FREE adoptions? No fees? Isn’t that dangerous? – the answer will surprise you.

When I first heard about low or no cost adoption fees, I was completely and totally against the idea.

I had heard rumors of some places doing this, and I just thought to myself that they were disreputable and didn’t care who adopted their animals.

Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 3.36.38 PMThen I read about a seminar where it was encouraged for you to REDUCE adoption fees on senior dogs and cats, or pit bulls, or difficult to place dogs or cats, or dogs or cats with medical issues or those that had been with you a long time.

I read the seminar description and thought “ABSOLUTELY NOT!”  Those dogs and cats are not worth any less in our eyes! Just because they are older or sick, or may be tougher to place, does that mean I want people adopting them BECAUSE they see a “discounted” animal? It seemed to imply that they are WORTH less or that we should devalue them in some way!

And so I attended the seminar, perhaps a bit smug and pompous in regards to my opinion about this, but also ready and wanting to be open minded and to listen to what was to be taught. Inwardly I had kind of already made up my mind that we wouldn’t be doing this at Pets Alive.

After the seminar…and after listening with a truly open mind, asking many questions, after reading the studies about this, and after speaking to many organizations that had done it…I was forced to admit that I was wrong. Very wrong.

The first one I spoke to in person about this was Bonnie Brown. Bonnie Brown used to work at the Best Friends Animal Society and then she went to Nevada Humane and wound up converting their very high kill facility into one that saves over 93% of all 15,000 animals they take in annually. Think about that. They are taking in over 42 animals EVERY SINGLE day, seven days a week, and saving almost ALL of them. And Bonnie supported free, low cost and reduced fee adoptions.

Does this look like a woman that would adopt an animal out to someone that wouldn't care about them?So I went to her and asked her why we would want to do this? I advised that the dregs of society must walk in to get a free cat or dog. And I explained all my reasons (listed above) for disagreeing with this. And she looked at me, and with no offense taken said “Do you have a good adoption team?”  

Well, give me an opening to brag about my staff and I’ll talk your ear off.  I went on and on about how caring they were, how professional, how much they loved our animals and how carefully they matched our animals to homes.And she softly said to me “Then why would you not trust them to place your animals in only GOOD homes?”

Well. Game. Set. Match. Point. Goal. Checkmate…….whatever the heck the saying is.

Hmm. Uh. Yeah.
That’s true.

If the people still have to fill out our adoption application, and they still have to go through our reference checks and our vet checks and possibly our home checks, and they have to come down to meet their new pet and spend time with us and we watch them interact with their potential new pet, and we talk to them, and maybe we see their current dog (if they have a dog they are required to bring that one down to meet their possible “additional” dog) and we see how that dog looks and is cared for and reacts to them….well then really – what do we care about how much we are charging them?

If WE can afford to let them go low cost, no cost, or reduced fees – then maybe, just maybe we will encourage a person in the market for a new pet to ADOPT and not BUY an animal at a pet shop or a breeder.  To come to a shelter and save a life.  Maybe if all across the nation we did this, we could put puppy mills out of business and force pet shops to have only shelter pets for “sale” at their stores.  Perhaps this, along with all the other things we are doing to achieve no-kill, could finally help end the killing of so many millions of little defenseless lives in shelters across the United States.

Perhaps people that already have a pet and were not necessarily looking to get another might be encouraged to come down on adoption “free” days and take another pet home. Perhaps we can place MORE animals into good homes if it wasn’t hundreds of dollars to adopt one.

And studies show that people that do adopt and don’t pay a fee have NO DECREASE in the love or commitment they bestow upon that animal!

Here is one study done by Maddie’s Fund (Click to read full study):

A survey of all 1,928 pet adopters from the fee-waived 2011 Matchmaker Adopt-athon compared caregiver characteristics and pet lifestyles between adopters who still had their pets 6 – 12 months after the event, and those who did not. A total of 57% (1,099) of adopters completed the survey, and a vast majority of those reported that the adopted pets were still in the home (93% of the dogs and 95% of the cats). Most pets lived predominantly indoors, slept in the family bed, and had been to a veterinarian – and a resounding 94% of all respondents declared a strong or very strong attachment to the pet, whether the pet was retained or not. The researchers concluded that successful adoptions do not require payment of a fee, and free adoption promotions may increase adoptions without compromising the quality of the animal’s life. 

