Newly adopted yellow lab puppy with his happy owner.

How Much Are Adoption Fees for a Rescue Dog?

Adopting dogs from shelters has become quite popular over the past several years. Animal humane societies and rescue groups have sprung up all over the country. These groups have advocated vigorously for homeless dogs and cats in need of a home. During 2020 at the height of the COVID pandemic, shelters suddenly became empty in some areas for the first time. The demand for dogs to walk and have as companions sky rocketed during this time. If this is your first time adopting a dog, you may wonder what the adoption fees are for a rescue dog.

The cost to adopt depends a lot on the type of shelter. The fees can vary widely pending the geographical area of the country. The fees charged by shelters often include a wide array of services for each rescue dog. Some shelters provide a full range of services such as micro-chipping and medical support. Others offer fewer services and the new owner will need to foot the bill for some of the initial costs and procedures.

Therefore, rescue dog adoption fees can range from $0 to $700+ based on some of these variables. So, it is really important to find out what is included with the fee, and the services each shelter provides. This will help you determine the value of the fee and know what your other immediate costs may be.

Type of Shelter

First of all, you may not realize that there are a lot of different types of shelters and rescue facilities. Local government agencies usually administer shelters and private individuals and charities offer both shelters and specific types of rescue services. Services provided for the dogs depend on the organization’s funding, available staff, and budget constraints. Fees may be a critical part of an organization’s funding if public support is low.

Sonoma County Animal Services is a limited admission shelter. We never euthanize for space. While we accept animals regardless of breed, age, medical history or behavior, we carefully manage the intake of owned animals to ensure space for all animals in our care. This means that there is often a waiting list for an owner to surrender an animal to us.”

Sonoma County Animal Services

County Dog Pound

We often hear the phrase “dog pound” when we think about lost dogs. Officially, dog pounds are shelters operated by local government facilities run by the city or county. Pounds are also know as animal control agencies. They include shelters and animal control officers who monitor complaints about dangerous, abused, or neglected dogs. These officers can issue citations for ordinance violations. They can also quarantine dangerous dogs and remove dogs from unsafe or abusive environments. Animal control agencies maintain a shelter for stray, lost, re-homed, and rescued dogs. Animal control agencies have pubic funding but may also have tight budgets so their services and fees will vary.

I live in Sonoma County, California and Sonoma County has a great Animal Control Agency. They provide a lot of services but they do have some limits. And their About Us page they state, “Sonoma County Animal Services is a limited admission shelter. We never euthanize for space. While we accept animals regardless of breed, age, medical history or behavior, we carefully manage the intake of owned animals to ensure space for all animals in our care. This means that there is often a waiting list for an owner to surrender an animal to us.” They offer a full array of adoption services and their fees range from $94 to $168 depending on age of the dog.

I also live in a town that is very family and animal friendly oriented. As a result our city also has a wonderful animal shelter. They always seem to have a ton of stray cats and a handful of dogs. The Rohnert Park Dog Shelter dog adoption fees are $100 and $45 for senior dogs. They also offer a full array of medical and other services. See their website for more information.

Animal Humane Societies

I was actually surprised to learn that “Humane” Societies are not all connected. In fact, they are each separate nonprofit shelters. They have nothing to do with the American Humane organization or the Humane Society of the United States. Both are advocacy groups, which provide very important advocacy and litigation work on behalf of all types of animals. Just know that they are independent organizations which generally do not share their donations with local shelter programs. Although they do have some affiliates they work with.

The American Humane organization has been around since 1877. They were the first advocates for all types of animals including animals used in movie productions and farm animals. Additionally, they have teams across the country to rescue animals caught up in natural disasters and animals subjected to abusive situations.

The Humane Society of the United States is a strong advocate for animals in neglectful or abusive situations, but they do not have any shelters. However, they do work with many affiliate who provide rescue and shelter services. Despite the name, the Humane Society of the U.S. advocates for animals both nationally and globally to make change in how animals of all types are treated.

Many local nonprofit organizations include the word Humane in their name. They often provide local advocacy but they are also shelters. The Marin Humane Society provides shelter for a large number of animals and is also a strong local animal advocate. They also contract with the County of Marin to provide the County’s animal control services.

Most of the local “Humane Societies” do the heavy lifting by rescuing animals and providing shelter until they can be adopted. They do not get any funding from the either the American Humane or Humane Society of the United States. So, please do not forget to support these local nonprofits, especially if you have adopted a dog from one of their shelters.

Rescue Groups

Many rescue groups specialize in rescuing, sheltering, and adopting out certain types of animals such as Greyhounds, Pugs, senior dogs and others dogs subjected to puppy mills or other types of abuse.. Certain breeds and working animals are considered at high risk due to they way they are subjected to puppy mills or activities such as racing. These groups depend upon donations to run their programs and do not always have the funding to provide as many pre-adoption services. They may also have higher fees due to the challenging nature of their work. Greyhound Friends for Life provide adoption services for retired racing Greyhounds. Their fees are $300 for domestic dogs and $400 for Greyhounds from other countries. They provide most of the preventative health care services.

