Can you afford to adopt a pet?

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For millions of Americans, pets are just like family. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports we spend $61 billion a year providing for them.

But before you rescue Fido from the shelter, consider the costs.

“A shelter adoption fee can run anywhere from zero to $500,” according to Dr. Emily Weiss with the ASPCA. She says it averages between $75 and $125.

“One advantage of a shelter is that the adoption fee usually includes spaying or neutering, immunizations, and microchipping,” says Dr. Weiss.

The ASPCA estimates caring for a dog will run about $1,500 during the first year alone, which works out to $125 a month.

Here’s how it breaks down by the size of the dog:

  • Small dog: $1,314
  • Medium dog: $1,580
  • Large dog: $1,843

(Editor’s note: Have a cat? Your first year estimate is $1,035.)

These estimates include basic needs, plus the initial cost of adoption.

Unexpected trips to the vet are missing from the equation. Just one illness can run $500 or more if your vet recommends an expensive X-ray or blood work.

Dr. Weiss says many people give up their pets because they can’t afford the vet bills.


Housing issues are also a concern.  “In some communities, people are relinquishing large dogs because they can’t find affordable pet-friendly housing,” says Dr. Weiss.

On a case-by-case basis, she says the ASPCA might consider paying the pet security deposit.

Dr. Weiss adds, “We want to find the best impact. Sometimes the reason people are relinquishing the animal is something we can fix.”

You can reduce the likelihood of having to give up your pet by doing some homework.

The ASPCA’s Meet Your Match program helps connect people with animals that are likely to be a good fit.

Dr. Weiss says there are four key questions to ask before you adopt:

  1. Do you have time for a pet?
  2. Are you willing to make a shift in your schedule?
  3. Have you figured out what your ideal pet would be like?
  4. Do you have the funds to support that animal?

While finances are part of the picture, Dr. Weiss says the ASPCA’s top priority is providing pets with loving, humane homes.

How much do you spend on your pet? Leave a comment below.

Freelance journalist Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, Save on Almost Everything.

Clark’s take:
That’s Lucy you see at the top of this article — author Michael Timmermann’s rescue dog. Mike’s article is not meant to discourage pet adoption in any way; its intent is to make you aware of the costs so you can budget appropriately and find an animal that’s right for you and your life.

As for me, I’ve talked in the past about our family dogs QT and Costco Wholesale, who are both now dearly departed. My deal with my family is when we get dogs, I get to name them! Now we have a Labradoodle named Maggie after the late Margaret Thatcher.

But I want to give the last word on this subject to one of the posters I saw on my Facebook page: “The joy and happiness these wonderful creatures bring to our lives is priceless.”

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