the British monarchy is embracing mutts these days, so just go with it.)
   $10,850 = Training for the 31 weeks she has been with the rescue (She can do everything mentioned above, except the super important "high five" trick.)
   $150 = Spay (based on estimates)
   $1,000 Heartworm treatment (based on estimates)
   $300 = Food (based on estimates)
+ $150 = Veterinary preventative care (based on estimates)
Bringing the grand total to $14,350.

$14K would be a steal. This dog is worth so much more than any dollar amount could ever begin to signify.


  1. I always cringe when people make a comment about our dogs being expensive. I always want to say "Expensive? This is the cheapest vet bills are waaayyy more than this adoption fee." (oops....donation)Some want to know why they aren't free. Really? What is free in life? However, my answer would probably scare them away from having a dog. Which, maybe is a good thing. Hearing the cost to raise a child to adulthood has encouraged me to stick with dogs! She is a great dog worth every penny!

  2. I agree. If you can't afford the adoption fee, then you can't afford a dog to begin with.

  3. i posted this on my facebook (hope its OK).

    awesome post - my thoughts exactly when i'm asked that question.

  4. We found you through the Hop. Great post. I felt I was reading a car dealership ad when reading the break down of the fees. These aren't pets to these people but objects. If someone asked me to put a price on Erin or Buck, I'd tell them that they are family and you can't put a price on family.

  5. You have an excellent point! I wish more people would think about this....

    P.S. We found you through the blog hop!

    ~ Jasmine

  6. Thanks for visiting, Erin and Jasmine! Now I'm following your blogs too!

  7. I came over from Dog Foster Mom!
    Love what you and she do! Dogs (and cats) are so lucky to have people like you!

  8. I think it is only education that will change the perspective. Bailey and Katy have been amazing gifts in our lives. We chose rescue over breeders because we wanted to give a dog a second chance. However, we fully recongnized that rescuing a dog is not free. There are costs involved with transportation, feeding, vet care, etc. These costs are not magically provided.

    However, many people think they should be rewarded for choosing rescue vs. new and the dogs/cats should be free. They do not understand the costs need to be paid so rescue can continue. We continue to rotate our breed rescue through our monthly donations. We found out when we adopted Katy that this group has been hit hard by foreclosures and lost some of their foster homes. This makes what was a challenging effort even more difficult.

    Educating people about the costs involved with saving dogs will people understand the "costs" of rescue animals. While we are glad people are giving home to rescues, offering a home does not cover the costs.

  9. Well said, Bailey. In a way, I think that rescue is a bit of a mystery to most people. They show up at adoption events, but don't really know what goes on to get the dogs there. You're right—it's all about education.

  10. 1. look at you with the new readers :)
    2. I was surprised by the $300 "price tag," only because I know when I volunteered at a shelter, their fee was $60. That said, I couldn't tell you what it included (prolly not much).
    3. Your list makes me think when we bought our chocolate lab at $350, we sure got a steal! I came across some pics of her yesterday :(