What is Included in Rescue Dog Adoption Fees?

Find out what is included with your adoption fee as it can vary. Here is a list of items that can often be Included:

  • A general physical and behavioral wellness exam
  • Spaying or neutering
  • Distemper vaccination
  • Rabies vaccination
  • Heartworm test (for dogs)
  • Flea/tick treatment if needed
  • Microchip
  • Deworming if needed
  • Collar and an identification tag

These medical services could cost as much as $700 or $800 if paid for individually. So, the adoption fees are a good value. In addition to many of these services, some shelters offer a bag of dog food and may even provide a few days’ supply of medications if needed for some dogs. Most shelters also have a return policy if it just does not work out. See my post How to Know if Adopting a Rescue Dog is Right for You for more insights. The shelter will usually offer short trials to take a dog home for a few days before you commit.

Fee Comparisons

County Pounds and Animal Control Shelters

Fees can vary from shelter to shelter and in different geographical regions. As an example, in Marin County, California, animal welfare is an important value. As a result the Marin County Humane Society is highly regarded and provides a full service adoption process. They have pretty fast turnover and their fees are $175 for puppies and adult dogs and $100 for senior dogs. Likewise, the Sonoma County Animal Shelter have fees of $94 to $168 and the City of Rohert Park shelter is $100 and $45 for senior dogs.

Some shelters, however, have so many dogs that they have lowered their fees or waived them completely to encourage adoption. On July 19th, 2021 the Maricopa County Animal Shelter in Arizona lowered adoption fees to $25 for all animals. Apparently, a lot of dogs have been abandoned in that area. The shelter also seems to have a lot of pit bulls which, sadly, people get for protection but do not always end up keeping them.

An article that appeared in the Arizona Republic on May 29th, 2021 reported that several shelters in the Phoenix area were facing a crisis of exceeding their maximum capacity. Some shelters were waiving fees and giving animals away for free. Much of this was attributed to people losing their housing following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specialty Rescue Groups

As mentioned above, adoptions fees for rescued dogs such as Greyhounds that have been retired can be around $400. Pug Rescue of Northern California charges $150-$450.

Purebred dogs are often in need of rescue as well, but the fees can be higher. A neighbor I bumped into at our local park said he had to pay several hundred dollars to adopt a rescue Beagle from a midwestern state. But he said it was worth it as his son really wanted a Beagle. I have heard stories of people paying thousands of dollars for purebred dogs as both rescues or pups from breeders.

Petfinder.com has access to thousands of both purebred and mixed breed dogs in the United States and some other countries. The fees can vary a lot depending on the breed and location.

Are “Free” Dogs Okay to Adopt?

Just because a dog is “free” or the adoption fee has been waived, does not mean that there is a problem with the dog. Fees are often based on the amount of effort the organization has made to rescue a dog and care for it. And, as in the case of overflowing shelters, fees are sometimes lowered or waived completely to move dogs out of the shelter more quickly. Similar to Maricopa County, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter waived the adoption fee for rescued dogs and other animals in July of 2021. They reported that they were 30% over capacity.

Just because rescue dogs are not expensive to adopt, does not mean that they are “broken” or “bad”. Dogs end up in shelters for all kinds of reasons. Their owner may have died or the family they were with lost their housing. Some owners are just not up to the challenge of raising a dog for life. Many dogs are also and unfortunately, rescued from abusive situations. But they all deserve a home and a second chance.

Priceless! Charlotte and Georgia Snuggling Together

When I adopted my two mixed breed rescue dogs, I was not charged a fee. They had originally been adopted out as pups by a kind person who ran a kennel and day care facility. The owner of K-9 Country Club, Tiffanie, rescued their Pug mom, cared for them when they were born, and then adopted all three out. The woman who adopted the pups returned them 5 years later due to changes in her life that precluded raising these dogs. Tiffanie did not want to separate this bonded pair of siblings and she was thrilled when I discovered them and wanted to take them home. She even gave me some food and basic equipment like bowls, leashes and a crate. Now, two years later, we are a happy little family!

Rescue Dog Adoption Fees are Only Part of the Cost

The bottom line is that most fees for rescue dogs are usually affordable. If the fee for adopting is holding you back, then perhaps adopting a dog is not the right thing for you. The adoption fees are only the beginning of costs to maintain a dog for his lifetime. In my article Basic Equipment Needed for Adoption, I outlined some of the initial purchases that will be necessary when you bring your dog home. In another article about Seniors adopting dogs, I have also listed the annual expense of owning a dog. The average annual cost of caring for a dog can be around $1,838.

Final Thoughts

It is wise to shop around and make sure you are getting some value when you adopt a rescue dog. But just realize that the adoption fees for rescue dogs are the tip of the iceberg. You are making a commitment for the life of your dog and will incur costs each year. To get more information be sure to see my post, Everything You Need to Know About Adopting a Rescue Dog.

Most of us who have fallen in love with our rescues and enjoy their companionship will attest to how wonderful life is with our new furry companions. And, they are worth every cent!

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