Make sure your pet
choice doesn't come back to bite you -- Page 2
What are you willing to pay?
Your pet's price ultimately depends on the breed's supply and demand.
The more popular the breed and the more scarce it is, the more it
will cost. Prices for purebred dogs typically start at around $350.
This is where your research comes into play. Unless
you're familiar with a breed's standards, you could unwittingly
pay pedigreed prices for a lovable but less-than-purebred animal.
Be suspicious and ask questions if a breeder is either charging
you far less or far more than the going market rate.
Exactly what you're willing to accept within the breed
also could affect your costs. A "pet quality" purebred,
for example, has a few breed flaws and should cost less than a "show
quality" animal you hope one day to take to the Westminster
Kennel Club dog show.
If you're committed, however, to an obscure breed
such as the Labradoodle, the offspring of a Poodle and Labrador
Retriever, it's a bit tougher to find a bargain. Still, there are
ways to get a purebred at a price that doesn't take too big a bite
out of your bank account.
Opt for an adult animal. Puppies cost more, plus there's
training and housebreaking.
Look for an animal that's leaving the breeder's program.
Both male and female dogs are often retired from breeding and can
make excellent pets. And since these animals are older, you'll pay
less than you would for a puppy.
"Rescue" a purebred. The placement of retired
racing greyhounds is perhaps the most well-known rescue effort,
but most breed associations run similar operations. Animals are
placed into rescue for various reasons, ranging from a failed breeding
operation to simple abandonment by previous owners. Rescued dogs
generally cost less, but they might have special needs that could
offset the initial bargain. Call the Humane Society of the United
States at 202-452-1100 and ask for the Companion Animals section
to find out if there's a breed-rescue group near you.
The shelter solution
If lineage isn't important, you can get a fine pet and save money
by adopting from an animal shelter. You might even find that purebred
you've always wanted, as pedigreed animals often end up at shelters,
Most shelters, whether private or government-operated,
will ask prospective pet parents to pick up administrative costs,
which tend to range between $45 and $70.
You might have to pay for the spaying or neutering
of your dog or cat. Because of the explosion of unwanted pets, these
procedures are becoming mandatory at many shelters. Sometimes this
cost is included in the administrative fee; sometimes it isn't.
Then there's the cost of the animal's required vaccinations.
Again, this could be included in the overall administrative fee.
Finally, look for specials that could help offset
regular fees. During "Adopt a Senior Pet Month," the Humane
Society of Pinellas County in Clearwater, Fla., reduced adoption
fees on older dogs. Shelters also periodically offer specials on
neutering and spaying. Stay in touch with your local shelter, visit
its Web site regularly or get on its mailing list to stay abreast
of money-saving promotions.
By being a careful shopper as well as an animal
lover, you'll be pennywise instead of (dog) pound foolish when it
comes to picking your perfect pet.
Jenny C. McCune is a contributing
editor based in Montana.