Why a Re-Homing or Adoption Fee Is Necessary for Pet Adoptions
There are a lot of websites that let people post ads for pets they're trying to re-home. For whatever reason, these people are no longer able to care for their pets or are no longer willing to keep them and must find them new homes. Spend some time browsing these ads and you'll see that most people will ask for an adoption fee - and that just doesn't sit right for some of the prospective new families!
However, offering a pet "free to a good home", even with good intentions, is not the right thing to do when rehoming a pet. And for people looking to adopt a new pet, there are many reasons why a rehoming fee should be charged for the best interests of the pet.
Arguments Against an Adoption Fee
"If you're just going to put your pet down or bring it to the shelter, why would you charge someone a fee to take it home? You'd rather see your pet die than give it away free?"
This comment, or some variation of it, is often seen on forums that allow pet ads. The reasoning is that the pet is no longer wanted, so why not give it to someone who does want it and would give it a good home?
Many people feel that it's unethical to charge an adoption fee for an animal that's homeless (or soon to be homeless). The fee implies that the person is "in it for the money", rather than being concerned that his pet goes to the best possible home.
"That's not an adoption fee, you're selling your pet!"
Another common concern is a "high" adoption fee. Some people believe that a small fee of $20 or $50 is more acceptable than one that's $200, for example. The higher the fee, the more likely readers are to believe that the person re-homing the pet is trying to make a profit - something that is often frowned upon, especially when it appears to be at the expense of the animal's true well-being.
Reasons FOR Charging an Adoption Fee
Most people are decent people. The sad reality though, is that some people are not - and charging an adoption fee helps to protect animals who need re-homing.
Here's an example... it's no secret that labs experiment on animals. It's also no secret that dog fighting rings still exist today, and use animals as "bait" to train their fighting dogs. Giving away a free animal makes them easy targets for this type of situation, where the animal's life has no monetary value. If you charge an adoption fee, it's less likely that someone will be able to turn around and sell the dog to a lab or as bait. It's less likely that it will be profitable for them, so they just won't bother.
Pet ownership is a privilege and requires a committed owner. "Free to a good home" ads encourage casual pet owners who don't take it seriously. Free pets can also end up abandoned, turned into animal shelters, neglected and ignored, re-sold to anyone who happens to walk by with a few bucks, or used for breeding if it hasn't already been spayed or neutered. There are many people who don't value what they get for free.
Sometimes you'll hear outcry that adoption fees discriminate against poor families who don't necessarily have the money to pay the adoption fee, but who will do whatever is necessary to make sure their new pet is happy and healthy - including bringing the pet in for medical care whenever it's needed. It's true, families from all economic backgrounds are completely devoted to their pets and will care for them properly and with love.
Unfortunately, a free pet is often considered a disposable pet.
It is a devastating experience to have to give up a pet. In a perfect world, pets would have permanent homes. And of course, the goal is to try to make sure pets have loving and permanent homes! But sometimes life circumstances mean that a family can no longer care for its pets. Think of a family who is dealing with a severe or even terminal illness, and no longer has the time to give a pet the attention it deserves. That is only one example.
For families that are in this unfortunate situation, a meeting with a prospective new home and a couple of conversations helps to ease their minds that their pets are going to a good home - but they'll probably still worry. Having a pet is a very big financial responsibility. Beyond the usual food, grooming, and other day-to-day expenses, there are also regular vet check-ups and vaccines... and the significantly more costly vet visits for emergencies or illness. Remember, the pet owner doesn't know the potential new family - and a new family's willingness to pay an adoption fee helps to demonstrate that they're financially able and willing to provide proper care for the pet.
What Could Adoption Fees Be Used For?
Shelters and rescue organizations always charge an adoption fee. Most people don't seem to mind, in fact, they expect it. They know that rescues need to cover operating expenses, pet care, medical bills, and so forth.
Individual pet owners who charge a rehoming fee don't necessarily use it for anything - but they might also have expenses to cover too. For example, they might include a kennel, food dishes, toys, bedding, and other pet accessories when you adopt their pet. Or maybe they want to use the fee to help cover a spay/neuter surgery before they let their pet go to a new home. Maybe the pet owner sprung an animal from the shelter because it was going to be euthanized, but they knew they couldn't keep it - so they pass on the adoption fee to the new owner once they find the pet a good, permanent home.
A Possible Compromise
One suggestion I've heard is to ask the potential adopter to make a donation to a local humane society or pet rescue organization. Ask the potential adopter to bring the receipt when he comes to pick up the pet. This way, the rescue benefits; the pet owner can feel more secure about who his pet's new home; and the new owner has done a good deed.