Why Does It Cost So Much to Adopt A Dog From a Rescue Shelter?



This article is posted as part of PGAA’s curation efforts.


Pulling the Curtain back on Adoption Fees that Rescue Organization’s Charge


We are pulling open the curtain on fees charged, when adopting a Boston from a Non-profit rescue organization.

“Wow!” you might respond. “Are they not a non-profit? Why do they even charge a fee to adopt anyway?”

There are many unanswered questions.

To understand why a non-profit rescue, would even consider “charging” someone to adopt a rescued dog, there are some basic facts that you would need to be aware of. Then we can look at the reasons the rescues state are the reason for adoption fees…

Please join us as we go behind the curtain.

Once we get a good look behind this curtain, you will have a better idea of the normal operations of a Dog Rescue organization.

You then you can decide for yourself, if there is a valid reason for having adoption fees when adopting.

Or if this is just a widespread unethical ruse to make money…

What is that phrase we hear… “We report so you can decide” or something like that.

Anyway, first lets look at an average organization. Ready? here we go…

Most rescues will tell you “There is a misconception sometimes from the general public, over why adoption fees are charged by most non-profit 501(c)3s, who are rescue dogs.”

While the below list may not be how 100% of the Dog Rescue organizations, the following represents almost every rescue organization that I have come across..


  • All of the rescues I have worked with, are operated by (unpaid) members, who volunteer to work within the organization’s Guidelines.
  • Most are 501(c)3’s which is a federal tax status, that requires a formal organizational. They must set up a board and committees to operate and requires certain other actions and reports to remain a non-profit. Most states also require them to register, when they “operate” within their states boundaries.
  • Most of these organizations have a online and social media sites. But many do not have “IT experts” to give them a polished modern look.
  • Most have extremely limited funding to work with compared to the number of dogs they rescue.
  • Most organizations rely 100% on donations from members, supporters and friends for funding. A few have acquired grants to help with their operational expenses. There are a few, that have benefactors, to help offset sudden unplanned large rescues from Puppy Mills or hoarding cases.
  • Many members (volunteers), provide free transportation in private owned vehicles to transport the dogs.
  • Many members open their homes to temporarily “foster” a dog, many homes have more than one “foster.”
  • Many Members will “donate” to the organization by providing all the daily requirements of food, sometimes the cost of vet prescribed medicine, and preform rehab requirements required by a vet.
  • Some foster parents, provide house or potty training, transportation to and from vets, along with a hundred other items to help relieve the organization from the costs of the dogs, that otherwise the organization would have to provide.
  • Most Organizations do fund vet visits and medicine, intake exams, tests, and shots, spay and neuter surgery.
  • The dog ownership remains with the organization even when in temporary foster care, or in a boarding facilities until it is adopted and ownership transferred.
  • Most organizations rely on individuals to take into their homes the rescued dogs, under temporary arrangements until a permanent home is found.
  • There are never enough foster homes for the number of dogs each rescue is asked to take ownership of.
  • There is never enough money to completely fund the total number of dogs in the rescue’s care. Most of these organizations are running in the “red”.
  • Each rescue usually does several public fundraisers to accrue the necessary funding to keep afloat. It is a stressful year by year, month by month, day by day struggle.
  • Most organizations have prearranged agreements with their vets, to delay payments, or in some cases discount fees of the rescued dogs.


The Bostons are acquired by the rescues from the following ways:

Strays: Animals picked up off the streets, held for 7 to 14 days, A time period required by local laws, for the owner to claim the stray. During this time the Shelter may contact the breed specific rescues who in many cases will “tag” the dog indicating, to the shelter that they will accept ownership of the dog, if not claimed by the owner.

Owner surrender to a shelter: Usually the shelter will call the local breed rescue and turn over ownership immediately.

Found by an individual and turned over to a rescue: Attempts to find the owners are made and minimal vetting is done (flea and tick removal wound cleaning or emergency care, until all avenues to find the owner is done.

Owner surrender to a Rescue: Many times the owner or family member will contact a rescue in the hopes to surrendering a pet. The reasons are varied, from death of the owner, to illness, moving, loss of job.

