When you think about the value of pet adoption, what often comes to mind is animal homelessness, social responsibility and community improvement - all of which is well founded. However, what is often missed is the economic value of adoption.
That’s right, the economic value of adoption - seems counterintuitive,
right? How can one place value on a four-legged family member who will provide companionship, loyalty and unconditional love over the course of his or her lifetime? You can’t. The value in this sense is defined by your receiving the very highest quality at the lowest possible cost - and, at the Michigan Humane Society, that happens every day.
Only 10% to 20% of companion animals are acquired from shelters. Yet, it is progressive animal welfare organizations like the Michigan Humane Society that offer those seeking a treasured companion the very best value, in large part due to their commitment to finding loving, permanent homes to the benefit of animal and adopter alike.
Notice what’s lacking - the motive to make a profit on the “sale” of an animal. “When an animal is sold for profit, it often signals a problem,” says Michael Robbins, director of marketing and communications for the Michigan Humane Society. “Care of the animal and the ultimate goal of placing him into a good home often takes a backseat, or is entirely omitted from the process.”
In addition to helping each adopter find his or her ideal four-legged companion, whether a guinea pig, rabbit, dog or cat, MHS goes to great lengths to ensure animals are physically and emotionally suited to being the best friend a family could have, says Marcy Sieggreen, facility director for the MHS Berman Center in Westland.
The adoption process at MHS starts with a detailed screening of each companion animal, including a medical exam and behavior assessment. This is followed by sterilization surgery and age-appropriate vaccinations. Add the highest quality shelter and care and an extensive post-adoption care network that includes the organization’s Adopter Support Club, a free behavior assistance help line, and an adoption reference package that every adopter takes home with them, and you quickly realize that the modest adoption fees cover but only a portion of the cost of care given to each animal.
So why don’t more people adopt? According to Robbins, “First, we can
all take heart in the fact that pet adoption is a much more popular choice today than it was even 10 years ago. Second, there are several misconceptions that probably still need to be addressed with the general public, most importantly what we call ‘shelter stigma.’ Robbins explains that a very common mindset when it comes to adoption is that these animals are problematic cast-offs from a previous family.
“On the contrary,” says Robbins, “animals most often come to us through no fault of their own, due to ‘people’ reasons like divorce, financial hardship, illness or death of a primary care giver, or for reasons that could have been easily prevented or corrected through appropriate training.”
Another common misconception is that shelters are not a good option for finding purebreds. However, MHS estimates that 25%-30% of the animals it is caring for at any given time are purebred. “Mixed-breeds make some of the best companions you’ll find, but if you’re seeking a purebred dog or cat, we can help you with that as well,” Robbins added. And, compared with pet shops that put high price tags on their purebred animals in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars - purebreds adopted from shelters come with a significantly lower cost.
There are alternatives to adoption: Pets can be “purchased” from breeders and pet shops. But there can be significant consequences attached to these alternatives.
Suzanne Wilson of Harper Woods knows the potential consequences of purchasing an animal first-hand. In her case, it was from a breeder. While MHS emphasizes that there are responsible breeders - those committed to promoting and maintaining the integrity of certain breeds and ensuring they end up in responsible, loving homes - potential owners must take several factors into consideration.
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), purebred puppies typically run between $200 and $2,000, a cost that usually includes only pedigree papers and the first round of shots. And kittens can have a whopping sticker price of $300-$15,000 - while countless animals wait in shelters for loving homes.
Wilson was tempted into buying a purebred German shepherd eight years ago. While $600 bought her a beautiful animal, she was left brokenhearted when her pup died suddenly at only 7 months old. She received neither a refund nor sympathy from the breeder.
Pet shops may claim to offer quality animals and may even promote lifetime guarantees, but many times this is nothing more than a sales tactic. Because pet shops are in business to turn a profit, many purchase their “inventory” from puppy mills where the dogs live in lonely, cramped and unsanitary conditions, often without proper nutrition, veterinary care or socialization. As a result, and like bad breeders often do, puppy mills frequently turn out high-priced pups with genetic defects, poor health and questionable temperaments.
Additionally, when purchasing pet store puppies, well-meaning individuals may unknowingly be supporting the heinous and intolerable practices of many puppy mills.
But Wilson finally found a happy ending and her perfect companion animal by heading to a place she knew had a great reputation - MHS.
Wilson says she was surprised at the variety of dogs in need of good homes, but it was one mixed-breed puppy, Jazmin, who caught her eye and stole her heart. Wilson adopted her, and hasn’t looked back since.
In fact, Wilson has adopted four animals from MHS over the years, and to her, adoption makes sense, not just morally, but financially.
“It is such a value," she says, and the payback from giving an animal in need the ultimate life “is just incredible.”
Adoption benefits everyone. It is one of life’s few moments when you can have your proverbial cake and eat it, too (unless your cat or dog eats the cake, and if that happens, call the MHS Behavior Help Line for free pet behavior assistance!).
“Adoption is simply the best value there is in finding a new best friend,” says Robbins. He adds that in addition to getting value, adopters are being socially responsible. “They are helping to address animal homelessness, which many people may not be aware of.”
- Jennifer Sullivan and Nancy Gunnigle contributed to this story
- Photos by Chrissy Hill