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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.

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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, too.

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.

-- Posted: Nov. 25, 2003
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See Also
Financial tips for pet owners
11 dogs that could raise your insurance costs
Adopt your own retired animal athlete
Financial advice glossary
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