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Why Dog and Cat Adoptions Aren’t Free and Other Facts About Rescue

We hear lots of thoughts people have about adopting pets, and some misunderstandings, too – especially the one about why dog and cat adoptions aren’t free. Here are some of the more nitty gritty facts about the rescue world you might not have known.

Why aren’t they free? Aren’t they homeless?

mollyWe will admit when we were younger that we often wondered why there was a $200 fee to adopt a 4 year old cat. Aren’t we saving their life? Of course, yes, you are saving their life. But before you saved their life, someone else saved it. They scooped that 4 year old cat out of the clutches of a certain short life and rushed them to the vet for screenings, shots and injury or illness care. Did you know that every found animal needs to be tested for communicable diseases before being added to the rescue? For cats, there are tests for FELV/FIV, parasites and herpes? For dogs there are tests for heartworm, other parasites, and even temperament testing. These are just the basics, if the animal is brought in sick or injured, there will be many more costly tests. While most, if not all, veterinarians cut fees for shelters and rescues, they can’t afford to give the lab costs, medicines and supplies away too. Then there’s food, water, bedding, rent or mortgage, spaying and neutering and hundreds of other costs that people don’t know about. These costs are factored into adoption fees.

Rescues often spend far more money for any given rescue pet than they recoup in adoption fees.

For every pet that is adopted, there are many more who are long-term residents or even never adopted. And those pets cost money too. Every day. Ever watch Pitbulls and Parolees? Did you know it costs $1,000.00 per day to operate Villalobos, which houses ~150 dogs? They adopt about 5 dogs out a month. That means 145 dogs get carried over every month with no adoption fees to pay for their care.

Misconception: Rescues thrive on food, supply and monetary donations.

sheaWe have never met a thriving rescue. We’ve met struggling rescues on the edge every single day of going under. They struggle to get the word out about the pets they have available for adoption, the veterinary emergencies they’ve taken in, they struggle to find volunteers, and they struggle to word requests for money in such a way that people will understand just how many debts they have facing them every single day. These are just ordinary people, like you and me, cast into this unfair position of having to be marketing agents, sales agents, negotiators, and about 30 other “hats”.

“I went to this rescue and they were rude, I’m not giving them my money.”

Oh, we hear this one all the time. Here’s the cold, hard truth. Yup, sometimes rescue owners and volunteers seem cold. Here’s just a little picture of what any shelter owner, manager or volunteer faces every single day:

  • Calls to rescue pets hit by cars, inhumanely treated, fighting dogs or bait dogs, cats thrown out of moving cars, and just plain old homeless pets who are starving, sick or injured. There’s not enough time in the day, which do you save? You rescued 3, and you held 2 in your arms as they had to be euthanized.
  • Veterinarian calls that a pet couldn’t be saved, or will cost $10,000 to save. Do you want to treat or euthanize? You must make this decision right now. As a reminder, your tab at the clinic is now $21,324.68.
  • Illness outbreak, all the dogs in this area are now sick and must be treated and cleaned up after.
  • 3 of 5 scheduled volunteers did not show up today. You needed 10 volunteers.
  • You cleaned the vomit off your shirt, put a smile on your face and were grateful for the $28.57 donation from the sweet child who ran a lemonade stand to collect money for your rescues, even though you knew you needed thousands more.
  • Your volunteers found a beloved rescue dog dead in their kennel, and you have to decide how to dispose of the body. There’s no free way to do that, either.
  • The water just got shut off because you didn’t have funds to pay the bill, or because the main down the street broke. The animals are thirsty and you kennels to clean.
  • The neighbors are complaining about the noise again and called animal control with some stories about neglect. Animal control arrives unannounced to do a thorough inspection.
  • 2 potential adopters showed up, one complained about the fees and left, the other isn’t a good family to adopt to because they gave up their last 3 pets.
  • It’s midnight, and you’re just leaving, though you’ll be back at 5am to start all over.
This isn’t what they signed up for. They signed up to save lives. The tough make it, the people like me and you – well, we couldn’t do it.

What can we do?

We can adopt, we can donate money, we can give household items like bleach, old towels, sheets blankets, food our pet hated, toys, treats, pee pads, bowls, or we can call them and ask what they need. The best thing we can do? Volunteer. Foster or schedule volunteer time every week. Now we know why adoption costs money, and now we know what you can do to help these rescues keep doing what they’re doing: saving the lives, until they all have a home.

Who Needs Help?


Pet Guardian Pet Rescue


Annette is also a pet sitter with us, but only as time permits because Annette is saving the lives of thousands of cats and dogs. Her rescue is in need of veterinary funds and all types of cat food, and canned dog food.
Web:Pet Guardian Pet Services


GO Rescue


Georgia is a dynamo! Want to volunteer? Please help her! We just love her and can not believe the energy and love this woman has, and she needs everything: Volunteers, funds, supplies and money. We have observed that she also needs a reliable vehicle if anyone can help with that – she would never ask.
Web: GO Rescue

Diabetic Cats in Need

Diabetic Cats In Need


Venita started this rescue from a board of thousands of diabetic cat owner members. The board was plagued with posts about people dumping their diabetic cats and she organized this charity to provide monetary help to diabetic cat owners in need. From that came the adoption and foster aspect of Diabetic Cats In Need. Both Marvie and I (Carolyn) foster for, adopt from and donate to this charity. It’s dear to our hearts, as Marvie and I met on the Feline Diabetes Board years ago with our own original diabetic cats, Spot and Tugger. What do they need? Money, Lantus and Levemir insulins, blood glucose meters and test strips, and foster homes.
Web: Diabetic Cats In Need

Regardless of the pet rescue you choose to help, we thank you!

We just love this awesome Take A Chance On Me video by the SPCA – does it make you want another? πŸ™‚

  1. Carolyn, this blog is so great! The topic is one I never see written about, the title is so on point. I am sharing it on Wednesday on my fb page. Thank you for writing this!

    • Bella,
      Thank you so much! We enjoyed writing about it, and hope that we can help people understand the rescue world a little better!

  2. nailed it. I would have thought *i* wrote this and I’ve been in Rescue since 1988. The animal control showing up for an inspection is sooo true..yet they dont have time to actually check on the dog down the road that doesnt get food or straw unless YOU give it to them. Thank you for posting this… I hope it reaches a lot of people and they really pay attention. πŸ™‚

    • I hope so too, Melissa, people should know the hearts that lie behind those dogs and cats they’re looking at, and the struggles you all face daily.. even hourly. Thank you so much for taking the time to post, it means a lot. πŸ™‚

  3. This is on point and made me cry because each day is a challenge and you understand what we go threw to save lives.
    Thank-you very much for caring about small rescues.
    Annette Still
    Pet Guardian Pet Services, Inc. In VA.

    • Much of what I wrote is because I learned it with Pet Guardian, Annette. Thank you for giving me so much knowledge πŸ™‚

Rescue Work

Pet Guardian Pet Service
Pet Guardian is a local rescue organization specializing in saving domestic animals in crisis.

Diabetic Cats In Need
Diabetic Cats in Need is a national organization dedicated to helping diabetic cats live wonderful lives.

GO Rescue
GO Rescue is a local group rescuing dogs from imminent death and rehoming them.

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