Court ordered surrender to a Rescue: Where a legal case of abuse, neglect or other issue is involved a judge may require a owner to surrender to a rescue.

Rescues sometimes will accept a dog from another rescue: If the medical facilities required for the dog, are too far for the original rescue to get the dog to, or if transportation would not be possible for follow ups, (usually arrangements are made between the two rescues on sharing the medial costs.). Also if there are no foster homes for the incoming dog sometimes a dog will be transferred to a sister organization. Or if the foster home has specialized skills or accommodations required for the dog.

Okay so how much does it normally take a rescue to take in a dog?

What a bargain!

“Adopting a dog from a rescue organization is virtually always less expensive than purchasing a purebred”

How could that be, you ask?

As opposed to the $500 to $5,000 you might pay for a purebred dog, the initial cost to adopt a rescued dog runs from $250 to $500 on average.

You have heard those before. But is this really true? Just what do you get when you adopt a dog from a 501(c )3 Non-Profit rescue?

There are many factors affecting the adoption fees, These usually include the dog’s age, breed, and general health. In addition, the adoption fee usually covers a variety of care while the dog is with thee rescuing organization’s care:

The Costs to a Rescue to intake in one new dog:

  • Basic veterinary care, including an examination ($25 and $50 for each office visit).
  • Blood tests. (In-office test, or a blood sample to send away for a full work-up. $25 to $100).
  • Key vaccinations, such as rabies. DHLPP (distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, and parvo) shots.
  • Treatment of any illnesses, treatment of wounds.
  • Spay or neuter surgery. ($150-300)
  • Flea and tick control. internal parasites (fecal sample in house $30.00)
  • Testing and treatment for heart-worms. ($22+for the test and $100+ for one year of Heartworm preventive)

And that is just the intake costs… If there are other issues related ears, eyes, teeth, heart, kidney, pregnant, broken or damaged legs or paws, and a whole host of areas that may need addressing to stabilize or improve the dogs quality of life.

While in foster care expenses continue:

Items like a collar, leash, halter, dog food, coats in winter, blankets, a crate, or portable wire fence (x-Gate) food and water bowls, toys, treats.
In addition to saving dogs, foster parents save the rescue groups money. They don’t have to pay for as much kennel space or staff.

Plus, your input on each jog’s traits likes and dislikes, obedience skills, and personality, will be a vital tool in finding her a forever home.

“You’re not just getting a dog. You also benefit from any care and training the dog received. When you look at all you get with your lovable new adopted dog, it’s quite a deal.”

“Dogs are spayed or neutered before they are adopted, except under extraordinary circumstances (e.g. serious health problems which must be cured before the dog can withstand surgery). If this dog was not already spayed/neutered, when rescued her/him, have had it done (and a major portion of your adoption fee is reimbursement of this expense).”

“All rescued dogs are tested for heartworm and started on preventative medication, Heartworm is a deadly risk in most areas, i.e. in all areas that support a mosquito population. If your dog is not protected and contracts heartworm, be aware that the treatment is very expensive, requires prolonged restriction of the dog’s activity and avoidance of any excitement that could raise its heart rate and involves two deep intramuscular shots which are extremely painful for the dog . Left untreated, heartworm is inevitably fatal and it is a slow and miserable way to die.”

Some dogs will come to you with a couple days’ food and treats that they were given while at their foster home.”

“Many abandoned dogs are taken in by foster homes, which house, feed, care for, train, socialize, and most importantly, love them. ”

“In fact, fostered dogs are more adoptable thanks to all the work done to socialize and care for each pooch.”

The main requirement of a foster home is having enough space and heart to house a rescue dog. After that, the foster’s responsibilities may run the gamut.


We asked our friends in rescue to add their thoughts to when a dog is placed temporary with a Rescue organization

What would you wish that the public knew?

Becky Coe “People don’t realize how much it takes to vet the dogs and get them healthy. Bless the selfless people that give love and then let them go (to a new owner).”

