Monday, December 20, 2010

Looking for a new furry family member? How to be prepared. Pt 4 - Is Free really Free?

In previous installments of this series I've discussed purchase vs adoption for acquiring a new pet.  But there is also a 3rd option I'd like to talk about.  The "free" giveaway.

Scenario 1:
You're minding your own business shopping for all those crazy holiday gifts and then you spot a cart full of the cutest puppies on the planet.  Your daughter has been begging for a puppy for the longest time now, but you just weren't sure.  It's Christmas now and you think you're ready to make the plunge, and well, Free puppies means Zero money spent on this particular present!  So you can get a puppy And that Barbie she wanted too.  Win Win!  Right?

Scenario 2:
You want to surprise your significant other with that kitten she's been hinting about.  You've looked at rescues, but their adoption fees are all around $100.  You have been on a tight budget lately and really can't afford that kind of money for a present.  So you look in the paper and on Craigslist and find a few listings giving kittens away.  Wow!  You may be able to get that kitten Plus a gift certificate to DSW!  How is that not a win win situation?

While those litters may very well have come from a lovely home who had an "oops" litter and they look beautifully taken care of and may not give you any health problems like a commercial bred pet might, "free" is never "free" in this case.  Pets being given away for free 9 times out of 10 have not been vetted at all.  So remember, you still have to pay for all of that vetting.  Just how much could you be out of pocket?

I've done a small price comparison on various options local to me.  And from what I can see, the cost of fully vetting a new kitten or puppy is going to be just shy of $400 (using the more costly spay surgery scenario) if you use the subsidized SPCA clinic.  Having your vetting performed with a personal vet is going to cost quite a bit more.  When all is said and done, paying for your own vetting can cost you between $495 - $630.  And while you are sure to receive the best possible care that a personal vet can provide, for those who are on a budget and looking for a "free" pet, "free" just got rather expensive.  Even the cheapest method of going through a low cost mobile vet for vaccinations and going to a non-profit group like Kitti Co for the spay or neuter is going to cost you $109.  If the mobile vet does not test for FIV and Leline Leukemia,  you'll need to have that test performed at a vet's office, which will tack on not only a $55 office visit, but another $35 for the test, bringing your total to $199.

So what exactly are you saving if you adopt?  Quite a lot actually.  Average adoption fees for cats in the Dallas area seem to average between $55 and $125.  The same area seems to average between $85 and $285 for dogs.  If you adopt from a rescue that guarantees all the vetting no matter what age you adopt, your out of pocket for vetting will be confined to illness after adoption and the annual boosters.  However, some rescues only pay for the spay/neuter and whatever vaccinations are due at the time of adoption.  In this case, you would be responsible for the rest of the vaccinations due.  Adopting an 8 week old kitten from a rescue may still end up costing you a little in vetting shortly after adoption.  So ask those questions.  Make sure you know what you are getting with your adoption fee.  Even still, with having to cover those last vaccinations on your own, you will come in at well under the cost of a "free" kitten who requires all of its vetting.