SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Myth-busting on reduced-fee adoptions

On occasion, SPCA runs reduced-fee adoption campaigns in order to boost adoption rates and help animals find their loving forever homes.

This may be at times when Centres are particularly full and need to try and free up space for additional incoming animals ahead of busy seasons.

There are various myths around reduced-fee adoptions, and as an evidence-based organisation we delve into the research to investigate further.

SPCA debunks myths around reduced-fee adoptions

MYTH: People value animals less if they get them for free

TRUTH: Multiple research studies show that there is no difference in pet attachment level, post-adoption lifestyle or healthcare between adopters who pay an adoption fee and those who do not1–4. Eliminating adoption fees does not devalue the animals in the eyes of adopters.

Our Centre staff follow the same process to place animals in their ideal homes, regardless of whether or not adopters are charged a fee.

MYTH: People who adopt an animal for free probably can’t afford to look after them

TRUTH: A 2020 survey by Companion Animals New Zealand found that half of companion cats (53%), over a quarter of dogs (29%), a quarter of horses, and a third of rabbits (36%) were acquired for free5. Offering reduced-fee or fee-waived adoptions helps to reduce companion animal overpopulation, as people may otherwise get a free undesexed animal from their community.

Research found no difference in post-adoption veterinary care, legislative compliance, or retention of animals adopted with or without a fee1–3.

MYTH: Adopting animals for a reduced fee means SPCA doesn’t care

TRUTH: This simply isn’t true - our staff care deeply about all of our animals. Rest assured, the adoption process with reduced fees is identical as our normal adoption process and involves the same checks and balances. The only difference is the fee.

FACT: Reduced-fee adoptions save lives

Reduced-fee adoptions are a useful, welfare-friendly strategy of getting animals out of the shelter and into loving homes. They also reduce length of stay for the animals, which in turn reduces the risk of health or behaviour problems developing in care, and frees up capacity for new animals. Best of all, our team get to see the heart-warming process of animals heading to their loving forever homes.


1. Weiss E, Gramann S. A Comparison of Attachment Levels of Adopters of Cats: Fee-Based Adoptions Versus Free Adoptions. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science. 2009;12(4):360-370. doi:10.1080/10888700903163674

2. MacArthur S, Levy JK, Dingman PA, Tucker SJ. Outcome of Pets Adopted During a Waived-Fee Adoption Event: Maddie’s Matchmaker Adoptathon. In: Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Conference. Orlando, Florida: Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida. Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program; 2012. https://www.bissellpetfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/MacArthur-Adoption-Outcomes-Maddies-Adoptathon-1.pdf

3. Crawford HM, Fontaine JB, Calver MC. Using Free Adoptions to Reduce Crowding and Euthanasia at Cat Shelters: An Australian Case Study. Animals. 2017;7(12):92. doi:10.3390/ani7120092

4. Zito S, Paterson M, Vankan D, Morton J, Bennett P, Phillips C. Determinants of cat choice and outcomes for adult cats and kittens adopted from an Australian animal shelter. Animals. 2015;5(2):276-314. doi:10.3390/ani5020276

5. Companion Animals New Zealand. Companion Animals in New Zealand.; 2020.

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