The ASPCA facility in NYC has an ONGOING program where all cats over 3 years old are adoption fee free!  And they report no adverse stories, reports or high rate of returns for those cats.

maddie1So while on the surface this SOUNDS crazy, or scary, or nerve-wracking, it really isn’t.  It is just another step to save millions more lives each year and take dogs and cats off of euthanasia tables and put them into the loving arm of families that will adore them.

And we will still check you out.  We will still do our due diligence and you may still get turned away if you aren’t a good home, or we don’t feel you’ve shown responsibility to previously owned pets. How many can we adopt in 2 days? Let’s see! And if we adopt 50 or 100 in two days….then we can save another 50 or 100 that very night from a shelter that might kill them.

And so on June 1st and June 2nd, Pets Alive will be participating in the Maddie’s Pet Adoption Days, and will be open at all our locations from 9 am – 9 pm for you to come and adopt a dog or a cat and pay NO ADOPTION fee. We will be one of 5 states, 8 communities, 100 locations, with a total goal of finding homes for 5000 animals that weekend.

So spread the word. Help us reach our goals, help us find homes for all the animals in BOTH our sanctuaries. Let us come in on Monday morning to empty runs, and empty cat rooms.
And then we’ll go and save some more.

Filed in Animal Rescue, No-kill by kerry on May 17, 2013.  There are 25 Comments

25 Responses to “FREE adoptions? No fees? Isn’t that dangerous? – the answer will surprise you.”

  1. Giovanna Says:

    My concern would be about the adopter(s) that are sick, evil, inhuman, monster people who look for free animals so that they can torture them. I know this sounds absurd but I have heard so many horror stories about this very subject. I wish it weren’t true. I know there is a screening process but remember, Jeffrey Dalmer looked like a normal person too.

  2. kerry Says:

    But how is that different from any other adopter that comes to adopt? Any if them could be Jeffrey Dahlmer. Paying a fee doesn’t mean they are good people.

  3. Lori Sosa Says:

    I think this is Wonderful!!! I have said it a million times, in todays society with seniors living on small incomes and families living on less income, MORE people would adopt if adopting didn’t mean they had to choose between an adoption fee and eating for the month. More animals would be saved. I commend you on your decision to do this and you can count on me telling everyone I know. I hope and pray MORE shelters will join you and that homes that could never before afford an adoption fee can know the love of a grateful and deserving pet.

  4. Frances Says:

    I wish they would do that here. I would love to rescue another dog from AC here, and my dog would love a playmate. With my job I hardly ever have the adoption fee all at once, so almost every tome I see a dog that is on the urgent list and would be a good companion for my dog, and of course would be loved and cared for, I end up not having the fee up front.

    Too many times that happens here and our shelter is high kill.

  5. Linda Meyer Says:

    FINALLY!!!! and it took a study to prove this??? My goodness. It’s like would you rather be right or would you rather be happy. I have tried repeatedly to adopt a rescue dog on different occasions for the past 8 yrs. The hoops to jump thru and the disapointments and lack of responses led us to buy a pure bread puppy 7 yrs. ago. Now I also have a cat because the local humane society was giving them away, no fee, a year ago. I have always been a responsible pet owner. The rescues make it very difficult to adopt. I “lost” 3 dogs after my children and I got to meet them. Good Decision!!! I Completely Support It!!!!

  6. Sandra Says:

    I don’t think the issue is that people who get a free pet care for it less. I know that is certainly not the case with me or many other people who have gotten pets they did not have to care for. The issue is that you get people coming into adopt their ‘free’ pet because they cannot afford the adoption fee and now they do not have to pay it. We are in the SF Bay area and let me tell you, if you cannot afford the $100 or $200 it costs to adopt a pet, you have no business owning one. That adoption fee is the least of your worries. My geriatric Pom just spent the weekend at the EV. She was on fluids, had bloodwork done, was given her heart meds which I brought and fed ID, nothing invasive. She was there less than 48 hours and it was nearing $2000.00. Give that some thought before you go get your ‘free’ pet. There is nothing free about them and you need to plan for that!!!!! I never leave my vet’s office for less than $400.00 and he is reasonable. If you need to choose between the adoption fee and feeding yourself, you better think long and hard about what you’re going to do when your pet gets ill or old because it will and it’s expensive.

