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5 ways to adopt a dog on the cheap

Amy Jamieson
Jan. 25, 2019

You really want a dog, but you really don’t want your bank account to take a huge hit. There are ways to adopt a canine on a budget, you just need to know where to find the deals.

Before you go sniffing around for savings, it’s important to note that owning a dog is a lifelong financial responsibility, long after you pay the initial fee to bring the dog home. Veterinary appointments, pet food, dog walkers and miscellaneous supplies are just some of the expenses you’ll face when you own a pup — with a price tag of about $1,400 in your first year of dog ownership, according to the ASPCA. So it’s critical that you and your family determine whether you can handle those needs on an ongoing basis.

Most animals adopted from shelters and rescue groups will come already spayed/neutered, vaccinated and often microchipped. So the price you pay at adoption — usually between $150 and $400, depending on the dog’s age — is quite a good bargain already, considering dogs from breeders can cost thousands of dollars. It’s possible to bring that adoption price down, if you look at the right time and place.

If you know you’re ready to choose a furry friend for life, here are some key ways you can save dollars during the doggy adoption process.

1. Adopt from a shelter or rescue group instead of a dog breeder.

It’s no secret that you can pay a pretty penny for a purebred pooch from a breeder, so if you’re looking for a deal up front, rescuing will definitely give you the best bang (bark?) for your buck.

“Virtually all shelters and rescue groups are going to have much lower adoption fees than the purchase price you'd pay from a breeder,” says Temma Martin, a spokeswoman for Best Friends Animal Society, an animal welfare organization with a Utah sanctuary that is home to about 1,600 animals. “Besides saving yourself money, though, is the incredible satisfaction of knowing that by adopting, you're also saving a life!”

Martin says you may notice higher fees for animals like small breeds and puppies because they are most in demand.

“Nearly all animals adopted from shelters and rescue groups will come already spayed/neutered, vaccinated and often microchipped,” she says. “Even compared to a ‘free’ animal, for which you would later need to pay for these services from a veterinarian, adoption fees are a good deal.”

2. Look for rehoming ads in your local newspaper.

Life happens, and sometimes a loving dog owner needs to find a new home for their beloved pooch. It’s a heartbreaking situation that deserves a happy ending.

“Divorce, new baby, loss of a job, financial crisis or a death in the family are just a few of the reasons that people decide they need to rehome their pet,” Martin says. “There are many good adult animals available this way, but take into consideration when you're looking that some may need veterinary care, such as vaccinations or spay/neuter to make them a healthy, happy member of your family. Try to get as much information as possible from the previous owner to make sure the pet will be a good fit for your home.”

It’s also important to be wary of scams or people trying to make money by selling innocent animals.

“Look for individual and adult animals that need new homes, rather than people trying to get rid of litters of puppies or kittens,” Martin says. “Many people sell puppies and kittens with a sad story, such as threats to take them to the shelter, but in reality they're in it to make money and will let the mother dogs and cats continue to breed as long as people keep buying their babies.”

3. Consider adopting a senior dog, especially during Adopt-A-Senior Pet Month in November.

Some shelters and rescues offer special deals throughout the month of November in honor of senior pets everywhere, so mark your calendar. Besides often being cheaper than younger animals, senior pets offer so much more.

“There are many benefits to adopting an adult or senior pet, such as bringing home a more mellow, mature animal that has probably already had some obedience training, is socialized and is already house trained,” Martin says. “Many shelters and rescues offer a ‘Seniors for Seniors’ program year-round, where ‘senior’ animals — sometimes as young as 5 years old — can be adopted for no fee to people over age 55.”

4. Follow your favorite shelter or rescue on social media for deals.

Love Your Pet Day, Adopt-a-Dog Month, Valentine’s Day — we all celebrate animals on these holidays, and so do shelters and rescues by promoting special adoption deals. If you stay connected, you’re bound to spot one.

“Shelters and rescue groups generally offer several special adoption promotions each year, from fee-waived cats during kitten season, to specials low-cost adoption fees for adopt a cat or dog month,” Martin says. “There are often promotions around Valentine's Day and other holidays, and sometimes clever deals like ‘Nine Lives for $9.’ Follow your local animal welfare organizations on social media to be the first to know about upcoming adoption promotions.”

5. Ask your local veterinarian about dogs that need homes.

Veterinarians work with animals for a living, so they may be aware of a furry friend in need of a home.

“Veterinarians sometimes end up with pets whose owners abandon them because they feel they can't pay the bills for their care,” Martin says. “Or, sadly, owners sometimes bring a pet in to be euthanized because they no longer want it, but the veterinarian determines there is no reason to euthanize the animal because it is not suffering. Kind hearted-caregivers will take in the pet to foster it until a better home can be found. Asking around your local animal hospitals may help you find a pet looking for a home that has been receiving top-notch care from the clinic.”

The money that you save on adopting a dog will come in handy later down the line when you’re stocking up on supplies, paying for a vet visit, grooming session or pet-sitter.

“The bottom line is that every community has many wonderful animals available for adoption, many for very affordable prices,” she says. “While the cost to adopt the animal might be a deal, please keep in mind that pets need training, toys, treats, food and regular veterinary care, so the money you save on adoption fees can go into the pet's care budget. Thank you for saving money and choosing to save a life!”

Read next: Fun things to do with your dog

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