Casey Rescues “Lots of people think that we should be happy that someone will take the dogs. They have NO IDEA the amount of time, effort and money goes into making a rescue successful. These dogs are waiting for a perfect home, and yes, maybe it is with you. But we’ve just put hundreds or thousands of dollars into making the dog adoptable. Most dogs come in unaltered and require a spay/neuter ($150-300), We don’t have vet paperwork for full panel of shots and vaccines ($95-200), Don’t forget heartworm test and prevention ($100+). Now you don’t think that $350 is reasonable?!?! And a dental (exam). These fosters deserve a chance at life. Maybe the adopters don’t realize that I’ve put blood, sweat and tears into socializing and caring for this dog, and all out of the kindness of my heart. I LOVE rescue and will continue to open my home, just to see the “least” and “lost”, turn into loving pets.

Kim Ingram “Well said Casey Rescues! Plus, the expenses you listed are for healthy dogs. So many dogs that come into rescue have medical issues that require additional treatment and greater costs. I have found the very same people who question the fees, will then go out and purchase a brand new puppy for $350.00 and never take it to the vet! We as rescue, need to continually educate the general public as to what we do and why! So many people just do not know!”

Jean Vallee “I know that my rescue group’s director, has paid vet bills for fosters personally, when there wasn’t enough in the kitty. No way any rescue director is making $ for themselves. The vetting and other costs are constantly depleting whatever adoption fees and fundraising brings in.”

Stephanie Flanagan “The problem is, people who typically want free pets, over paying adoption fees, do not typically vet them properly so they really are “free” to them. Those that understand the importance of properly vetting your pets know adoption fees are a bargain.”

Jani Martin “They claim they can get a dog for less elsewhere, but don’t realize that those other dogs are probably not already spayed/neutered, up to date on vet work, temperament tested, etc. People also don’t realize that maybe that much money hasn’t gone into that particular dog, there are many overhead costs not factored in and the dog before that one may have cost $2000 to get healthy and sold for the same $300 (or whatever it is) adoption fee as the one that only required $100”.

What is the Misconception that you wished the public would rethink?

Debra Gordon “That the shelter (or CFO) is making alot of money off charging the fees. I explained the cost of spaying/neutering is often more than the adoption fee plus shots & proving food/shelter while being kept safe & off the street.”

Monica Ruth Hucks “I think some people are put off by some rescues, that require a home visit. It rubbed me the wrong way, too, when I first read that on their site. But potential fur parents should consider that the rescue only wants the best for these dogs and that some of them came from bad situations and they don’t want that to occur again. Also, I think some may consider a rescue’s fee a little high. But consider that the rescue has spayed/neutered the dog, they’ve cared for dog for who knows how long, and provided medical care as needed. When you add up all these costs, the fee is surely much less than the actual costs.”

Rosmaire Kelly “I think people don’t like all the restrictions rescues place on adoptions. When I wanted good homes for Dixie’s puppies I worked with a rescue for just that reason however. I see too many dogs going back to shelters. Big fees and home visit stop a lot of this.”

Susan Daniel Harris “I’ve also found that people don’t like the restrictions such as a home visit, fence or leash-walking requirement, all dogs on heart worm preventative, etc. I had some of my family that were looking to adopt a dog from one of the local rescues that had these requirements and they freaked out. I tried to explain why these requirements are in place and that the rescue just wants to insure the dog receives the proper care, a home that fits the dog, etc., but they chose to go to a breeder instead of ‘jumping through (rescue) hoops.’ It’s frustrating, but I believe these processes are necessary for the animal’s sake. We didn’t mind the home visit or other restrictions required for adopting Koko aka Tipper Grace from ABTR (Alabama Boston Terrier Rescue).”

Well there you have it. Our little visit behind the curtain is over we hope that we have helped explained adequately some of the reasons why many of the rescues request items like an Application to adopt and a Contract and Adoption fee.

Written by Donna

Re-positing of this article is done with the permission of Donna Curtin of the Boston Terrier Network — full of Boston Terrier and canine information, news, and adoptables. Copyright © 2015. Boston Terrier Network