  7. Lindsay Says:

    Sandra, I think you may have missed the point. The point is to tip the economic incentive in favor of adoption for people who might be on the fence. I know; I’ve been there. I did have the money to either adopt or go for a breeder, and I wanted to explore my options thoroughly. I wanted a Boston Terrier, and ultimately my options came down to two dogs. One was a special needs Boston named Bowie, whose adoption fee was $600. The other was a puppy named Maya who had been bred by a friend of a friend- $500. So I went for the puppy, purely because at the time it made economic sense, especially considering that special needs dog was probably going to cost a lot more a lot sooner than the puppy.

    I know Bowie did end up adopted, and I can’t say I regret my decision- I love my little dog. But it does still play in the back of my mind, that really it did come down to the fact that the adoption fee for the dog I wanted was more than simply; buying a puppy from a breeder. I think people who will love their dogs will love them regardless of how they got them, whether they were adopted, etc. But the decision to pick one dog or another? I think it’s fair to say that at the end of the day the tipping point will often come down to cash.

  8. Sandra Says:

    I didn’t miss the point. I work at an Animal Shelter and have experieced this first hand. Our adoption fee is $125.00, much less than any well-bred purebred and even much less than a BYB one. We do get a fair number of people coming in for their now free pets because they are now simply that, free. And again when a person cannot afford a mere $125.00 to adopt a pet, you are doing a great disservice to that pet over the long haul. Low Cost veterinary care – other than Spay and Nueter which they already are – is an oxymoron. It does not exist here, so either the pet will be returned or given away or not be treated at all. Even though $600.00 is a ridiculous amount for a rescue dog, in the end I don’t think it was the $100.00 difference in price that tipped it for you, but the fact that the special needs rescue dog was going to cost you a lot of money over the long haul actually illustrating my point. I’m not saying that everyone who comes in is coming in for thier ‘free’ new pet, but a fair number do, and of those who do not, most pay the adoption fee anyway. Of the ones that came in because they wanted to rescue, the ‘free’ did not tip them at all. Again a lot pay the adoption fee anyway.

  9. Tricia Says:

    Everyone makes a good point and this article does give food for thought. I’m more inclined to have low cost adoption fees. I think many rescues groups in the northeast charge anywhere from $250-300 which is very high, and yes they spend more on each pet’s vetting, care, etc. then they get back so i think a reduced fee is more realistic approach on both sides.
    Yes, people on a low income shouldn’t be deprived the joy of a pet, but if you can’t afford a $50-$100 adoption fee or have to save up for it in the first place, chances are the cost of just the basics is going to overwhelm your budget at some point.
    My only issue with a free pet is a buy now, pay later issue for some,like a no money down or credit card purchase.
    Yes, the pet is free now, but there will be an expense to consider later.
    But on the other side of that thought is that maybe knowing a no fee pet would motivate someone to think, “hey, my dog/cat didn’t cost me anything upfront, so i have extra funds to put into their care instead of an adoption fee.

  10. db Says:

    Yes, you do make good points. However, in kill shelters, those same animals who are not adopted are often killed and then they have no chance at any kind of life.
    I adopted a rescue kitten to a retired vet whose 20 year old cat had recently died. I’m sure the cat had decent care, but she ate grocery store cheapo food (he couldn’t remember the name of it but said it had cute, colorful shapes) and lived 20 years. Even though this kitten didn’t get the kind of food I would have hoped for, she has a home and someone who loves her dearly. If she had been in a kill shelter and no one had taken her, she could have been killed.
    I think as long as your adoption procedures are effective, then free is much better than dead!
    Just my perspective.

