Bringing home a new pet is an exciting time, but some assume the pet adoption fees will bust their budget. Yet, compared to buying from a breeder, the cost is minimal.

Some aspiring pet parents feel a bit intimidated by the pet adoption process. Considering how widely they vary, it’s understandable. Some rescues require lengthy applications that can seem intrusive. But, don’t get discouraged, they just want to make sure you’re fully prepared to adopt.

The Adoption Process Varies Widely

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Government-run animal shelters usually offer the most straightforward adoption process. Sometimes there might be a short wait. Most county facilities have a wait-time that allows a pet owner to reclaim their lost dog or cat. Once this time passes, the pet may remain on hold until they’ve received testing and medical treatment. Still, pet adoption fees from your local animal shelter can be as low as $10 or $20, depending on the animal’s age and size.

Adopting from a rescue organization can get a bit more complicated … Especially when the rescue specializes in purebred animals. Because these are generally run on private property or someone’s home at great cost, the pet adoption fees can also be much higher. One of the downfalls of running a pet rescue is the seeing heartbreak of abuse and neglect up close. Many rescues will require a reference from your veterinarian and a home visit. This helps them ensure you’re a responsible pet guardian who’s prepared to commit to a new family member. If you have your heart set on a particular breed, this might be the most affordable option. But since purebreds often cost thousands of dollars, you may wind up on a long wait list.

Pet Adoption Resources

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Pet Stores

Many pet supply stores have space for local rescues to feature local shelter pets for rehoming, making pet adoption fees affordable and the process more accessible. And many offer incentives and discounts on pet supplies to those who show proof that they rescued their new pet.

  • Petsmart locations throughout the U.S. hold regular adoption events.
  • Pet Supermarket holds adoption events
  • Petco has adoption events and has excellent resources on its website for pet adoption
  • In the U.K. Pets at Home adoption fees vary by the sponsored organization.  Pets at Home donates money to local shelters and helps match aspiring pet parents with shelter pets.

Charity Organizations

Large animal charity organizations often support pet adoption either through their facilities or with services.

  • Humane Society pet adoptions include full medical services
  • The ASPCA only lists adoptable pets in NYC, but has a national database of shelters and can access searches for pets near you.

Government Run Animal Shelters

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Search for your local government-run pelt shelter by searching at your county’s website for animal control and adoption resources. Frequently run by the local animal control department, many county services offer the lowest cost pet adoption fees to be found.

Online “Matchmaking” Services

There’s a variety of pet adoption search engines online that allow prospective pet parents to search for their next best friend. Most access a network of pet rescues and animal shelters, while others allow individuals to add pets they’re trying to rehome. Many of these search engines will let you search by age, size, sex, or breed too.

What Pet Adoption Fees Cover

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Although pet adoption fees can seem high, they also include the cost of medical care. The services provided by a shelter or rescue cost a much less, a small percentage, than if those same services were performed after the adoption by a regular veterinarian. provides a list of savings:

  • Veterinary wellness visit and exam $50-100
  • Spaying or neutering $150-300
  • Distemper vaccination $20-30×2
  • Rabies vaccination $15-25
  • Heartworm test (for dogs) $15-35
  • Feline Leukemia/FIV test (for cats) $30-50
  • Flea/tick treatment $50-200
  • Microchip $50
  • Deworming $20-50
  • Collar and an identification tag $5-10
  • Licensing and registration $10-$30

With so much of this included in your pet adoption fees, you’ll save an average of over $650.

Flexibility Can Reduce Pet Adoption Fees

Government-run shelters and rescue groups often have reduced pet adoption fees for older adult and senior pets. If you’re open to adopting a senior pet or special needs dog, the shelter will usually discount the adoption fee.

If you’re patient, many county shelters run “specials” when their facilities are full, and they reduce overcrowding. It also reduces the need to euthanize otherwise very adoptable pets. Follow your local shelter on social media or check their website regularly to stay up-to-date on any “sales.”

There’s nothing in the U.S. tax code that makes pet adoption fees tax deductible, but if you donate money above and beyond the cost of adoption to a registered 501(c) pet rescue, you should be able to write it off as a charitable donation.

The cost of adoption and medical care for pets adopted as guide dogs or service animals may sometimes be tax deductible, according to the US Tax Center blog. Check with your tax professional if this applies to you.

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A new family member often means stretching the budget. However, the joy of a new furry family member outweighs the cost. When compared with buying from a store or breeder, you save a lot on your pet adoption fees.

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