“Sell-by Date” Shelter Cats And Dogs

Is it a good idea to reduce the adoption fee of a shelter cat or dog by 50% three days before their original due out/review for euthanasia date, or does it devalue the cat or dog?

Shelter cats that are due to be euthanised

I’ll simplify that question. Should the cost of adopting a cat or dog from a shelter be heavily reduced when the cat or dog is nearer the time when he will be euthanised? The intention of offering the discounted price is obviously to encourage people to adopt the cat or dog thereby avoiding euthanising him or her.

This sounds like a very laudable and good idea because the intention is to save lives and there is a desperate need in many shelters to save the lives of cats and dogs because even today there are far too many that end their days at the shelter having never found a new home.

I repeat, the reason for the idea is very genuine and good. However, I think you may be able to read into the title to this article, the weakness of the idea for me.

To reduce the adoption fee of a cat that is nearing the time when he will be euthanised mirrors very accurately the way supermarkets reduce the price of their products as the sell-by date approaches.

What I don’t like about the idea is that it reflects the sad situation at some animal shelters, which is that there is a tendency due to the nature of the business and the pressure under which they operate, to treat the animals for which they are responsible as objects rather than sentient, living and feeling creatures which need nurturing, looking after with great care and never killing – i.e. genuinely sheltered.

This idea would never occur to the manager of a genuine no-kill shelter because there would be no date at which a cat would be euthanised. Therefore, the idea is a product of the failure within cat ownership and the shelter system.

It is a sticking plaster, which for me, does not really work. The better solution is to reassess the entire process of cat and dog ownership but that is far too big a task for anyone to contemplate.

Another aspect of this laudable idea that informs me that it will probably not work is that a reduction of an adoption fee from $40 to $20 is not going to make a difference. The saving is $20. The adoption of a cat is for the lifetime of a cat which may amount to around $10,000 worth of expenses. So the “product” that a person is buying at the shelter is actually costing $10,000 and therefore a discount of $20 will have little or no impact.

This is my personal view and I expect many people to disagree with me. Final thought: the discounted adoption fee idea is arguably very practical and pragmatic. I think supporters of the idea will state that. I agree. It is a practical way forward but it may actually backfire because it subtly encourages people to devalue shelter animals.

P.S.  I wanted to add another final thought.  If reducing the adoption fee by $20 encourages a person to adopt a cat from a shelter, do you think the person is suitable as a cat caretaker for the lifetime of the cat?  Can they afford to be an excellent cat caretaker?

Note: My thanks to Dee for telling me about this.

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“Sell-by Date” Shelter Cats And Dogs — 17 Comments

  1. This is a dilemma for me, because there is a petition being circulated to support this concept in Orange County, Florida.
    I always want to support efforts that will save the lives of animals, but it feels so demeaning to me. As Michael pretty much wrote, it’s like marking down an item on a market shelf for clearance, animals at a discount.
    I will, probably, sign it just because there aren’t any better ideas out there.
    Jo, do you have any thoughts on this since you are here in Florida?

    • Dee, the trouble with this idea is that there are some good things about it and some bad things. It is a balanced situation. In the short term and on a practical level it will probably save lives but in the long term I don’t think it is right. I always believe that the best policy is to think in the long term because you can make real change that way.

        • Please keep moving forward and persevering. Simply and honestly. (continue with what you are already doing; that is all that i meant–and I realized as soon as I typed it that it didn’t matter. it was my anxiety again, wanting us all to do the next right thing 😉 )

    • Jo, we, you know, love you. <3 I will back you, as we all will! THANK You, Jo. We love you you! [I expect purrfectionism from you, as well as perfectionism. 🙂 )

  2. I agree. Michael.
    I’ve been so conflicted because I think the entire thing is just wrong. I want something different, but this is the best that’s out there right now. I’m going to go ahead and support it, hoping that it really will save some lives. But, it doesn’t feel good or ethical to me.
    I just wrote a letter to the editor of our newspaper about it. I do that often just to try ringing some bells in peoples’ heads about shelters. They usually publish them, so I’m happy thinking that even one person may really get what’s going on.

    • We think the same way about this. It is both good and bad. It is good for the short-term but bad for the long-term, I believe. It sort of makes sense and people will probably respond to the discount but as I say saving $20 in the modern world is neither here nor there really.

  3. I haven’t read the full value of your text, Michael. yet. It sounds to me, from the title, that the director is inept.

  4. Morally it’s wrong, but practically it’s right because the more animals rehomed, the less who will be killed for lack of a home.
    I know the Cats Protection adoption fee puts some people off adopting and they go elsewhere, buy a kitten from someone’s litter, or through ‘free to good home’ ads.
    If they can’t afford to pay the full adoption fee, can they afford vets bills etc for their new pet?
    There is no answer and no solution and as long as people continue to discard cats like unwanted possessions there never will be.

    • As Dee it says, it is a dilemma. You make a good point again, that a reasonable adoption fee is a way of filtering out people who are not committed to adopting a cat for the lifetime of the cat. If reducing an adoption fee from $50 to $25 attracts a person to adopt a companion animal from a shelter, is the person the right sort of person? Can they afford to look after the companion animal?

      And I do believe that this sort of thing rather subtly and insidiously devalues the companion animal telling him or her into a product on a supermarket shelf.

    • Ruth, you are, as always, in the most privileged position. I trust you. We all do. What, again, do you have to say? [I respect you. We all do.]

    • Morally it’s wrong, but practically it’s right

      Ruth, I think you have summed it up well in that statement. Your statement highlights the difficult moral decisions shelters have to make because what is practical is immoral. That is a dilemma. It also highlights the fact that animal shelters shouldn’t really exist. Their very existence is immoral. Because in a better world every companion animal would be living in a loving home and there will be no need for rescue centres.

  5. It seems just not right, any way that we look at it. The director’s heart is not 100% into it, otherwise he/she would be taking a better approach? Could the director disagree with this opinion? Maybe the shelter managers, board and director, assistant director could ask for more input on how best to handle adoption. Maybe more publicity that is positive, while pleading for help in stopping the euthanasia due to the members of society who do not care about their pets and the strays. Get it out there in to the public’s eye, in the newspapers and television and billboards. Keep attracting attention while our fellows drive their cars to work and such. I think that I am tired of seeing advertisements for politicians. I would like to see more advertisements with an image of a firefighter or police officer or a child who would love to have the responsibility of caring for an animal…

  6. Purchasing a pet is the cheapest expense when you consider the maintenance and care involved in maintaining that pet throughout its average life-span. For a cat it could mean maintenance for approx 10 to 15 years.Reducing the adoption fee of a cat on death row would be a temporary solution to saving the pets life if the pet owner has financial constraints.A genuine responsible pet owner would adopt a cat irrespective of the adoption fee costs.

    • Agreed but if the person is genuinely incentivised by a $20 reduction in price I wonder if they are the right sort of person to adopt and care for a cat in the first place. In the USA, $20 is hardly anything. In the UK it’s about £12, enough to buy 2 Americano coffees and a biscuit and a cafe near where I live.

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