Adoption: Not "Cheap" At Any Price

“Save Them All” is the mantra of the Best Friends Animal Society.

I couldn’t agree more.

Best Friends is at the forefront of animal advocacy. Working in concert with humane groups nationwide, Best Friends strives to end euthanasia of healthy, adoptable pets. They are on the front lines in the battle against puppy mills and breed-specific legislation and are a formidable spearhead for spay/neuter programs. Their breathtaking sanctuary in Angel Canyon, north of Kanab, Utah, is home to more than 2,000 homeless animals and provides a permanent haven for animals that cannot be sufficiently rehabilitated for adoption.

Adoption “specials” are a Best Friends cornerstone. One can adopt an animal from the Sanctuary as a “single” pet (no other animals in the home) for free. In some cases, shipping is included. Best friends frequently sponsors low-cost adoption events. For example, during the month of August, cats and kittens are available during the “9 Lives for $9” promotion.

Other rescue groups and animal welfare organizations have piled onto the idea of low-cost adoptions with the thought that, by keeping adoptions costs down, people will be able to adopt who may not otherwise take on the responsibility. But there is a big difference between affording a pet financially on the front end and affording everything that comes with pet parenthood over the course of a lifetime.

I am all for doing the greatest good for the greatest number. The rate at which homeless and abandoned animals enter shelters each week is staggering. I can appreciate the desperation with which shelter and rescue groups work to empty their cages and foster homes to make room for new entries and prevent needless euthanasia. It must often feel like bailing water from a doomed passenger ship with only a pail.

At the same time, it is important for potential pet adopters to understand the personal and financial responsibilities of pet parenthood over the long haul to minimize the chance that they will relinquish their pet in the future. Many who acquire a pet on impulse alone end up regretting their decision and surrender their new best friend at the first sign of challenge or when the costs exceed their expectations.

Just about anyone in the rescue world can vouch for the fact that animals surrendered multiple times are the least likely to be adopted.

As Best Friends advocates, we must work toward no-kill status for shelters nationwide. However, this effort MUST be paralleled by thorough education for the potential adopter about every aspect of pet care. If it turns out that someone is not physically, emotionally and financially ready or able to adopt, then they should not.

Unfortunately, many people deem themselves ready just because they responded to an impassioned plea to adopt. If too many people follow their hearts without their minds, I fear that our “sinking ship” may just take on the same water we just bailed out of it – and more.

We cannot simply throw as many “low-cost” companions at the public in hopes that most will “stick.” It is not fair to play roulette over the welfare of a living being who deserves nothing less than family status and a forever home. This price is just too high.