The Real Cost of a Free Pet


by Ginny Naylor

If you’re an animal lover like me, we may have had a similar experience as a child. You saw someone giving away “free” puppies or kittens, so of course, you begged your parents for one. “It’s free!” you exclaimed. “PLEEAAASE!” If your parents responded the same way mine did, you most likely heard something along the lines of…. “There is no such thing as a free (insert pet of choice here).” As awful as that can sound to the ears of a child longing for a cat or dog to take home, it’s a pretty accurate statement.

Now, I’m not discussing the expense or cost of a pet in order to discourage anyone from getting one. On the contrary, I’m discussing it to bring awareness to the low cost options of “responsible” pet ownership. Because of generous donations and the hard work of rescue workers and volunteers within Utah, it is now less expensive than ever to adopt a fully vetted pet, saving you not only money but time as well.

This summer alone, shelters and rescues throughout the state have been inundated with urgent pleas for help with abandoned and homeless dogs, cats, kittens, puppies and rabbits. This pet overpopulation as some people call it, is caused when we, as humans who are obligated to care for these domestic animals, fail to spay or neuter our pets.

Often, it is that free puppy or kitten who ends up not being fixed (whether due to financial inability or because the new owner puts it off) and potentially creates generations of more “free” pets which eventually end up on the street, abused, neglected, sick or injured. Or even dumped, scared and helpless in a shelter.

When adopting a pet from a shelter or a rescue, most of them come spayed or neutered, microchipped, having been checked by a vet, dewormed and vaccinated. All of this is included in a small adoption fee, which is typically much less expensive than having all these services done for your pet independently.

In order to breakdown the initial cost of having these services done on your pet, I’ve included some information gathered by Jeff and Sara Morman, which represent an average range of veterinary prices.Real Cost of Free Pet Chart

Additionally, if we add in the time it takes to schedule a vet appointment and shuttle your pet back and forth, the cost goes up even more. If you’re a fan of convenience and a good deal, why not support your local shelter or rescue when looking to add another pet to your family? Think of the small adoption fee as a valuable donation. One that allows the organization to continue to help animals in need within our communities.

Year round, shelters and rescues advertise adoption promotions where many of the adoption fees have been either deeply discounted or completely waived for certain pets making the idea of a free pet more of a reality. Now that is something a parent might have a
harder time saying no to.

Ginny Naylor currently volunteers with the Utah Animal Adoption Center, who each year helps save over one thousand cats and dogs from unnecessary euthanasia in shelters throughout the state. UAAC relies heavily on the generous support of donors and volunteers. To donate or volunteer, please call 800-355-PETS or visit