I was quite shocked to see that rescues were charging 250-300 to adopt a dog. I still can't get past that really.
I'm *all* for saving shelter dogs. There's a big, big difference in the quality of vet care they receive compared to rescue though--expect significant follow-up vet bills post-adoption with a shelter dog. A $250 rescue adoption fee is a good deal
if the rescue fully vets the dogs.
I know a lot of people balk at rescue adoption fees, so I want to use this as an opportunity to try to lay out where they come from. It's usually not a rescue being greedy.
Add up the cost to full vet a healthy dog (speuter, two sets of shots, rabies, microchip w/ activation, fecal test, and HW test, flea and HW prevention, and deworming, as that's almost always needed). Then realize hardly any dogs need just
that basic stuff. It costs my rescue $150-200 to fully vet a dog, and I'm in a very cheap area with vets who give us great pricing--and that's assuming no pull fee. At $200, we barely
break even on a healthy dog.
Most of them aren't healthy when we get them, either. Most of them need lots of additional care. I'm sitting on vet bills close to $1,000 for a single dog with major skin infection that was treatable, but expensive. HW treatment for another one this week was just $400 (not including the cost of Doxy, which runs about $100). If we waived the actual adoption fee and instead asked adopters to reimburse the rescue's vet receipts, they'd usually be paying a lot more than the adoption fee.
I'll try to illustrate the difference in vet care between shelters and rescues (using actual pricing from my area -- if you are in certain other areas of the country, pricing would be vastly higher). I've pulled enough dogs from shelters to know exactly what they do in my area: the "good" shelters that do some vetting charge adopters $80-100 for a speutered, vaccinated, microchipped dog. That isn't the same as a fully vetted dog. Here's the reality of an $80 fresh-from-shelter adoption in my area:
1. You go home with a dog freshly spayed (without pain meds) to do the post-surgery recovery yourself. If there's a complication (e.g, saroma), you are on your own. That newly adopted dog also can't be bathed for 10 days because of the incision (but it will stink to high heaven, as it wasn't bathed in the shelter before surgery).
2. The shelter is out of flea treatment products, so you go home with a dog that hasn't been flea-treated (and the fleas are jumping off in your car). I have to keep Capstar in my purse when I'm going to pull a shelter dog in the summer -- we give it to the dog as soon as I get there and then go do paper work to give it time to work. (Capstar costs $5/dose -- we're now at $85.)
3. Your dog will only have had one set of shots (at most), so you'll need to pay for an adult 5-1 booster within 2 weeks. Shots are typically $20 if you get a good price, so add that to your total. (We're now at $105. Add in a wellness exam at your vet for $35, and you're at $140.)
3. The shelter will likely not have done a fecal test (and 90% of the dogs we pull have worms--probably acquired from the shelter). If you are like most people, you probably won't expect it or know that there's a problem until the runny poop gets really bad. By then, the whipworms or hookworms might already have gotten into your backyard soil where your dog has been pooping. Now those worms can infect any other dog that walks on that soil. Oh--and you won't ever be able to walk outside barefoot this summer because hooks can infect people through the soles of the feet too! (The fecal test at your vet will likely cost $20 plus $30 for Drontal Plus to deworm, if you do it in the same trip as the wellness exam and don't incur a second exam fee. We're now at $195.)
4. That healthy-looking shelter dog will likely break with kennel cough within about a week, and you'll be on the hook for treating that too. The strain going around my area now is nasty, and very contagious. It's turned into pneumonia in a few dogs, according to my vet. Assuming you don't end up with pneumonia and treat it promptly, the drug of choice for KC in my area is Doxycycline, which is no longer cheap. (That hits after your wellness exam, so you need to go pay for another vet visit. You now pay another $35 exam fee plus at least $20 for meds, and that's if your vet gives them to you at cost. $55 more brings us up to $250).
5. At some point the dog starts rubbing its ears and when you go to clean them, black gunk comes out. Back to the vet to treat an ear infection. You now have to clean the ears daily and treat twice daily with ointment, which your new dog loathes. (There's another $35 fee for that visit, plus $20 for antibiotic ear ointment. Now we're at $305.)
The rescue dog that costs $250? All that stuff was already dealt with by the rescue's vet and the foster volunteer. You don't have to keep taking time off work to get to the vet, or struggle to get a newly adopted dog to take pills or mess with painful ears. The foster home did all that for you. You get to enjoy a healthy dog, fully recovered from surgery, clean, up-to-date and ready to enjoy, thanks to a few weeks in foster care.
All this assumes the rescue is a good one that is actually doing full vetting and not just flipping dogs, of course.