Additionally, several fees will increase, including the pet adoption fee increase from $75 to $100, the quarantine boarding fee increase from $10 to $15, the rabies vaccination fee increase from $25 to $30, and the pet reclaim fee, on first offense, will increase from $50 to $75 and an additional $25 for each repeat offense.
The added costs were unanimously approved at Tuesday’s Board of Commission meeting and Chief Marshall Chris Collett said Thursday he plans to implement the new fees beginning Oct. 1.
“The increases we’ve made are very, very comparable to other counties in metro Atlanta,” Collett said. “We felt that hopefully this will help offset the general fund and decrease the amount of money that has to come out of general fund to the animal shelter.”
Over the last three years, the county animal shelter has taken in over 6,000 owner surrendered animals, according to data provided by Cherokee County Animal Shelter Director Susan Garcia.
Of the 3,826 animals the shelter has served this year, 1,494 of them have been owner-surrendered.
County Manager Jerry Cooper said at the meeting the fees will generate approximately $95,000 in additional funds to offset the cost to taxpayers for animal shelter operations.
“The goal ideally is to make sure people take care of their animals and that there is a cost associated to (dropping them off at the shelter,)” Cooper said. “The general public cannot be paying for someone’s care of their animal.”
Commissioner Harry Johnston expressed concern as to whether to drop-off fee would result in more cases of dogs “just tied up to the fence” or “boxes of kittens left on the doorstep overnight,” but still voted in support of the measure.
Garcia said Thursday she initially shared the same concerns, but looked to Gwinnett County for answers about their pay model. Gwinnett animal shelter workers told her they had not seen a spike in abandoned animals since the county’s implementation of the fee, Garcia said.
“We’re going to monitor it and see how it goes,” Garcia said. “I would hope people would not do that, as that’s just another irresponsible choice. Twenty-five dollars is not much to ask someone to contribute to the care of their animal.”
Since the county commission took over animal shelter operations in 2000, the animal fees have remained the same, Garcia said.
She said the low rate has put a financial strain on the agency since the cost of necessary items—vaccines, medications and cleaning supplies—has increased.
But Garcia said she is most concerned about how many residents have recently been turning over their pets for taxpayers to take care of.
“What it comes down to is people need to begin to take more responsibility when they get an animal,” Garcia said. “It’s not just something that doesn’t cost us anything when they drop (their pet) off. There’s a lot of cost involved in assessing an animal behaviorally and medically.”
Garcia added the majority of animals that are surrendered are not spayed or neutered, which is another cost the shelter is forced to incur.
Collett said it still costs nothing to drop off a stray animal at Cherokee County Animal Shelter, and it may be challenging to prove ownership when a pet owner doesn’t want to pay up.
“It’s going to be very tough to police it—we’re going to have to take people at their word,” Collett said. “It’s not going to be a perfect system. All we’re simply saying is, if you’re a pet owner, you need to be responsible.”
Garcia said her employees encourage pet owners to find another home for their animal and direct them toward rescue groups, but it doesn’t always work, so they spoke with officials at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter to look for a better option.
At the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter, there is a drop-off fee of $25 per animal and the shelter requires the animal to be up-to-date on vaccinations, not have any health issues and pass a temperament evaluation. The shelter’s adoption fee is $30 per animal and a $60 cash-only veterinarian fee, according to its website.
According to its website, neighboring Cobb County Animal Control dog and cat adoptions cost $110, but the county does not have drop-off fee.
Garcia is hoping the change will make Cherokee residents reconsider leaving their pets without a home.
“It will be interesting—it’ll be something we have to monitor and see how it goes,” Garcia said.