How Much It Costs to Adopt a Dog from a Shelter Near You

Written by Austin S.
Updated: July 14, 2023
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Being a lover of dogs, you might be considering adopting a dog from a shelter. This could be a good decision because dogs are great pets that relate properly with humans.

However, it is important you know what you are about to get yourself into in terms of the cost of adoption and other expenses that come with the adoption process. So you need proper research to be sure you are prepared to adopt a dog for a better experience with your new buddy. 

Chart of costs for adopting a dog from a shelter.
Rescues are one of the best, and least expensive ways to get a dog, but there are still some expenses.

You should know that shelters won’t keep a dog breed that matches what you need until you come to claim one. You should be prepared to seize the opportunity when the right breed is available. 

In this post, you’ll be walked through the cost of all expenses that come with adopting a dog from a shelter. 

How Much Do Pet Shelters Charge for Adoption Fees?

Buying a dog as your pet will definitely cost you a certain amount of money unless you pick up a random dog wandering around the neighborhood. 

Depending on the place you are adopting the dog from, the adoption fee might be free, relatively low, or even high. Instead of buying from a pet store or a breeder, adopting a dog from a shelter is an excellent way to save money. 

The adoption fee is the very first expense that comes with adopting a dog. It usually ranges from about $100 to $700 in standard shelters. The adoption fee usually includes initial costs like vaccinations, sprays or neuters, etc. 

The first year of owning a dog is usually the most expensive because of a lot of initial costs that are involved. 

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Shelters and rescue groups spend a lot taking care of dogs in their care. So when the adoption fee being charged is compared to the amount that has been spent on caring for the dog, it is considered very low. 

These shelters ensure that dogs in their care go through proper veterinary care and rehabilitation. They also ensure that they are fed with quality foods. Being able to afford the adoption fee is proof that you are capable of taking care of the dog you want to adopt.

Average Cost of Dog Adoption Expenses 

The main adoption fee isn’t all that dog adoption entails. Other expenses come with adopting a dog aside from the adoption fees. Therefore, before you adopt a dog, you should determine the expenses covered by the adoption fees and what isn’t covered.

For example, many public shelters don’t spray dogs in their care because they might end up euthanizing them at the end of the day. Some expenses are one-time, while others are ongoing and continuous. The ongoing costs include food costs, routine veterinary care, etc. 

Spraying/Neutering Cost

You shouldn’t assume that the shelter has sprayed the dog you plan to adopt. And this depends on the shelter you are adopting from. The cost of neutering usually ranges from about 35 dollars to 400 dollars. This falls under the category of one-time expenses for dog adoption. 

Food Cost

Food cost is one of the most significant costs to consider before adopting a dog. Dogs are naturally known to consume a lot of food, so be ready for food costs if you are going to adopt a dog. The annual cost of feeding a small or large breed dog usually ranges from about 200 dollars to 400 dollars. 

The amount you will spend on food largely depends on the size of the dog you adopt. The bigger the dog, the more you will spend on food. In fact, the quality of the food you are feeding your dog must be great. So if you know you have a low budget, you should choose a small-sized breed. 

Poor nutrition might make you spend more money in the long run, especially on veterinary care, because your dog’s health will definitely be affected. The lifespan of your dog is also at risk. A dog that isn’t well fed stands a high risk of dying early. 

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Routine Veterinary Care cost

Routine veterinary care cost usually ranges from about 200 dollars to 500 dollars, depending on your dog’s medical condition. Regular vet care usually covers vaccinations, tick and flea prevention, heartworm prevention as well as routine examinations. 

It is vital that you cultivate the habit of taking your dog to the vet at regular intervals to reduce the possibility of emergencies which will make you spend more than usual. You get to save money in the long run when you ensure regular visits. 

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Toys Cost

Buying toys for your newly adopted dog is optional. But it would be great if you could get toys for your puppy to keep it busy. Aside from keeping your puppy busy, it also helps exercise and stimulates the dog’s mental health.

The amount spent on toys varies and depends mainly on what you want. But your budget for toys can lie in the range of $25- $50 annually. Toys can also save your furniture from being chewed if you have a destructive dog. It can chew the toys instead of your furniture. 

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Crate/Bed Cost

Dogs that have spent time in the shelter might find crates more conducive. The cost of using crates to train your dog ranges from about $35-$125. If you intend to use beds instead, it will cost you about $50-$200 annually. 

The price of the beds usually depends on the size and quality. But it’s advisable to go for good quality and long-lasting beds to save cost in the long run. 

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Emergency Expenses

Unforeseen and unpredictable circumstances that can lead to emergencies can show up. So as a good pet owner, it’s advisable to always prepare for emergencies. Chronic illnesses, disasters, and other emergencies can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars annually. 

Emergency hospital visits can cost about 500 dollars to 2000 dollars, depending on the nature of the emergency. Therefore it’s best to always prepare for emergencies by saving extra money. 

But above all, make sure the emergency cause is not something that could have been prevented. Always carry out the routine care your dog needs to reduce the chance of emergencies. 

What is the Cheapest Dog to Adopt? 

The adoption cost of dogs varies and depends on the breed you intend to adopt. Owning a pet is quite expensive, but there are dog breeds that are more affordable if you have a low budget. Below are some of the low-cost dog breeds you can adopt if your budget is little. 


Mutts are very affordable dog breeds. Since your budget is little, you should consider this dog breed even if it isn’t on your list. One good thing about mutts is that they are generally healthy because they are mixed breeds. Mixed breed dogs hardly suffer genetic disorders like pure breed dogs. 

Mutts come in different shapes and sizes, so you can adopt a mutt that doesn’t eat much because the amount of food dogs eat depends on the size. 


If you have a low budget or intend to save costs, consider adopting this mixed breed dog. They are made from crossing a pug and a beagle. Puggles are small dog breeds which is why they don’t consume much food. Small dogs are easier to maintain than big ones. 


The foxhound dog breed is considered one of the most healthy dog breeds that can be adopted. They don’t need grooming, and they can also save you from paying additional bills because they are very healthy. 

Although they are a bit big, they still consume little amount of food, so you can rest assured that you won’t spend much on food when you adopt this breed. 

Rat Terrier

The rat terrier breed usually remains small and contains little food. They are known to be hyper dogs. Hence they require toys and bones to chew. Cleaning up is much easier due to its short, wiry hair. They are also very easy to groom. Rat terriers are very friendly breeds and great for your low budget. 

Cane Corso

If you love big dogs but have a low budget, the Cane Corso breed might just be the best bet for you. Aside from their good health, they are bright and require little training. The cost of maintaining this breed is relatively minimal. 

Concluding Thoughts

Adoption of dogs instead of buying from breeders not only helps you save money but also saves more dogs. Your adoption fee is used to care for more dogs. 

Many homeless dogs need care, so when you adopt a dog from a shelter, you create a new spot for another dog in need. And this encourages shelters and rescue organizations to do more. 

From all indications, public shelters are the cheapest dog adoption sources compared to other shelters. So you might want to put public shelters on top of your list when searching for a dog to adopt. 


The photo featured at the top of this post is © Javier Brosch/

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About the Author

Growing up in rural New England on a small scale farm gave me a lifelong passion for animals. I love learning about new wild animal species, habitats, animal evolutions, dogs, cats, and more. I've always been surrounded by pets and believe the best dog and best cat products are important to keeping our animals happy and healthy. It's my mission to help you learn more about wild animals, and how to care for your pets better with carefully reviewed products.

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