  11. Linda Meyer Says:

    By The Way…Pets Alive in Middletown ROCKS!!!!! I visited the sanctuary last year and the place is amazing. The staff did everything they could to find me a small dog as I am disabled. Kudo’s to Pets Alive and I hope many Dogs get adopted during your free adoption event. Job well done and the love you have for those dogs is wonderful :)

  12. Cristina Says:

    When I read the line about the “dregs of society” it really burned me up; I was glad the author saw the light. Just because people are not rich is no reason in the world to consider them lower than anyone else, at least not in any way except their income level. My husband and I are retired now on a (low) fixed income; we both worked hard all our lives even though we never earned what I feel our hard work was worth; but the days when the sweat of one’s brow counted for as much as the degrees on one’s wall were long gone before we ever left the workforce. We have never been in trouble with the law; never took drugs or anything of that nature, and we are not unique. We are God-fearing people with a lot more love to give than money. We have 3 rescued cats at the moment, 2 of whom we paid a modest adoption fee for–fortunately our local shelter’s fees are more reasonable than a lot of others’–and one who adopted us: she showed up at our gate, was obviously not feral, and no one in the area claimed her; I suspect whoever had her abandoned her. Had my husband not been outside and found her, she probably wouldn’t have survived. We have had the older 2 since 2006 and the little one since 2009. They are all spayed, vaccinated and get regular meals of wet food twice a day–they like Fancy Feast if it’s on special at Target, if not they also like Sheba and even Target’s store brand–and dry at night to munch on. They are all in very good health and we actually found a vet whose fees are not out of this world, so they get care when they need it even if we have to skimp a bit for ourselves. But what parent doesn’t put their babies’ needs above their own? And make no mistake, those girls are our babies. They could not get more love no matter how ritzy their home (they are 100% indoor cats BTW) nor well-heeled their humans. Of course we worry about the possibility of catastrophic illness, but if and when that situation arises, I have researched ways to obtain the funds and to minimize those costs. There is always a way if you really care about your companion animals. To be told we “have no business having them” is in my opinion, just plain cruel. To the animals who might otherwise be put to death, and to all the caring families who, like us, have more love than money. And it seems to me that there should be more programs to help deserving but not wealthy folks to be able to get and keep their beloved pets. Those who criticize should instead offer a bit of help to someone who needs it, even if it’s just a ride to the vet. Sorry this is so long–I didn’t mean to rant, but I do have very strong feelings about this subject.

  13. kerry Says:

    Dregs of society wasn’t referring to people without money. It referred to people who would try to get dogs for free – like ones to use for bait dogs, dog fighting, hunting etc.

  14. Honor Says:

    I think this no-fee adoption event is fabulous. It’ll encourage people who are “on the fence” to make the leap. This is an event that can help move animals out of shelters into approved homes.
    For those who worry about the long term veterinary costs of owning a pet, yes there can be unexpected illnesses that can cost quite a bit. Our local veterinarians do offer credit card plans (CareCredit seems to be popular here) that allow people to get the care they need and pay off the bill over a longer period of time-and if the bill is paid in full before the end of the initial grace period (on a bigger bill I’ve found it to be a year) there is no interest. I’m in the middle of paying off a second ACL surgery on one of my dogs. This system has been helpful to us for any unexpected vet bills-gives us time to figure out how to pay the bill while getting the immediate care our pets need. I do realize that not everyone can utilize this option, but I’m guessing most working pet parents would qualify for some level of credit.
    For annual vaccinations there are options available in many communities if you do a little research. PetCo here in Middletown, NY (where Pets Alive is located) has a low-cost vaccination clinic on most Sunday afternoons. Cats and dogs can get all the routine shots they need. The clinic also offers Lyme/Heartworm testing and Heartworm medication at a lower price than my regular vet. I suspect that there are a lot of PetCo’s around the Northeast (and for this adoption event I’d guess most of the potential adopters would be from the tri-state region). I know when I lived in the Bronx our local Petland Discounts store did vaccination clinics several times a year. Local shelters here also hold low-cost rabies shot clinics–Pets Alive is hosting one on Sunday, May 25. So for many of the basic annual expenses a savvy owner can find low cost resources, at least around here.

