As I have mentioned, I adopt, rescue, and foster senior dogs. So you would think that I would be over the moon when I hear that Kansas City Chief’s Derrick Nnadi is paying for all the adoption fees at his local dog shelter. And then, perhaps riding on his coattails, Coors Light decided to do the same thing for shelters all across the country. I mean, this is awesome, right? Bust those sweet dogs out of the shelters and get them into warm, loving homes!
And I am, it is a great thing to do! A number of people in my community of Grand Rapids donate adoption fees for specific dogs. It’s a caring, generous thing. Plus, I love seeing all those happy adoption photos.
Yes, but… You know there was a “but” right? When we are talking about thousands of dollars, I can’t help but wish they would take some of that money and help keep the dogs out of the shelter in the first place.
According to the article, Mr. Nnadi paid for 20 dogs at $150 a piece. That’s $3,000. Coors Light will reimburse up to $100 in fees for 1,000 dog adoptions across the country between now and February 21. So, that’s $100,000. For reference, that is the kind of money we are talking about. I know my thoughts aren’t the popular opinion, but nonetheless, here’s what I would like to see done.
Keep Dogs Out of the Shelter in the First Place
I worry about adoption fees being covered because owning a dog is expensive. An average vet visit across the county is $50, though some areas are more or less expensive than others. That’s not so bad, but say the dog needs a dental cleaning, (which it will) that’s going to run $600-$900. In fact, according to the American Kennel Club, you should expect to spend between $750-$1,000 a year, so expect costs up to $15,000 over the dog’s lifetime if you adopt a puppy. So, if you cannot afford the $100 or $150 to adopt a dog, what is going to happen when that dog needs care down the road?
Let’s say you are broke or in a low income bracket. And let’s say your dog gets hit by a car. Now what?
Think that doesn’t happen? I know of at least three cases right now in Michigan where dogs were hit by cars. In a couple cases their people just abandoned them. In one the homeowners did their best to do some home doctoring, but they failed, because setting bones isn’t something regular folks can do, and a homemade splint and a slathering of Icyhot is not going to do the trick. But there are tons of medical cases that were abandoned by their humans. And my guess? It’s because of money.
And to be fair, X-Rays and emergency vet care can run thousands of dollars. We judge these people but we shouldn’t. Maybe they can afford food, toys and beds, but a hit like an emergency vet visit will bankrupt their family. What do you do? What can you do?
A lot of these dogs end up in shelters and foster groups. Want to clear the shelters? Let’s keep dogs out of them. How about creating a medical “scholarship” program for low income families and their pets? Veterinary costs aren’t cheap, and they shouldn’t be – they are doing much of the same work as our own physicians. But at the same time, what are people going to do if they can’t afford the care?
Frankly, even the day-to-day of feeding pets can be expensive. We are lucky in Grand Rapids, we have Pleasant Hearts Food Pantry, but most communities don’t have that option.
If You Want to Help, Here's a Few That Could Use it:
Crash with Hearts of Hope
Sadie Ann with Hearts of Hope
JR with For the sake of being humane
Franklin with Dawghous
But Dawn, Paying Vet Bills Won’t Go Viral
Okay, maybe setting up medical scholarship isn’t terribly sexy. Maybe Coors Light would prefer something more Instagram-worthy. All right, I can do that. Let me suggest this:
Let shelters apply for the money as “grants” rather than adoption fees. They can even apply for the money based on the number of dogs they have at the shelter. $100 per dog, just like the adoption fees. That way bigger shelters get more money. You could even make it a matching program to stretch the dollars a little further.
Why would I suggest this?
Let’s be clear, the $100 or $150 adoption fee doesn’t even come close to covering a dog’s stay in a shelter. There is food, shelter, medical costs, spaying and neutering, staffing, so much that goes into it. The money helps, but a foster program or shelter cannot run on adoption fees alone. But these groups are smart. They can stretch a dollar so far it would blow your mind. They are so creative and resourceful. Already they are running fundraisers, selling t-shirts, and having donation and adoption events. The people who run rescue groups are incredibly creative. A little extra money, on top of adoption fees, could go a long way. Look at what Mosh Pit Rescue does with returnable cans, or what Sabrina’s Light did by selling tamales.
I say, let the groups determine how the money could help. Maybe $3,000 would be better spend on fixing the roof of the facility, or $1,000 could go towards the heart-worm treatment of a dog that can’t be adopted until their health is better. Maybe a the money could go towards paying off a vet bill for a dog that was already adopted. Or maybe towards bringing in 23 dogs from another shelter that needs help. Let the rescue groups and shelters make their case and apply for that money.
Then, Coors Light, grab your camera crews and head to the shelters. Film the volunteers putting in a new dog run or painting a new sign that was financed with the grant. Show a transport truck full of dogs coming to a new shelter. You can even show the workers sipping on a few Coors Lights afterwards, because believe me, people in dog rescue drink. A lot. It’s stressful, messed up, heartbreaking work.
What I’d Do
But if I had $100,000 to spend and my number one goal was to get dogs out the shelter? I’d use it for a campaign to end the stigma against pit bull type breeds. Did you know 1.2 million dogs are euthanized every year? Approximately 40% of those are pit bull type breeds. (Pit bull isn’t a breed, it’s a description. Like pickup truck isn’t a brand, it’s a type of vehicle.) This article in the Washington Post clearly describes that dogs labeled as pit bulls spend more time in shelters, are less likely to be adopted and are more likely to be labeled as vicious – even compared to dogs that look exactly the same, but aren’t called a “pit bull.”
Furthermore, there are places that ban them altogether. Patrick Stewart had to give up his foster dog, that he was hoping to adopt, because they don’t allow pit bulls in the UK. He is fighting against these stereotypes and I applaud his work. I can tell you from first hand, these dogs are some of the best dogs there are. I’d try to show as many people as I could that these are wonderful dogs and family pets and worthy of saving.