Caitlin UltimoPet Lovers / Pet Parenting

Dog Adoption Fees Explained

How Much Does it Cost to Adopt a Dog?

When it comes to adopting a dog from a shelter, rates will vary at every location, anywhere from $0 to $500. Oftentimes, the rate will depend on the age and breed of the dog.

Take for example, the Los Angeles-based Best Friends Pet Adoption and Spay/Neuter Center. Their regular price for a dog adoption is $100, but they encourage adopters to donate extra if they can.

Adoption fees will often take care of a lot of necessary needs for the newly adopted dogs. For instance, the pet adoption fee at Adopt A Rescue Pet in Las Vegas covers everything from vaccinations to a free veterinary exam within 30 days of adoption. Adoption prices at this no-kill shelter range from $200-$250 for an adult dog to $395 for puppies.

Higher adoption fees, including those at the Foothills Animal Shelter in Golden, Colorado which can reach up to $500, are used to give the shelter additional resources to provide extra help to other animals—such as those that may require surgery, medical treatment, extended care and more, says facility employee Jessi Burns.

Spay & Neuter

The average cost for veterinary care varies greatly depending on your geographical location (city vs. country), the size of the dog requiring care, as well as their overall picture of health and how it influences the complexity of treatments. That said, the average dog spay or neuter can range from $45-$175 for an animal shelter. However, this doesn’t include the cost of pain relief medication that the shelter will also be responsible, which is another $10-$30 dollars. If you were to get your adopted dog spayed or neutered on your own it could cost you anywhere from $200-$500 plus depending on said variables.


The cost of intake vaccinations for dogs to prevent Distemper, Parvo, Kennel Cough as well as rabies can cost approximately $40 for the animal shelter, if not more.  If your adopted dog has been in the shelter for a few months they’ve most likely received a monthly booster to keep them safe from shelter related illness.  If you were to pay for these vaccinations yourself you could be paying anywhere from $20-$150 dollars.

Parasite Treatments and Preventatives

Monthly cat flea and tick, dog flea and tick prevention, and ear mite treatments as well as heartworm preventives for dogs are another monthly cost for animal shelters. De-wormer medications are often given preventatively as oppose to waiting to see evidence of worms. These treatments can cost approximately $10-$30 assuming that no labs are need. Lyme disease and heartworm tests are also another cost the shelter will incur to ensure that your dog is in good health. If a dog tests positive, Lyme disease treatment can cost anywhere from $20-$100 depending on the size of the dog. However, if a dog needs to be treated for heartworms the treatment can be extremely costly, and on average it’s at least $1000 if you were to pay for it yourself.


A good shelter will not allow their animals to leave the premise without first being microchipped.  Although a lot of pet owners insist that their adopted dog will never get lost, but shelters see it happen all the time— whether it be as a result of a natural disaster or an unfortunate accident. The cost for a shelter to microchip their animals is approximately $20. However, the cost to microchip your dog on your own can range anywhere from $45-$60.

Food, Shelter & Comfort

The cost to feed a dog for a month in an animal shelter can range greatly based on the resources of the shelter, but a general ballpark estimate is round $40-$60. This does not include special diets for dogs that need weight loss food or dog food for specific digestive needs. Then there are toys, treats, bedding, and other necessities that the shelter provides.

Extreme Conditions

If your adopted dog is on anti anxiety medication, eye drops, or other antibiotics the shelter will try to recuperate the cost from the adoption fees as well. This also includes X-rays, echo cardiograms and other specialized treatments. This means part of your dog adoption fees will go towards animals that need additional care even if your adopted dog was lucky enough to have a clean bill of health.


Some animal shelters will provide you with a bag of food to go home with so you can slowly adjust your new dog to they brand you’ve chose to feed them. Dog collars, ID tags, and leashes may also be worked into the adoption fees. If you’ve adopted a puppy or a dog that was transferred from one region or shelter to another, the cost for the transportation might be added into your dog adoption fee.

Remember most of these non-profit organizations do not receive Federal or State funding. The dog adoption fees make caring for the animals in the shelter possible. More often than not the regular day-to-day operations, the cost for animal shelter agents, veterinary staff, etc. gets paid for by the shelter’s ability to fundraise and acquire donations to keep themselves afloat rather than through adoption fees for animals.  Additionally, most adoption centers will explain what their adoption fees include like this Villalobos Rescue Center or Dachshund Rescue, which gives a more anecdotal explanation of their dog adoption fees.

Initial adoption costs aren’t the only thing new pet parents should factor into their budget, either. The ASPCA breaks down the various costs that go into adopting a shelter dog. First-year expenses for a small dog can cost roughly $1,400, while medium and larger dogs can range between $1,800 to $2,000.

“While love and kindness are the most essential things we can provide for our animal companions, it is important to be aware of any possible costs associated with caring for that animal,” says Erin Wilson, medical director of the ASPCA Adoption Center. “As pet parents, it is our responsibility to provide our pets with the essential care they need to live happy and healthy lives.”

Jackie Kelly