  15. Deb Finke Says:

    Our local animal shelter offers reduced fees for ‘seasoned’ pets and for senior adopters. People may be able to afford caring for a pet, but find a $300+ adoption fee to high on a fixed income. This doesn’t mean the person is irresponsible and/or will abuse an animal. In fact, those choosing to injure animals might be in the possession of a lot of money gained through the maltreatment of animals and/or illegal money making venues. How does the person with money automatically translate into a decent human who could never do harm?????? Trained adoption teams, correctly written application forms, home visits, and the ‘gut’ test serve the possible means to find animals loving, caring homes. Hmmm, money does not.

  16. wwin Says:

    To those that feel only people with enough money should adopt an animal I ask how much in enough? How much should one be willing to spend on a pet to be worthy of giving them love? Most of us have a limit to what we can spend to save a sick/injured pet, we may not want to think about it but it’s there. Some people I’ve met feel no amount is too high $10,000 $30,000 $50,000 doesn’t matter and in their eyes only people willing to do the same should own a pet. To me the question should be can the people give the animal a loving safe home, feed it and keep it’s vaccines updated. Bad things may happen, tough choices may have to be made but most likely the pet will have years and years of love and companionship and that’s worth something also.

  17. Sherry Mothershead Says:

    I keep thinking about the dog that follows the kid home. He didn’t purchase that dog, but it was part of the family until. That dog was no less valuable than one purchased. Thank you for considering this new idea.

  18. Pia Says:

    While I can understand the perspective that “if you cannot afford the $100 or $200 it costs to adopt a pet, you have no business owning one.”, the fact of the matter is that nobody knows what’s to come in life, either during times of national properity or in challenging economic times such as these. You can afford a fee one day and be laid off the next.

    Pets Alive has taken in animals from all walks of life, people who have passed on whose pets have noplace to go, families whose fortunes have dwindled to the point where they are living in their vehicles and many of these people at one time had the ability to pay a fee. One of the things which cemented our own decision to adopt from Pets Alive rather than anywhere else was the reassurance that “if for any reason you can’t take care of her, BRING HER BACK!”. Not knowing what life will deal to us, the ironclad promise from Becky’s eyes that she would take back our adoptive baby no matter what, was amazing. The adoption fee is not the safety net, the guarantee and the incredibly important supporting projects such as the pet chow pantry, the low cost vaccination and microchip clinic, those are the real strenghths and safety nets for adopters.

    Choosing responsible pet parents for their dogs and cats is the biggie: Since adopting from Pets Alive, our family has had its’ financial ups and downs, but thankfully we have never come anywhere close to considering taking advantage of the services and guarantees offered by Pets Alive – indeed I’d say the opposite is true: not to pat ourselves on the shoulder, but seeing what a great and caring organization Pets Alive is, has encouraged us to reach out to them when we can, in forms of donations of both our time and money. Going shopping for gifts for Pets Alive is always fun, and showing up on their doorstep with bleach or doughnuts (both gratefully accepted haha) is a joy. Following Pets Alive’s facebook page and blogs, it’s obvious how, while there are terrible stories all the time about jerks out there who mistreat their animals, there is also an overwhelming amount of people who are loving and giving, they come in all shapes and sizes and all walks of life, AND ARE ALL EQUALLY SUSCEPTIBLE TO FINANCIAL MISFORTUNE which might preclude them from affording to care for their pet, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, maybe next year. And of course are all striving for better financial positions as well, day to day and year to year.

    Futhermore, the hypothetical multi-thousand dollar operation which might strain one family financially but is given freely might at the same time seem a waste of money to the family who lives in a mansion and has 5 BMWs in their driveway. Jerks are jerks, Michael Vick had plenty of money to look after his dogs and plenty of money to afford a hundred kennels. Asking him for an adoption fee was nobody’s safety net.

    I don’t think I could in good conscience adopt another family member from Pets Alive without making some effort at donating money towards the costs they bore keeping him or her alive and healthy while they waited for their forever home – it’s an individual choice obviously, but at the same time Pets Alive is such an amazing organization that hopefully adopters will come back and donate their time, money and items needed in order to make up the difference. Adopting to caring people who have a conscience is more important than a fee.

