Plan Before You Purchase or Adopt a Pet

Physician's Money Digest, May 2006, Volume 13, Issue 5

The animal shelters of thiscountry are full of abandonedpets that weren'tfully planned for beforethey were brought home.Pet ownership is truly a labor of love,and just like having kids, there's afinancial aspect to this commitment.There are some important moneyissues to consider before you bringhome a pet.

Pet Care Prices

Are you allergic? According to theAmerican Academy of Allergy, Asthma,and Immunology there are almost10 million pet owners who have somesort of allergy to their pets. Check tosee if you or your kids might be allergicto your chosen animal before you bringit home, or at least check your healthcare policy for coverage of allergy shotsor other medications that can help youcoexist. Also, make sure your home orrental policy allows pets. There aresome insurers that will reject you if youhave a large-breed dog. You might alsoget stuck with a large pet deposit ifyou're a renter, usually half of which isnonrefundable. Keep in mind you'reresponsible for repairing damages tothe rental caused by your pet.

Depending on the pet and yourdesire to give them only the best, anannual pet food bill can cost up to$400. This isn't an argument for buyinggeneric, but when it comes to petfood, always clip the coupons andcheck around at various pet stores forcase discounts on your pet's gourmetchow. Also, confirm with your vetwhether you're giving your pet the rightamount of food and at the right time.Your vet may recommend some lowerpriced,healthy alternatives.

Vets and Grooming

Vet bills can be the scariest financialaspect of pet ownership, and dealingwith them spurs the most debate. Inmajor metropolitan areas, annual vetbills can average $100 to $250 just forthe basics, which include an annualvaccination and checkup—no medication.For more serious matters (eg, cancers,joint and bone problems) billseasily run into the thousands. Thereare pet insurance companies, butfinancial experts argue whether thepremiums justify the benefits. Accordingto the Humane Society of theUnited States (www.hsus.org), thereare other affordability options. Youcan ask the vet to let you negotiate apayment plan. Also, contact your localshelter to see if there are subsidized veterinaryclinics in your community. Ifyou have a specific breed, contact thenational club for that breed and see ifthey might have a veterinary assistancefund. Ask your vet to submit an assistancerequest to the American AnimalHospital Association Helping PetsFund (www.aahanet.org).

Grooming is an important responsibilityin caring for pets, principally sotheir claws are maintained and overgrownor matted hair doesn't get thechance to cause skin or infestationproblems. Talk with your vet firstabout what they believe is a propergrooming regimen for your pet, andshop for a groomer based on experienceand familiarity with your pet'sbreed. Grooming rates vary by communityand size of the pet, with pervisitrates ranging from $20 to $100.

Finally, very few people can taketime out of their workday to go homeand walk and play with their pets.Likewise, many people fear takingpets on cross-country trips in cars andplanes. That's why daycare and lodgingservices are so popular—andexpensive. Depending on the community,daily dog-walking services cancost $20 and up, overnight kennelfees may go well over $30, and petsittingservices can cost $50 a day ormore. It's always best to get referencesfrom local services, veterinary clinics,and fellow pet owners. Also, checkwww.petsitters.org, the Web site forthe National Association of ProfessionalPet Sitters.

Reprinted with permission from the Financial Planning

Association (www.fpa net.org), the membership organization

for the financial planning community.