The Cost of Owning a Pit Bull in the City, Pt. 1

Ester: Hello! We are here to talk about your adorable pit bull, Red, who is sleeping peacefully next to me right now. Would you tell me about your adventures as a dog owner and what they have cost you?

Charrow: Well, when people say that owning a dog is expensive they never really break down what that means, so I truly had no idea how expensive they can be, especially if you want a well trained, obedient dog. I am not saying I have that, FYI. So there are there are four major categories I have broken this down into. There is startup costs, recurring costs, stupid stuff that happens to Red, and then Red being a d-bag.

Ester: Ha! Aw. Which would you like to describe first?

Charrow: Let’s discuss startup costs first. A disclaimer, Red is 55 lbs and if you did not know, the bigger the dog the greater the cost.

Ester: I did not! There is so much I don’t know. I had a dog as a kid but my parents handled all the annoying money-related aspects of pet-ownership. Please tell me more.

Charrow: First off, you have to pay to adopt the dog. In our case, we adopted from a rescue, which cost about $150. This can fluctuate depending on where you get the dog from and if the dog comes already altered, microchipped, and with all the initial shots.

Ester: Wait, microchip? This is some Hunger Games-style craziness. There’s a chip in your dog?

Charrow: He came chipped! Basically, if I lose Red and he gets picked up by the pound then they can look and see who he is registered to … like a car. It’s a good way to keep animals with homes from being put down or adopted by someone else.

Ester: Brilliant and terrifying. OK, go on.

Charrow: Yeah, I knew nothing about this process until I was in it. I have only ever owned indoor cats … completely different ball game. There are a few other legal things like registering your dog with the state and getting tags, which is about $50. These are things you should have if you want your now microchipped dog to be allowed off leash in parks.

Ester: Which you kind of must, right, for them to get enough exercise? But then of course that exposes your dog to the danger of Other Dogs.

Charrow: Yes, Other Dog danger is always a possibility. Dogs are like people with bigger teeth. If they don’t get along they can ignore each other or they can get into it. Even in play this can be an issue. Red has definitely been bitten while in play. Pit bulls don’t have much hair and their flank tears really easily. I have spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 on his stitches for wounds inflicted by other dogs. Part of that was paid for by other people. All of it should have been paid for by other people, but that is a different issue.

Ester: A related issue! How do you approach other people to ask them to pay on behalf of their animals, when their animals have caused damage? I’m glad some people volunteer; it seems like the right thing to do.

Charrow: Well the truth is you shouldn’t have to approach the owner; they should approach you. It’s awkward, because if they don’t approach you, then it might mean they don’t feel like they have any obligation. I have only approached one person. I asked the owner of the Other Dog to help pay for the cost because she didn’t offer to pay for the whole thing. In retrospect I probably should have asked her to cover the whole thing. The other time he was bitten the dog ran off so I had no one to approach.

Ester: I see that there was a run in with a chicken?

Charrow: More like a run around with a chicken. We went to visit friends in rural PA, and we brought Red. Their house is a converted chicken coop, and there happen to be chickens living right across the driveway in what used to be the “main house” of the farm. Red’s never seen a chicken before, but he quickly figured out that it was something worth investigating and by investigating, I mean chasing around the yard while attempting to take bites out of its rump. There were feathers flying, friends yelling, and a mad dash at the end that ultimately saved the chicken from being second breakfast. The neighbors took the chicken, which was named Velvet, to their vet friend, who cleaned her wound and patched her up with stitches. We still haven’t heard what the total price for that will be.

Ester: This is my favorite story of all-time. The fact that the chicken was named Velvet, the fact that the adults’ minds immediately went to “stitches” and not, like, marinade … I know for you this is a tragedy but for me it’s pure comic brilliance. I’m sorry it was costly brilliance, though. Have you had to pay out of pocket for similar incidents, involving animals higher up on the food chain, or god forbid humans?

Charrow: Yes, we have had run-ins with other dogs, for sure. No humans as Red is good with people and only barks when he is not. So, the park is really fun for dogs and humans, but play can go from good to bad really quickly even with little dogs. We had a situation where he was playing with a medium long haired dog and was chasing and caused a side flank tear. I went up to the owner, said I was sorry, and would walk with him to his vet. We went together, he was ok, but in shock, and I gave them my credit card. Of course, the dogs were fine walking together after the incident, but that cost me $850 and a lot of post traumatic stress. If it had only been money it would have been one thing, but you spend the rest of the day feeling like a failure and bad person. That is really the worst.

Ester: God, I’m so sorry. And yet everyone feels that way, right? It’s so easy to jump to the worst conclusions about ourselves, especially when our kids hit someone else’s kid on the playground or throw a chair in pre-school, or our dogs accidentally hurt other dogs.

Charrow: Yes, but we are the labeled at the bad kids when we come into the park because we have a pit bull. It is something we now accept and basically spend our time proving people wrong by having a well behaved dog, but its hard to start off being presumed guilty.

Ester: Oh, right, of course, I read about that in Esquire. (That’s not a sentence I get to say too often.) That’s hard. Are pit bulls more expensive, do you think, than similarly sized dogs?

Charrow: I’m not really sure. Insurance for pets does not cover liability, but if it did it’s completely possible. In some states you cannot own a pit bull and it can limit your ability to find an apartment to rent or it can raise the rent price, which they call animal insurance. I think the mental cost can be higher. I also think any dog you allow to interact with other dogs puts you at a higher risk of incurring unplanned costs. On the flip side, a dog that is not socialized can easily do bad things on leashed walks or in social situations. I think other breeds have hidden costs like genetic issues.

Ester: Makes sense. Do you have a sense of how much you spend per week, per month, per year on pet ownership? I know your one-bedroom apartment is basically a petting zoo, since you share the space with a partner and two pre-existing indoor cats. And um is it worth it? If it makes you feel better, you can ask me the same question about my two-year-old.

Charrow: To give you a sense, we spend about $50 a week on dog walking with our current schedule and I assume most people who do not flexible schedules spend way more. On food we spend about $100 a month and his food is a little expensive because it’s limited ingredient. Some people buy cheap food, but I know people who have their dogs on raw diets and I have a feeling they spend a lot more. As people that follow everything by the book and have to buy everything from food to meds in the 50–100 lb bracket for Red, we end up spending about $200 per month.

I also spend about $40 a month on dog health insurance, but that will go up every year by some arbitrary amount I still don’t understand. I spend what works out to $20 a month for heartworm meds, flea/tick treatment, and his poop bags. Truthfully, we have only had Red one year so the the amount of money we spend per year remains to be seen. I feel like the first year was all start-up costs because he is a completely different dog now than he was a year ago.

I think people will get mad if I relate my dog to your daughter … unless Lara bites.

Ester: She doesn’t, yet. But then, her teeth are still coming in; I’ll report back once she has a full set.

Stay tuned for Part II!

Charrow is a professional illustrator who shares a one bedroom with a partner, two cats, and a dog, AMA

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