Ask any pet parent about their decision to adopt a dog and they’ll probably say it was one of the best choices they ever made. If dogs could talk, they’d probably agree. But as a prospective pet parent, you may be wondering, “How much does it cost to adopt a dog from a shelter?” That’s a great question—adopting a dog is a big responsibility, and it’s important to make sure your budget can support a new furry friend. So we got the lowdown on dog adoption fees from staff at several shelters and rescues. Read on for a breakdown of adoption costs and what they include, as well as other expenses you should know about.
How Much Are Dog Adoption Fees?
When it comes to the cost to adopt a dog, there’s no single answer. Rates vary widely, with shelter staff reporting fees anywhere from $50 to $350 or more. That’s because each animal organization is unique, and uses a range of different factors to determine a cost that will support their rescue work.
If you live in a place where the cost of living is relatively high, for example, the cost to adopt a dog is likely to be on the higher side as well, says Heather Crowe, founder of The HIT Living Foundation, a Los Angeles-based animal welfare organization. Dog adoption fees help cover the expenses that rescues and shelters incur while taking care of dogs who are waiting to be adopted, such as veterinary care, she points out.
“Medical veterinary care in larger cities is typically more expensive than medical veterinary care in rural America,” Crowe explains, “so adoption donations can vary based on geographical location.”
The age of the dog you’re hoping to adopt can also affect your fee. Puppies, for example, often rack up more veterinary expenses than adult dogs, says Jennifer J. Moreland, intake coordinator for Second City Canine Rescue. At some shelters, that means a higher dog adoption fee.
Even the time of year can affect your adoption fee, particularly if you’re looking to adopt a dog around the end of the year. That’s when many shelter and rescue organizations offer reduced or even free adoptions, Crowe says, taking advantage of the holiday spirit of generosity to find forever homes for as many animals as possible.
If you’re looking to save money on your adoption fee, follow your local shelters and rescues on social media and keep an eye out for announcements about any discounts. And don’t give up when the holidays are over. While many “adoption sales” take place in December, your local shelter or rescue might offer similar discounts several times a year, so keep checking in. Who knows? You might just spot your future dog while you’re scrolling through their feed.
What’s Included in Dog Adoption Fees?
The adoption fee you pay will typically cover most of the veterinary costs to prepare your new pup to go home with you. According to Crowe and Moreland, that often includes:
- A wellness exam
- Vaccinations like rabies, distemper, parvovirus, and Bordetella, a vaccine that helps to prevent kennel cough
- Heartworm test and preventative heartworm treatment
- Tick-borne disease panel
- Flea and tick preventative treatment
- Fecal test and deworming
- Spaying or neutering
- A microchip and the cost of insertion
- A small administrative fee to cover the cost of processing your adoption
The details may differ from shelter to shelter, so new pet parents should ask what’s included in their adoption fee before finalizing their adoption. Some may include additional perks as a “thank you” for giving a dog a new home. (The dog adoption fee at Second City Canine Rescue in the Chicago area, for example, includes 30 days of pet insurance from 24PetWatch.)
Do Dog Adoption Fees Include Supplies?
When people ask, “How much does it cost to adopt a dog?” they’re usually wondering about the initial price tag—not all the other supplies they’ll need in the days and weeks ahead. These are not typically included in dog adoption fees, says Tiffany Howington, founder and director of the Troy Animal Rescue Project in Troy, Alabama, but they’re still important to set your new pup up for success at home.
She suggests having the following basics on hand before you bring your new fur baby home:
- Leash and collar
- crate for training
- Food and water bowls
- Poop bags and dispenser
- Training pads
- Treats—both for training and for fun!
Of course, you’ll also need food for your new pup. Ask the shelter or rescue what food your dog has been eating, Crowe suggests, so you can stick to the same food or slowly transition to another to avoid upsetting your dog’s stomach.
Crowe also says it’s helpful to have both dry and wet food on hand in your first days together. “Your new pup may be nervous and not want to eat the first few days, but a little wet food mixed into kibble is always a sure bet,” she says.
Other New Dog Costs
Other than food, treats and replacing any toys your overeager pup might destroy, there are a few ongoing costs that shelter staff recommend prospective pet parents keep in mind when considering adding a dog to their family, including:
- Vet visits: These include annual exams typically costing $240-$600, as well as sick visits typically costing $100-$150, according to pet insurance company Pawp.
- Medications: Most dogs will need continued flea, tick and heartworm preventatives ($40-$200, according to Pawp), but depending on the age and health of your dog, your vet may recommend others.
- Pet insurance: For a monthly rate typically between $25-$70, according to LendingTree, pet insurance can help cover the costs of everything from annual exams to bigger emergencies, depending on the provider.
- Training and behavioral classes: Both puppies and adult dogs can benefit from a little extra training help, costing about $30 to $70 per hour, according to HomeGuide.
- Dog walkers and daycare: If you work long hours or have a pup who just can’t hold it all day, you may want to consider hiring a dog walker for roughly $20 per half hour, according to HomeGuide. You can also sending your pup to daycare for roughly $25 per day, HomeGuide
- Pet sitters and boarding: Pet parents who travel frequently often have a trusted pet sitter or boarder care for their pup while they’re away. Pet sitters cost an average or $45-$75, and boarders typically cost between $30-$50 per night, according to HomeGuide.
Yes, adopting a dog comes with costs, and over time they can add up. But if you can make it work financially, many pet parents will tell you that adopting a dog is absolutely worth the expense. Ultimately, dog adoption is a big decision and you should weigh all the costs — both in terms of money and lifestyle.