The Average Cost to Adopt a Dog from a Shelter


There are countless dogs waiting in animal shelters, hoping some merciful stranger will agree to take them home. Walking past cages, looking into the hopeful eyes, it is easy to convince yourself that one of those dogs will be the perfect companion. But as a potential owner, you must be realistic for their sake and the dogs. Rescue dogs can come with a hefty price tag. Even “free” dogs are going to cost money for their care.

Adoption Fees

Adoptions fees for a rescued dog vary drastically by geographic location and the type of rescue chosen. Adoption fees at local pounds are usually very low. For instance, the adoption fees at the Trumbull County Dog Pound in Ohio are $10 and up as of 2009.

When adopting from private rescues, particularly those specializing in rescuing small "designer" breeds, fees are often hundreds of dollars. BC Chihuahua Rescue, for example, charges an average $375 per dog.

At any shelter, however, adoption fees are subject to change without notice.


Dog pounds and humane societies, along with most other rescue sources, are full with some at their capacity. It is important to have dogs spayed and neutered so the pet overpopulation problem does not continue to worsen. It can be an expensive procedure but it is worth the cost. By American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) calculation, the average cost of having a dog spayed or neutered is $200. Some shelters may perform the surgery prior to adopting out a dog and add the cost to the adoption fee.

Recurring Costs

Dog licenses are a legal requirement for dog owners. This will be a recurring cost as the license will have to be renewed annually. The ASPCA estimates the cost of dog licenses to be $15 on average.

Food Costs

The annual cost of feeding a dog varies by brand and by the size of the dog. The ASPCA provides a rough estimate of the annual food cost at $55 for a small dog, $120 for a medium-sized dog, and $235 for a large dog.

Additional Costs

Dogs need more than food and vet care. Added expenses include pet shampoo, leashes, collars, brushes, worm medicine, flea treatments, dishes, nail trimmers and toys. None of these items is very expensive by itself but when you add them up over time they are significant. The average annual cost of these miscellaneous items is around $50.

Dog owners needing help with training their new pet will spend $110 on average for classes.

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