One of the 20th-century’s greatest literary voices — I can’t remember off the top of my head whether it was Flannery O’Connor or Stevie Nicks — once wrote that there’s nothing cheaper than free. This may be true in theory, but puppies are not theoretical. They are living, breathing creatures who will depend on you for everything from food and shelter to love and exercise. If you’ve come here today asking, “Where can I get puppies for free,” and are looking for definite answers, you’re out of luck. You will get some vague ones, along with some useful alternatives, to be sure.
Why would we deny you certainties? The simple fact is that, while it is possible to locate and bring home a baby puppy that costs you nothing up front — from a classified ad in the newspaper or on Craigslist, for instance — there are always costs associated with pet ownership. Whether the friend you seek is a cute puppy, lizard, fish, or dwarf hamster, any pet you adopt has needs, and providing for them always incurs costs, both financial and otherwise. For puppy ownership, you can expect to lay out money on:
- Spay or neuter operations
- Toys and other accessories
There are other costs, some of which are not strictly financial in nature, tied to adopting a new puppy. These include investing the time, effort, and patience required for:
- House breaking
- Regular exercise
- Grooming and bathing
The myth of free puppy adoption
First, we should investigate what motivates people to go in search of free puppies. Is it the initial investment that drives people to inquire about free, cheap, or low-cost puppy adoption? Is it the assumption that getting a dog involves a major one-time price tag that can potentially run into hundreds, even thousands of dollars?
These notions might be driven by popular or highly visible dog breeds that we see participating in televised dog shows, commercials, television, or movies. They could be reinforced by the strange notion that purebred dogs are somehow superior to mixed breeds, mutts, dogs with previous owners, shelter or rescue dogs, or the idea that adopting a puppy is a better or more authentic experience than an adult or senior dog. None of these assumptions are quantifiably or objectively true.
The real financial costs of free puppies
Even if you acquire a free baby puppy, raising a live creature involves substantive investments. Money is required to feed and care for any dog, and there are significant costs in terms of your time, energy, and patience. From a strictly financial perspective, an article by the American Kennel Club details the efforts of two veterinary students from the University of Pennsylvania, Kelly Giffear and Brittany Scott, to determine the real costs of dog ownership.
This study differentiates between costs of owning a dog based on size and lifespan, ranging from small dogs right through to giant breeds. Expense were further broken down by dogs’ most basic needs, from food and essential veterinary services to bedding and toys. They determined that the average cost of dog ownership in the first year alone comes out to $3,085. This amount, it goes without saying, puts the lie to the very notion of a free puppy.
On average, Giffear and Scott estimated that the lifetime expenses associated with raising a dog come out to $23,410. Other sites have attempted to calculate the cost of dog ownership, such as this one from 2011, which has a much higher total, factoring in dog health insurance costs. As far as my own research can find, Giffear and Scott’s findings are the most current systematic and rational attempts to truly price out the real costs of dog ownership, both in the first year and over the life of the dog.
Yes, you can get baby puppies for free
Technically, of course, if you are not insistent on a particular breed or mix, you can find free dogs of all ages and sizes. “Where can I get a free puppy,” you ask? The easiest place to start is to ask your friends, coworkers, and general acquaintances to keep their ears to the ground for you. Someone’s dog is bound to have puppies eventually, and those puppies will need new homes once they are weaned, around the age of 8 to 12 weeks.
You might also thumb through a daily or weekly newspaper published in your area. Whether that’s a paper with a wide regional circulation, or a local alt-weekly, these publications typically contain at least one page of classifieds. Among them, you’re very likely to find a section dedicated to, or featuring, dogs in need of adoption. Some ads are literally labeled, “Puppies free to good home.”
Craigslist is another potential venue to locate free, cheap, or low-cost puppies. From the landing page, find your home state, and drill down to the metro area closest to you. Under the “Community” heading, there is a category labeled “Pets.” From that point, you’re on your own. If you choose this route, read the listing in full and ask as many relevant questions as possible. Why are they giving the dog away? Is he vaccinated, spayed, or neutered?
Valuable alternatives to a free puppy
Are you a first-time or prospective dog owner? There are options and alternatives that can acclimate you or your children to the experience of living with a dog without incurring the obligations associated with adopting a baby puppy. For example:
- Fostering a dog: You can work with a local shelter or rescue and take a puppy or dog into your home on a limited basis. This can give you a taste of dog or puppy ownership without the lifetime commitment.
- Visit or volunteer at a dog shelter or rescue: There are many nonprofit, no-kill shelters nationwide that are always looking for dependable and devoted volunteers. The fact that there are rescue organizations dedicated to specific breeds means that you can get exposure to the minutiae of a dog breed without leaping headlong into ownership.
Engaging in time-limited activities with reputable organizations like these in your area can prepare you for the responsibility and investment involved in the long-haul of puppy or dog ownership.
About the author: Melvin Peña trained as a scholar and teacher of 18th-century British literature before turning his research and writing skills to puppies and kittens. He enjoys making art, hiking, and concert-going, as well as dazzling crowds with operatic karaoke performances. He has a one-year-old female Bluetick Coonhound mix named Idris, and his online life is conveniently encapsulated here.