In Michigan a few times a year I start seeing my friends sharing Facebook posts by various local shelters, talking about empty the shelter days. They are days where all the pets that are in a shelter can be adopted free of charge. The charge is covered by some group or company, and the goal is to have the shelter completely empty by the end of the event.
I’ve watched a few of these events where they were successful and did completely empty the shelter. At the last one, a special needs Labrador remained but was adopted the following Monday. Of course, once the shelters are empty then they can fill back up by picking animals from local animal control shelters or new drop offs, and so on. These events certainly end up saving lives of some pets in some way or another and that is a beautiful thing.
However, when I see these events I always feel a little uncomfortable. The reason why is, it makes me wonder why so many people are interested in having a pet but unwilling to pay a fee (most shelters in my area charge $150 at most for a dog, while sometimes going to $50 or less) to adopt an animal? Especially knowing that they were brought up to date on shots and had other health services done, which is really what you are paying for.
I watched various adoption groups and craigslist for quite a while before we got our pugs. I had noticed that the going rate for adult pugs was about $150-$200 per pet and I was expecting to spend that. Yet, when I saw Frank and Beans, my pugs, in a Facebook group something about them just spoke to me. I had planned to go with a silly pet name so to be honest it was their names that really grabbed me, but I also liked the photo of them together. The idea of bonded dogs warmed my heart. Also, I think in part it was that they were located in my town, where I had not seen any pugs listed within 40 minutes or so from me online. The listing said contact for price, and I did and she said they were actually free but she didn’t want to put that in the listing. So I myself am “guilty” of getting a free pet. For me, it wasn’t that I wasn’t open to paying for them, but more that it felt right and they happened to be free. I hope that is similar to what happens in many of the empty the shelter cases but it’s hard to say.
I absolutely support people who choose to adopt instead of buying a puppy. I also understand the philosophy of wanting to care for pets that already exist instead of making more when we don’t have homes for all the ones that exist now. I know many purebred dogs go for $1000+ per puppy, and I understand why people don’t want to spend so much. I probably spend close to that much per year on my dogs, but per year is different than all at once, upfront. Especially for a puppy which has so many vet expenses in that first year on top of it. What worries me more is that people who are unwilling to spend even $50 to get a pet will take one. $50 is only enough to cover a single visit to the vet – if that. If they aren’t willing (or able?) to pay to get the pet to begin with, will they be willing to pay for it’s ongoing healthcare expenses? I hope so. But if they are willing to pay vet expenses, I wonder why they are so resistant to paying an adoption fee.
I’d love to hear from people who have participated in an empty the shelters day. Does paying a pet adoption fee bother you more than paying a vet bill? If so, why is that?