Saving Lives

Research on Fee-Waived Adoptions

For most shelters, overrun for much of the year with adorable kittens, finding homes for adult cats is an ongoing challenge. Nonetheless, the idea of "Free Cats" remains a lightning rod in the animal welfare world. The traditional view has been that "giving away" cats devalues them in the eyes of the adopter, may compromise their care, and reflects badly on the shelter giving them away.

In 2006, ASPCA Senior Director of Shelter Research and Development, Emily Weiss, Ph.D., CAAB, and Shannon Gramann, ASPCA Manager of Shelter Research and Development, intrigued by the success of a free cats program in effect since 1998 at the Wisconsin Humane Society, conducted a study comparing "the attachment levels of adopters of cats — fee based adoptions vs. free adoptions."

The resulting data, published in Vol. 12 Issue 4 of the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, indicates that:

  • Attachment to cats adopted from the study facility was not decreased when adoption fees were eliminated,
  • Eliminating adoption fees does not devalue the animals in the eyes of the adopters, and that
  • Free adult cat programs could "dramatically impact the lives of thousands of shelter cats who would otherwise reside in a shelter for months or be euthanized."

Related Resources

Fee-Waived Success Stories
Journal Abstract
Fee-Waived Cats 101 webinar presented by Dr. Emily Weiss