You can’t put a price on your best friend

By Francis Battista

I had the good fortune to attend the recent Best Friends Super Adoption in Manhattan. It was a terrific event with more than 275 dogs and cats going to new homes directly from the adoption event, with surely more to follow after applications are reviewed and meet-and-greets with other household pets are finalized.

On Sunday, the final day of the adoption, Best Friends sponsored a fee-waived promotion where the final cost of the first 50 adoptions of the day (from any shelter or rescue group) where the adopter mentioned a special code (Save Them All™) was free. It was very successful and sparked a higher turnout than normal for a Sunday. The promotion got me thinking once again about the resistance to reduced-fee and fee-waived adoptions, a subject that I touched on in my last blog post.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that most rescue organizations charge adoption fees in the $250-$400 range for what they believe to be a very good reason. They attempt to offset the high costs of veterinary care, boarding, good food and, often, special meds that every animal coming into their care requires to some degree. Despite the fact that the adoption fee very rarely actually covers these costs, what I don’t understand is the frequent assertion by many in the rescue community that people don’t value a pet adopted for free as much as when they have to pay out big bucks. This is especially confusing when most everyone in the rescue world has at least one much-loved pet acquired for zero cost as a stray.

More to the point is the fact that equating the emotional value that someone attaches to a pet with how much that pet costs is antithetical to the rescue movement and the entire no-kill philosophy — because it objectifies the animal as a product or a commodity.

That kind of thinking reasonably applies to things — like pens and toasters, but certainly not to family members like pets. It’s not unreasonable for someone to value a Montblanc pen more than a disposable Bic. But who values one child over another based on the cost of delivery at the hospital? “Johnny’s delivery was cheap so we let him play in traffic, but Joanie cost a bundle at a private hospital so we keep a pretty close eye on her.” It's just not the way people think with regard to relationships, whether with a human or an animal.

Dollars-and-cents cost accounting of a pet’s life is what makes the pet trade such a despicable industry. There, it makes no business sense for a pet store to invest more money in pet inventory (for breeding, feeding and health) than can be earned by selling the dog at retail plus a profit. Why would anyone in animal welfare want to attach that type of thinking to a rescued pet who we hope will become a beloved member of someone’s family?

That’s exactly what we do when we shut the door on reduced-fee or fee-waived adoptions, based on the notion that people value expensive things more than inexpensive things.

Pets aren’t things. They are friends, family members and loving companions whose value to their person has nothing to do with how much they cost.

If you don’t believe me, check out this study that proves my point. Low-cost and fee-waived adoption promotions work. They save lives and entail no more risk than events that charge a full fee.

Together, we can Save Them All.

Cat Dog

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society