Saw this interesting article today discussing whether allowing free adoptions leads to bad homes: http://www.examiner.com/article/does-free-adoptions-equal-bad-homes.
It is an interesting question as waiving adoption fees helps shelters find homes for animals, but the removal of an up front cost/commitment/hurdle theoretically should lead to worse homes on average. The article states that there have been studies on this topic and that it is not true that waiving fees lead to worse homes. This is something that needs to be looked into more carefully. I don’t know how many more people might adopt vs go to a breeder if adoption fees were waived in general, but if the percentage increase is substantial there should be other ways to find good homes without fees.
The adoption fees help the shelters, but from a finding a good home standpoint they represent an up front commitment from the adopting family. Why is this important? Well, once people are invested in something, they take care of it. After thinking about this for a bit, I think there are ways to create this up front investment mechanism without money. It could be done in a variety of ways, but off the top of my head one idea would be to have people volunteer for ten or twenty hours in lieu of the adoption fee. This would create an “investment” from adopters, would help shelters with volunteer hours, lead to some percentage of these people continuing to volunteer afterwards, and probably make the people more committed to animal rescue over time. There are other alternatives, but the point is that an investment can be created through time, emotion, energy, or other means and does not have to be financial.
I have read some responses to the waiving of fees with people saying that without seeing if someone has the financial ability to pay adoption fees, then they might not be able to care for the dog. This could be true sometimes and is clearly a negative. However, what I don’t know is how many more people who were considering buying a dog from a breeder for $250-1000 might opt for a rescue dog if they were free. I don’t have any idea of the percentage but it might be a way to get people who do not know how much need there is out there for rescue dogs to consider rescuing. Certainly, this would do this on the margin-the question is how much of a swing variable this will be.
Either way, regardless of adoption fee or not, it is important that shelters and rescues meet and do reference checks on the families as well as watch them interact with the dogs. This seems like a much more important factor in the adoption process than the fee.