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Where Can I Get Free Puppies?

You might find puppies offered free at an adoption event, by a friend or on the Internet, but are free puppies really, truly free? Let's take a closer look.

Melvin Peña  |  Mar 12th 2019


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 free puppies?” and are looking for definite answers about getting free puppies, you’re out of luck. You will get some vague ones, along with some useful alternatives, to be sure.

Free puppies — some facts up front

A litter or a group of puppies.

Are free puppies truly free? Photography ©LivingImages | E+ / Getty Images.

Why would we deny you certainties when it comes to free puppies? The simple fact is that, while it is possible to locate and bring home free puppies that cost you nothing up front — from a classified ad in the newspaper or on Craigslist (which, in most cases, is not a recommended means of finding a puppy — more on that later), 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:

  1. Vaccinations
  2. Spay or neuter operations
  3. Food
  4. Bedding
  5. Toys and other accessories
  6. License/registration

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:

  1. Training
  2. Housetraining
  3. Regular exercise
  4. Grooming and bathing

The myth of free puppies

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 puppies or cheap puppies or low-cost puppy adoptions? 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 do acquire free puppies, raising live creatures 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 technically get free puppies

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 free puppies?” you ask?

Keep an eye out for adoption-fee free events at your local shelters. This is the most responsible way to go about getting free puppies.

You can also 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. However, you need to be especially careful when researching free puppies on the internet, on something like Craigslist. 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 free puppies

Are you a first-time or prospective dog owner? There are options and alternatives to free puppies 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.

And, bottom line, there are truly no free puppies!

Thumbnail: Photography ©Photology1971 | Getty Images.

This piece was originally published in 2015. 

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.

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