The Price of Pets

by James & Miel on September 16, 2009 · 0 comments

I have two pets, a cat and a dog, and I love them very much (something I have to remind myself sometimes when standing out in the snow at 6 o’clock in the morning, waiting for my dog to find the EXACT… PERFECT… SPOT to do her business). But there’s no question that pets are a money sink, especially if you are one of those people who has taken full advantage of all the pet services that are out there these days.

Getting the cat was easy. My wife was working in South Carolina at the time, and I went down to visit her one weekend. We were bored, so we went to the local animal rescue center. Before going inside, my wife made me promise her that I wouldn’t let her get a dog; saying that it was possible that she could see a puppy, fall in love and then do everything in her power to convince me that getting it would be a good idea. I agreed, and an hour later we walked out with a 3 month-old kitten.

The dog was a bit longer, more well-thought out process. Although not by much. We got it in our heads that we wanted to get a puppy, but became discouraged by the high initial cost. Ads in the Washington Post demanded hundreds of dollars for puppies, and that was simply too much. Thankfully, we were able to find a family in Richmond with a litter of beagle puppies willing to part with one for $50 which was a big savings compared to the hundreds we could have spent. We paid, and our current family was complete.

I had two dogs growing up, so the true cost of owning an animal came only as a mild surprise. Even so, there are many financial elements that go into owning a pet, and the costs can quickly eat a hole in your budget. The initial purchase of a dog is usually around $100, but can be much more depending on where you get the animal and what breed you’re interested in. We bought our dog for $50, which is extremely low, and fortunately we were able to verify her ancestry to ensure that she wasn’t just another puppy from a puppy mill. Our cat was a bit more; we got her from a shelter and she cost around $80, including the vet fees, tags, etc… So while we were able to get two pets for cheap, this isn’t typically the case, especially if you’re buying from a family.

A cursory glance of puppies for sale in the classified section of the Washington Post yields results for puppies costing anywhere from $300 (for golden labs) to $2,100 (for English bulldogs). The initial cost is staggering; even the shelter around my apartment charges up to $200 per animal. Added in with that initial cost is the cost of the first visit to the vet – which typically is more expensive than subsequent visits as your pet gets a full checkup – first-time medication, toys and other equipment, as well as spaying or neutering costs. Spaying and neutering is especially expense; however, many organizations offer programs to reduce the cost of the procedure; my wife and I used one of these programs and our total out-of-pocket expenses were less than $100.

Obviously the budget hit is reduced after that first year, as the only recurring expenses become vet and food expenses. Even so, this year I’ve spent a total of around $450 on both animals for just the vet bills, not including the cost of boarding both of them while my wife and I got married. Food has cost me around another $400 total for both pets. Thankfully, both animals are in great health, otherwise, the vet bills could have been even more significant.

This isn’t even taking into account other ways that people spend money on pets, such as: grooming, animal clothes, animal health insurance, anti-depressants (yes, this is real) and doggy hotels (complete with television).

Pets can be expensive, and unfortunately, this is a fact that is all too often lost on a first-time pet owner. The responsibility associated with having a dog (or any other pet for that matter) can be quite great, and regretfully this can lead to a number of terrible situations. Animal abuse, over-breeding and abandonment are just a few of the possible negative outcomes of someone getting in over their head when they decide to get a pet. An animal is a living member of the family who has an associated daily cost and a measurable budget impact. These factors should be taken into account before getting a pet to ensure a successful and happy relationship between pet and owner (as well as a happy and balanced budget).
-Michael
Twitter: michael_dink

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