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Animal Care Blog

You Can't Put A Price on Your Best Friend
 Posted: 10/18/18 8:58 PM by Paula Church

Fee-waived adoptionI remember playing with a bunch of neighborhood kids one day back in my childhood, when suddenly this one kid comes running up to everyone yelling “Hey – someone is selling a puppy for free down the street!” We immediately followed him to the spot where a woman had a (really cute) mixed breed puppy - the last one from an unwanted litter. While I have no idea how many were in the litter or in what type of homes they ended up, I do know this free puppy became the pet of my friend, Christine. She named him Beau and from that moment on, he was a regular fixture in all of our adventures. Never has a dog been more loved and cared for than Beau.

This memory has lasted for two reasons: first, because the idea of selling puppies for free was funny to me and second, because free or fee-waived adoptions have become a prominent tool in the life saving equation. Every time Animal Care has a fee-waived adoption event, there are people who express concerns about our animals falling into the hands of those who would do harm to them. Either that or it would only attract adopters that could not otherwise afford a pet and, subsequently, they could not afford to properly care for it, leading to returned adoptions going “through the roof.” Truthfully, at first we all questioned if fee waived were a good idea and questioned whether it would somehow “devalue” our pets.

FREE adoptionLet me take this opportunity to alleviate some fears about “free” adoptions. First and foremost, thorough research has been done and there is absolutely no evidence out there that supports fee-waived adoptions as a breeding ground for irresponsible pet owners and criminals. On the contrary, many studies have been done which overwhelmingly support the benefit of these adoptions. Every national animal welfare organization in the United States supports free pet adoptions as a best practice for saving lives. This includes the ASPCA, Humane Society of the United States, Best Friends Animal Society, Maddie’s Fund, PetSmart Charities, Petco Foundation and more. For example, take a look at this Maddie’s Fund study that gathered results from 1,099 pet adopters after a fee-waived adoption event. Researchers found that the free adoptions were extremely successful in terms of positive caregiver characteristics like attachment, lifestyle and care:

  • 93% of the dogs and 95 percent of the cats were still with their adopters a year after the event.
  • 94% of all respondents declared a strong or very strong attachment to the pet.
  • Most pets lived predominantly indoors, slept in the family bed, and had been to a veterinarian.

The researchers concluded that successful adoptions do not require payment of a fee, and free adoption promotions increase adoptions without compromising the quality of the animal’s life.

Perhaps your vision of a free adoption event is staff standing at the door, giving every adopter any old dog or cat without knowing what that person is hoping to adopt or if they are a qualified adopter at all. It’s important to note that whether a pet is $1,000 or free (our adoption fees never go higher than $35), our adoption process is the same. We want to know what type of pet you are looking for and what best fits your lifestyle. If there is any question or doubt that the adoption is in the best interest of the pet or the adopter, we will either direct them to another animal more suitable for the family or advise them to wait and do some research on pet ownership before making that decision to bring a new pet into the home. A valid form of identification is necessary for an adoption and all pets are micro-chipped. No one intending criminal animal abuse wants to give us their identification or get a pet that can be easily traced back to them!

If you’re concerned about adoption returns, we have that covered too with our “Adoption Audition” program. It allows an adopter to return the pet within 30 days if it is not a good fit in their new home. We then have better information and we can make better matches for that pet based on what we know about their experience in the home. Our goal is not just to get animals out of the shelter, but to get them into a home where they will receive the love and care they deserve. I pulled additional adoption return numbers from the last 4 years and was unable to see any significant change in adoption returns since we began having fee-waived adoption events. Again, a fee waived adoption does not change the way we handle an adoption. In fact, it helps us to be sure good matches are being made and that the pet is remaining in the home by bringing in more adopters.

Perhaps the best reason for fee-waived adoptions is supported through the success of our events. Last weekend, our participation in Pick Me! SC, sponsored by No-Kill South Carolina and Petco Foundation, resulted in 91 adoptions over three days. That was more than double the number of animals finding loving homes compared to just 35 adoptions the same weekend last year. What we see at these events are wonderful families and individuals who understand it takes all of us working together to build a no-kill community. Once the adoption is complete, you become part of our family. We offer numerous resources to help make sure your pet is adapting to their new home and our staff is always available to help with any issues you may be having. Adopters are appreciative of the help that our animals get and are making donations, purchasing necessary pet supplies and making sure their new pets have heartworm and flea protection with the money they are saving on the adoption.

 So the question is, how can you put a price on the love of a best friend? Does paying $2,000 to a breeder, pet shop or shelter make you love that pet more? When you think about it, how many people do you know who have a pet that came from a family member or friend that could no longer care for them or one that just wandered into the yard and remained when it was clear no one was looking for them? I’ve meet so many people and their pets at events and more often than not, these dogs were found, adopted or rescued in some way where no money or fees were paid. The love they have for each other is obvious and I, for one, am convinced that the amount of money we pay for a pet does not equate to how much we will love our pet. Just like my childhood friend and her “free” puppy Beau, life is pretty wonderful for these awesome animals that are getting a second chance at a great home.