How Much Is that Doggie in the Shelter? by Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views raises the question of whether shelters should charge fees, and if so, how much is too much?
Her article sparked a great deal of commentary, and as a animal services professional and recent adopter of kitten Bagheera (pictured with this article) I felt I had an additional perspective worth sharing.
Shelters do not usually charge the full amount it costs to house, feed, spay/neuter, and other health care options they may offer for all the animals they rescue. Having seen the inside of more than a few shelters, they are barely holding their own, never mind making a profit. In dire need of updating, their rundown appearance puts them at risk of being labeled as low rent warehouses for animals. And usually this is due to a shortfall of funds, not a lack of desire.
Based on what I have observed in my healing and teaching practice people should pay a fee to adopt. You are not buying affection when you adopt an animal any more than you are buying energy when you learn Reiki or receive a session; the session fee honors the time, expenses and skill that goes into making that service available to you, and the adoption fee honors the same effort on the part of the shelter.
When you adopt you also sign a legal contract. By doing so you are making a physical and energetic agreement, not only with the shelter, but also with the animal that you have chosen. You are committing to offer the very best quality of life for their lifetime that you can. I’m sure this statement will be controversial, but I believe that the fact that anyone might be offended either by the amount or the existence of an adoption fee is more about their emotional issues than it is about the shelters or the welfare of the animals.
For a moment let’s compare shelters to car factories. When we purchase a car we expect to pay for it and have it run well for a number of years. If the manufacturer uses shoddy materials, has a poor quality factory and cannot afford to hire quality workers you will not be purchasing a quality product—and the lifetime of your car will be compromised. Shelters face similar challenges, some can only offer the basics such as food (albeit poor quality) and shelter (a roof is better than no roof at all). There is little left over to offer for testing or even basic medical care. If they had more funds they would be better able to support the desire of the adopter for a healthy companion as well as the needs of the animal.
Now, animals are not cars, they are feeling sentient beings who need love and understanding as well as routine maintenance (quality food, water, veterinary support, complementary therapies, etc.). However the cost of routine maintenance can add up for an animal as well as it can for a car. Anyone who can afford the sticker price, can purchase a car. If, after purchasing, the car buyer chooses to waive quality routine maintenance only their pocketbook suffers, which is not true of their animal companion.
No one should be allowed to adopt an animal that is not willing, or able, to offer that animal all the support that is needed for a quality life. Having an animal companion is not a right, but a responsibility. And if you cannot afford, or are not willing, to pay the relatively minor costs upfront for the services of the shelter, then you are not a good candidate for offering quality care for the lifetime of a companion animal. The issue of whether to charge or how much should not be about the emotional needs, desires, or financial hardship of the prospective adopter, but the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual needs of the animal being adopted.
How Much Is that Doggie in the Shelter? mentions a study in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, Oct. 12, 2009, by Weiss E. and Gramann S. which found, “A comparison of attachment levels of adopters of cats: fee-based adoptions versus free adoptions suggest that no significant differences were found.” I might question whether the study included how the animal was cared for. There is no way to measure accurately the relationship between fee and feelings but you can measure the level of care. Adopting an animal should require a potential adopter to jump through some hoops. The willingness to do so offers some measure of protection to the animal, some indication of how they may be treated over their lifetime, and an opportunity to educate the adopter.
Shelter fees should be high enough to cover all costs and overhead, just like any other business, and should have enough margin built in so that they can focus on the one thing that can improve life for everyone—education. Perhaps, through the efforts of shelters and many unsung volunteers, one day we will no longer have a pet overpopulation problem, with more animals available than there are quality homes. Perhaps in future, animals, and the unconditional love they offer, will then be appreciated for the priceless gifts they are.
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A WILD WAY TO HEAL
Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC, is an animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, shamanic energy healer, and author. Her classes, sessions and ceremonial work are inspired by wild and domestic animals who have issued a call to action for personal and global healing.
Her book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism features heartwarming stories about animals and their role in her evolution as an energy worker and shamanic healer.