Thursday, September 2, 2010

Rescue Dog Dilema

My mother recently lost her 15 year old Akita mix. She is looking for a new dog to be a companion to her 6 year old Maltese, Belle. She makes $45,000 a year but a big chunk of that goes towards her long commute to work. Another chunk goes to her dog walker. Every day that my mom works she has someone come to her house to feed, play with and walk her dogs. The dogs aren't left in the house alone for more than 6-8 hours at a time. She is not perfect, but she is definitely an above average pet owner.

She found a very sweet 4 year old dog available from a local pet rescue group. She filled out an application, provided vet and personal references and started to get excited about getting a new dog to keep Belle company. Her application was approved in less than a week but she was surprised that the adoption fee for this sweet little mixed breed was $350.

I understand that rescue groups need donations and adoption fees from the public to operate but pricing the dogs out of the price range of most of the people in your community doesn't seem like a good idea. By comparison, the Humane Society in my mom's semi-rural, lower middle class town charges $40 for a neutered dog. They adopt dogs out very quickly and have the space to take in new animals weekly. They only euthanize dogs if they have behavioral or medical problems which are beyond treatment. Even the heartworm positive dogs are treated and re-homed.

Most of the jobs in my mom's town pay $7-$10 an hour. That's why many people commute 2 or more hours to better jobs in other states. If I made $10 an hour, spending what probably amounts to a rent payment on a dog would be unthinkable. I think annual vet check ups, vaccinations, Heartguard and flea and tick preventative only costs a little more than that for an entire year for a healthy dog.

Many of the dogs from these rescue groups do seem to be in foster homes so they are living "normal" lives while waiting for their forever homes. But if the rescue group isn't spending money to house these dogs in a kennel, then why are they charging so much? What are those fees covering? I know the foster parents don't get paid. I understand that there are vet bills but usually they have a vet that provides these services at a discount or for free. It seems like a lower adoption fee would lead to more homes for dogs in a shorter period of time.

I did pay a total of $400 for my two rescue dogs. One came from a breed specific rescue and was living in a shelter before we brought her home. The other was transported from a high kill shelter down south and then lived in a foster home. The purebred cost less than 1/4 of a what she would have cost from a breeder and I can't imagine any circumstances where I would purchase a dog from a breeder. The time and love that the chain of people who caravaned our boy from Louisiana to New York to save his life are worth the fee that we paid. I can't imagine the fee covered their gas for this trip.

I get that you can't make dogs free because then completely unqualified people might take dogs home. But the dogs should be reasonably priced for the community that you serve. If you find that you are keeping dogs for 4-6 months before you find them a home and other groups are placing their dogs in weeks then maybe you need to make a change. Because there are obviously plenty of people in the community that want to adopt dogs. For the meantime, my mom has found another animal rescue a couple towns over that charges $100 a dog. She has an application in place and Belle should have a new friend soon.

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