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Is it safe to give away pets for free?

Posted by Jennifer on May 21st, 2012

Giving away pets for free is a controversial issue in the animal sheltering world! Many animal welfare organizations advocate very strongly against anyone giving away pets for free, while others believe exactly the opposite, that zero adoption fees along with proper screening of potential homes can help even more pets find loving homes. You may have noticed in our website’s FAQ, in one part of our answer to an individual who’s trying to find a new home for their owned pet or a pet they’ve rescued, we give the following advice: “Do NOT give away a pet for free. Free pets are much more likely to be abandoned, and in some cases, someone might be seeking to obtain a pet for free to use for an illegal purpose such as dog fighting. You should charge an adoption fee that is equal to or greater than the adoption fee charged by your local animal shelter for that type of pet. Don’t be shy to charge money for your pet! Having someone pay money for a pet is one of the most important ways to be assured that the person who is taking the pet is serious about wanting them, and can afford to pay for the food and veterinary care the pet will need throughout his/her life. If you do not want to keep the money you receive for the pet, you can donate it to your local shelter or rescue. You can also offer to hold it as a veterinary fund for the pet. That is a great way to ensure that the adopter is serious about wanting the pet, the pet has a small fund for veterinary care, and you will continue to be able to monitor the health of your pet.”

But what if your local animal shelter or rescue is giving away pets for free?

It is not unheard of for a reputable pet adoption agency (shelter, rescue, humane society) to run special promotions, either ongoing or from time to time, that offer free pet adoptions for hard-to-place pets such as elderly or black pets; or as a community service, like offering free adult or senior pets to senior adopters. For example, Best Friends Animal Society (both at their Los Angeles shelter and Nationwide) has an promotion right now called “Back In Black” with “Zero Adoption Fees For All Black Pets” along with a “FREE bag of dog food or cat treats with every adoption in addition to our regular adoption perks: free collar/leash, free ID tag, cat carrier for cat adopters, and one month of free pet insurance.”

These agencies typically stand by their promotions saying they do as thorough a screening of a for-free adopter as they do for a paying one, before placing the pet into the home.

Not everyone agrees. Adopt-a-Pet.com does not have an official position on shelters and rescues charging or not charging an adoption fee. As we pointed out above, we do encourage individuals trying to rehome a pet to charge a fee.

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