Director of Animal Shelter
Posted May 19, 2019 at 11:00 AM Under "Adoptions & Adoption Programs"
A new Board Member

We have a somewhat new very enthusiastic board member who moved down to Florida from the Midwest. He recently found out that the costs of animals, ie medical, spay, neutering etc, is not covered by our lower adoption fees. He feels we need to raise our prices in order to cover the costs and that saving as many animals from euthanasia and finding homes for as many as possible is not as important as making the money. Our mission is to reduce the number of dogs and cats euthanized in our county and surrounding areas. We pull from our local shelters and other counties. We work closely with our county shelter. I will attach below what he wrote to me. My first instinct was to fly off the handle and respond right away but I have chosen to seek help from you all to help me word my reply. I know what I want to say but could use some professional help. PS we are a non profit without government funding. We did over 1100 adoptions last year and project more for this year unless this board member gets his wish. See below:

An employee in my office just adopted a beautiful young dog from a shelter (I believe in Leesburg, S of Ocala). Came with all free Vet services (shots, spay/neuter, etc.). I asked how much the adoption was from the shelter, expecting to hear something close to what we charge. He said $379. I responded with something like "Oh....really....", then said nothing more.

I respectfully disagree with Maddie's suggestion of lowering cat prices to get more turnover. I don't simply want "more turnover"...I want more adoptions by families that can and will take care of the adopted animals. If people really want to adopt the animal, they'll pay the higher fee (especially if shown to be much lower than paying a Vet themselves for the services). In my view, lowering fees risks more adoptions by people who probably shouldn't be adopting, leading to more returns. Am I incorrect (it happens)? If they can't afford the fee, how are they going to afford Vet services if the animal gets sick??? How will they afford food and monthly flea/tick treatments (hundreds of dollars) ?

  • May 21, 2019 at 07:39 AM
    Best Answer

    Explain to him that your funding should not be coming from the adopters of animals, as they are giving the gift of LIFE to a pet in need. That gift is worth way more than whatever medical expenses you have incurred.

    The price someone pays for an animal is not in direct correlation to how much they will love and care for their animal. Plus, it leaves more funds for them to go spoil that animal.

    I feel you on his response since I had a board member with the same mindset at one point. But she worked at a FOR PROFIT business too. You sell a pizza for $15 because the ingredients only cost you $5. But that's the only revenue they make.....from product sold.

    We don't SELL animals, we adopt them out. We invest in the life of the animal by giving it a life and then passing that responsibility on to someone else who will do the same. The nominal fee is just to show a transaction is legal and not opening the door to bait buyers. We want to encourage people to adopt from us a healthy, fixed, and microchipped animal versus going and finding the next free pet they can (in which that pet will not be healthy, fixed, and chipped). When we raise our prices, we push people to backyard breeders too.

    Ask him if he thinks the lower income individual will just decide they won't get a pet because they "can't afford medical care". Ask him if rich people ever dump their animals. How about asking him if he's ever seen a man who has lost EVERYTHING sitting on the side of the road, with his dog. These people should not be judged on income. They should be respected for coming to a rescue to adopt an animal with known baggage and promising it a forever.

    We have to be more inviting and encourage people to adopt, not judge, not make them go broke, and not turn them to lesser options. Find the funds in grants and private citizens who follow the cause.

    • May 21, 2019 at 08:52 AM

      Oh my Gosh, Well said! Thank you for the inspiration!

  • June 21, 2019 at 08:48 PM

    Your new board member has amazing energy and it is great that he/she is asking these questions. It's always good to have new perspectives to help us, who live in this world, identify our blind spots. That said. agree with everything that has been said and it would be great to have a chat with him on his pet experience, his perceptions/beliefs, and assumptions. If possible, attending a Best Friends conference (national or regional) or another conference would be amazing to broaden his perspective and exposure to the rescue world and how it is unique. Also, it might be good to have him meet and chat with volunteers, fosters and adopters in your organization to get more of a street-level view of the work your rescue does and all the different facets of your local community. =)

    • June 21, 2019 at 08:49 PM

      Also, kudos to you for not email blasting back right away! So very very hard to do sometimes but taking the measured, mature approach is always the more effective path.

  • June 11, 2019 at 10:59 AM

    My recommendation is that you take a look at all of your adoption fees, and make adjustments as the market allows. If you can raise the adoption fees on dogs, puppies and kittens, you can keep the adult cat fees low so you can move more of them out the door.

    Another question to ask is whether or not adoption fees in general are a significant percentage of your overall shelter revenue. I have to admit that I can see where your board member is coming from - fiscal sustainability is one of the Board's primary responsibilities. Yes, we are saving lives, but in order to do that, we need money to support our efforts.

    This is not an either/or issue - you can make changes to segments of your adoption fee structure that will give you the most benefit. Look at your stats - what is the largest number of animals that are adopted? If it is kittens, then raise those fees, if it is adult dogs, start there. I also suggest you look at variable pricing - have a fee range instead of a set fee, and price highly adoptable (fast-track) animals more than those that are slow-track.

    A quick analysis of our adoption stats shows that adult cats account for 32% of our overall adoptions, but just 9% of the revenue. Puppies are the opposite - 9% of adoptions, but nearly 30% of total revenue. Figure out where you will get the biggest impact from a fee increase, and raise fees strategically.

    For comparison, we adopt over 5,000 animals each year. Puppies are generally priced at $600, and adult cats (during kitten season) are just $10. Kittens are priced at $180, and adult dogs range from about $250 - $450. Clearly, we are not covering our costs on adult cats, but we are on puppies and (mostly) adult dogs. Staff decide what fee to charge, and we will often lower the price if an animal is here too long.

    In our community, a female cat spay alone can cost $300, and a female dog is closer to $600. So people adopt puppies and dogs from us knowing that they are getting a great value for their money. We continually monitor our adoption fee structure and make changes as needed. Our adoption program is a major contributor to our overall revenue profile, so we keep a close eye on it.

    • June 11, 2019 at 11:47 AM

      $600 for an adoption fee, WOW! Thank you for your information. We have done this, the cost of our dogs are more than our cats, especially this time of year.

  • May 20, 2019 at 09:43 AM

    This well meaning board member would benefit from some education. Yes, charging more sounds like a good idea, but getting cats out the door quickly is more important, given that we know it doesn't impact the adoption itself (in terms of quality).

    Also important to note to this person that people with less financial resources still love their pets, and by denying them a pet, they'll just go elsewhere to get it. Here are a few links...


    • May 20, 2019 at 09:57 AM

      Thank you for the articles. You are correct, he needs some education. He is fairly new and I don't believe he understands our mission.