The Costs and Fees to Adopt a Rescue Dog

If you’re asking yourself how much does it cost to adopt a dog, you likely know there’s a lot more to adoption than you might think. Let’s dig in and find out more about all the expenses of adoption involved. 

There are adoption fees involved when working with a dog rescue that take into consideration a dog's age, breed, and size. If the dog is older or a senior dog, the fee can range from $150.00 - $250.00, while the younger puppies, full breed, are generally between $100.00 - $400.00. 

This depends largely on your local shelter or rescue. Be sure to check with your local shelter or rescue to get the most complete and accurate information. 

The adoption fees varies from rescue to rescue, but most will cover the following; 

  • Application Fee - Some charge $25
  • Administrative Fee - $5 - $20
  • Veterinary Wellness Visit and Exam  - $50- $100
  • Spaying or Neutering $150 - $300
  • Vaccinations - distemper, bordetella, rabies 
  • Flea / Tick treatment $10
  • Heartworm test $ 15 - $35
  • Microchip $50
  • Collar and ID ta $5 - $10

What Do "Free Adoptions" Actually Mean? 

Free dogs usually do come without medical care, you will save on the adoption fee, but you will need to consider those costs listed above assuming no care has been given to the dog.  

I adopted a free black lab from a breeder who had very large unexpected litter and wasn’t accepting payment. The breeder provided papers documenting that the dog was a pure breed, and already provided vaccinations, and veterinary well-visit. I still had to make sure to get all vaccinations, and a dog license. While this was considered “free” because there was no payment exchanged with the breeder, I still made sure to take care of the other essentials, spaying, microchip, flea/tick, etc. 

If you’re looking to adopt a dog, its a good idea to “Like” your local dog rescue or shelter’s Facebook page so you can learn more about their upcoming events. Typically, when they hold a special event, they will reduce the adoption fee to provide for more adoptions to take place. 

What Does it Cost to Adopt a Dog From Petco?

Petco often has events and “adoption weekends” These dogs are from local animal welfare organizations and brought to Petco during their special events. You can find out about a local Petco event near you by going to Find a Store Near You  

Petco also hosts National Adoption Event Weekends that they sponsor across the country. 

The fees associated with a Petco adoption range from $50 to a few hundred dollars. As I mentioned in the above, does include the cost of spaying or neutering, and vaccinations. The groups that provide the adoptions request these fees, not Petco, which will act as host of the event. 

Is Adopting a Dog Cheaper Than Buying? 

Buying a pure breed dog is much more expensive than if you went to a same breed rescue association and adopting. 

Buying a dog can easily be anywhere between $500 - $1,000 or more. A mixed breed or “hybrid vigor” is more likely to outlive the purebred dogs. The mixed breed will also tend to have lower bet bills than a pure breed. 

Many dogs bought from a breeder generally have their own pure breed  health issues from hip dysplasia  to breathing difficulties or heart related issues. 

Adopting or rescuing a dog or buying a dog from a breeder is something you need to decide for yourself. I will say this however, adopting is saving a life  - when you buy a dog, you not only deny a homeless dog a home, you support an industry that thrives on profit making puppy mills. 

cost of dog care

Cost of care chart above provided by Animal Humane Society

After Dog Rescue Adoption Other Costs To Consider


Make sure to buy a dog bowl for water and one separate for the food. If you have two dogs, they should ideally have their own bowls. You can get a basic stainless dog bowl for a few dollars. Unless you have a senior dog who needs an elevated dog bowl, getting a basic single bowl should be sufficient.


Dog food can range in costs, depending on the size of your dog, and what your veterinarian recommends. Estimate a 30 pound bag every month to two months. Depending on the quality of the food, for example Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula for Adult $48.00 with free shipping.


There is not one general dog training fee. You could have dog behavioral training at a camp that can cost a few thousand dollars, or private classes with a professional for between $30 - $100 per hour.  You should absolutely look into some behavior training if your newly adopted dog experiences any anxiety, or aggression and adjustment issues. If the dog has aggressive behavior that needs to be modified, the cost can run higher than $100/hour. 


There are low cost spay/neuter programs if you visit the ASPCA’s Free and low cost pay/neuter database   additionally you can go to your local humane society or talk to your veterinarian for low cost methods for spaying or neutering your dog.  Depending on the weight of the dog you could expect to pay between $60 - $110. Go check the free or low cost options first. 

You can get a Microchip implant kit for about $14.00 or a dog microchip GPS tracker for about $60.00 


This can vary of course depending on the insurance company. If your employer offers a pet insurance program, look into the costs and the kind of coverage it provides. The coverage can range from wellness visits to major procedures including chemotherapy or surgeries. If you have a dog who has health issues or special health needs this might be the best way to go in helping off set any really large expenses. 

Here’s an example of a pet protection plan provided by an employer's carrier - this is just a sample, you may find similar rates in other pet insurance plans. 


Here's a great quote from Amy, The Humane Society of The United States, about all the costs and considerations when adopting a dog...

 “Who will take care of walking her, feeding her and grooming her? How will we pay for preventative veterinary care like vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery, and what will happen if she gets ill or requires emergency care? Do we have all of the supplies she needs, and have we made sure the house is “baby proofed” and safe for her to roam? Are we ready to put the time required into training her to be a welcome addition to our home? Ultimately, the most important question to answer before taking on a new pet is “are we ready to bring this new family member into our home, and provide her all she needs to live a long, happy, healthy life?”

Related Resources:

How Long Does it Take To Adopt a Dog?

If you decide to go to a shelter, humane society or SPCA - all places that are open to the public and allow you to walk in during operating hours. The process is fairly simple. In those situations you can visit, find a suitable dog that you like. You would show your ID, pay a small fee and get copies of the vaccination records, and sterilization certificate, which you need to get him licensed, That can all be done in a matter of a few hours. 

If you use or other online adoption or rescue, you’ll need to submit an application with all your information including your working hours, the size of your home, whether or not you have a yard and time to walk the dog, as well as others living in the home with you. 

Once you’ve submitted the application, you will be contacted by the rescue and a check of your home would take place. This is to ensure you have adequate space for the dog to play and the home is safe. 

you search online for the dog you’d like to adopt, and contact through the site to arrange a visit. Depending on the foster or adoption agency, you would coordinate a time suitable for you both. If the foster or rescue is located a great distance away from your home, you might arrange to meet mid-way and arrange to meet the dog. 

Once you meet the dog and you both agree, you pay the adoption fee and off you go! 

How Much Does it Cost to Adopt Multiple Dogs? 

Again, this is very general, because animal rescues and shelters all have different fees and processes, however, I found when you adopt the second dog, the adoption fee can be half off or waived. I would not adopt a bonded or multiple set of dogs going in with the thinking that you’ll be better off because you’ll get a lower rate on your adoption fee. If you intent to adopt a bonded pair of dogs, you are assuming the responsibility of two dogs to feed, bathe, and maintain. The cost of adopting two dogs would be the same price of a single dog times two. 

Ask a local shelter if they allow you to adopt multiple dogs at once. Most will not allow this unless the dogs are a bonded pair and must be adopted together. You might adopt one dog and after having trained the dog for at least one month, return after and adopt another.

For more information on adopting multiple dogs - this article has a great deal of helpful information on that topic.

This is a pretty complete list of all the kinds of initial expenses you could expect when adopting a dog. If you experience anything different please feel free to comment below - I'd be happy to add it to the list! 

About the Author Janet

I'm Janet, avid rescue dog fan, and parent of two rescues - training them to run, hike, and enjoy their new forever home

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