    And no! Becky! you can’t have her back! 😀

  19. Hello Says:

    Why do the people who run shelters require that a animal either be killed or forced to be homeless with no love or comfort before they will provide free vet care. Some people can not afford vet care but they can give an animal other things including sharing their home where pets have a warm home, food, water, shelter, comfortable bed, love and companionship. Money isnt everything. Encouraging poor people to give homes to animals and the shelter paying for the animals health care is better for the animal then killing them or being homeless. It is so sad to read some of these stories of animals who are abandoned by their owners because of cost.

  20. Should pet adoptions be free? - Oh My Dog! Says:

    […] last point: From the studies linked to above and from this super honest post from Pets Alive, there’s another added benefit to free adoptions. Shelters that offer free adoptions for […]

  21. Palmer Ocarroll Says:

    I am truly thankful to the holder of this web page who has shared this great post at at this time.

  22. Tomeka Conran Says:

    Love what you’ve done with the site!

  23. elle Says:

    Oh, I know I’m like 2 years too late on this – but thank you! I’ve been looking for a puppy for a few months and I have budgeted the cost of having a dog – but $1000 for an inbred/pure bred puppy is absurd. Oh, and Giovanna – if you check out some studies, you’ll notice that most sociopathic people tend to be drawn into the business / corporate world because you can be a terrible cutthroat and get the reward of working up the corporate ladder. What’s at the top of this ladder? Money. It’s a little naive to think that people who torture and kill animals aren’t willing to spend money on their hobbies.

  24. Kim Says:

    Generally people like Dahmer capture neighbors animals or strays. Still terrible, but most won’t go through the trouble of going to a humane society and adopting a dog to torture. Having high adoption fees makes it harder for someone to justify getting a dog from a shelter when they can get the cute fluffy puppy from the pet store for the same price as a dog who has been raised by someone else and can be years older. I have been searching for the right dog to adopt for months, and I am willing to drive up to 300 miles to for him or her. But I just can’t justify another $400 on top of that with the ever-growing cost of living. I want to be able to spoil my dog with a nice bed, toys, and a healthy food option. I have enough money to take care of a dog on a month-to-month basis, but that doesn’t mean I’m real keen to drop $300-$500 all at once. These dogs need saving. Make it easier for good, caring people to adopt them and more will find homes. :)

  25. linda and john Says:

    I just want to say thank you for this very needed information. We just had the unfortunate experience of saying good bye to our little boy. Oliver was approximately 11yrs young. Jack Russell and beagle. The best thing that ever happened in my life. The void that I now have in my life is almost unbearable at times. But the smiles we have from reminiscing about Ollie everyday!! Wow! He was surely loved by many, of which none are well to do. You cannot put a price on love. I could go on to explain the frustrations I have now experienced since Oliver passed. But bottom line. We got Ollie from his 4th shelter at 5 yrs old. He’s had bladder infection, glocoma,? Tumor in his eye and surgery on it. And ultimately was taken because of another tumor inside his belly. I dont know how much money one should have to have at his disposal to say to one of gods gifts that I will love and care for you in anyway way needed until death we will part, but we do this everyday producing children at our very own will. Would you (whomever) make this the issue to your sister, brother, mother, etc. Oliver was produced out of gods work and possibly irresponsible people. But the love and lessons that where learned and felt by so many including himself is priceless. I would hate to think for even a second if we hadn’t had the 175.00 for Ollie that day! What a huge loss for all of us that had the pleasure of his company and love. Im looking again and I’ve actually had two adoption places turn me down. Even after caring for one for a week. Hey, But, i was told we could be a foster home. What did I miss there? We gave them everything ( vet, landlord, job, references, all this info) but the 250 or 300 dollars. Was able to but circumstances arose and wanted to give half know and half the next month and was told that meant I shouldn’t or couldn’t take care of an animal. Tell me, really! Does that make any sense. I have a 24 yr old son and two hrandchildren and I would give what ever was needed, way before my own needs, to make sure they where taken care of. Did the same with Ollie, because that was my second son. FAMILY. Dont turn people away because the lack of some funds, isn’t that against everything your trying to accomplish? So I apologize for the lengthy and un professional write up, but if anyone out there has a little guy out there similar to Ollie please contact me.parizolinda


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