Cats were always my thing growing up. But, as evidenced by the branding on my site at some point dogs entered my life. Enter: The Sheconomist too. Dogs are great, and mine is the best, and now I consider both types of furry animals to be valuable members of a stable household.
One of the best ways to get a pet is through a local adoption agency or shelter. And one of the most well known is the Humane Society. If you’ve ever gotten a pet before from a shelter or rescue you’ve no doubt encountered some kind of fee in order to take your furry friend home. Depending on the age and species, this fee likely ranges between $50 and $200. Have you ever wondered where they came up with that number?
Well the fee needs to cover the basic costs for the animal including shots and food. And the shelters have back-office operations too. But many of these places survive on donations and volunteers. Why not just up the price to $500 for a puppy and then you’re good to go? There’s an added benefit of keeping out certain people who might want a dog today, but aren’t willing to make the financial commitment to treat them properly in the future.
But $500 is steep, and you can get a pure-bred animal for that price. So there’s an upper limit on pricing. Which means to keep the operation running, these organizations rely on subsidies (in the form of money and labor). So what about the other end of the spectrum? Why not just give all the animals away? This would allow these organizations to save millions more animals than they do now. Aside from not having the resources, they run into the issue of less than ideal individuals picking up animals that might not get treated in the best way.
So the pricing then serves two functions. The first is a revenue source, it ties a cost to an item that is essentially inventory. The second is a barrier to entry. If a puppy is worth $150 to you today, it’s more likely worth the hundreds of dollars a year to keep him happy and healthy. If a puppy is only worth $5 to you, you’ll treat him like the impulse purchase he could be.
Being economically minded, I couldn’t help but explore other pricing options. You’ll find at most shelters and rescues, the price of a cat or dog is fixed (as is the animal). But every animal is unique. And some are more desirable than others. These facilities are always trying to move as many animals as they can in order to rescue more. So why not discount some of the animals that have been around for a while and have been tough to move. Like a clearance sale. Likewise highly desirable dogs could be priced higher.
For one thing you risk running into the barrier to entry again on the low-end and on the high-end you might be able to move the pup for twice the price but it will take twice as long. It also doesn’t seem right either. Animals aren’t inventory and the people that care for them treat them like people. We don’t put children up for adoption at varying prices (yes there is a price to adoption) so these animals are priced at flat rates too. What you have then is a product treated and priced like a commodity, but is not.
This is terribly inefficient. But organizations that run on subsidies will always be inefficient because there’s no economic incentive to look for solutions. A lack of efficiency isn’t inherently bad. In fact, in the case of rescues, they are forced to rely on passion and caring of part of the community to keep the organization running. And that’s actually how you want these organizations to be run. These subsidies allow the organization to focus on doing a public good too, which can’t be quantified at all.