The animal shelter is eyeing a fee schedule that would see adoption costs for a dog quadruple and a cat increase by six times the current amount, in what county officials said were necessary evils to better pet health and controlling overpopulation.
At the request of commissioners, shelter director Kim Williams, along with Sheriff Jimmy Thornton and staff, shelter veterinarian Dr. Beth Turner and assistant county manager Susan Holder have met over previous weeks to discuss ways to reduce the county’s overpopulation of stray animals.
A spay and neutering program has been discussed as the most efficient way to control the population, however it would come at a hike in adoption rates to cover costs. Williams updated the Sampson County Board of Commissioners as to the new fees that would likely be implemented.
“Since the last planning meeting, we’ve been working to get a workable plan for a spay and neuter program,” said Williams. “We’ve worked with area vets to get feasible costs for the program.”
He floated cost increases for dog and cat adoption, from $25 to $100 for a dog and from $10 to $60 for a cat. No fees were officially adopted by the board.
He said, while some veterinarians have responded to inquiries, there were still some feelers out amongst others to see what their charge would be to spay and neuter pets.
“We’re still waiting on a couple of bids from area vets. Even without that, we will be really close to what we say,” said Williams. “That should cover 100 percent of the procedure. We have some more pricing out there, but I feel very comfortable we will be in that range.”
Williams said he does not foresee the spay and neutering being done by a single vet, but rather a group of local ones.
“We can possibly spread it out amongst area vets,” said Williams. “That would keep business in this area. We’re trying to come up with a price that everyone can live with and make it a group effort.”
At the time of adoption, a potential pet owner would be put into contact with a local veterinarian so the animal could be treated before officially being adopted. The fee would take care of all necessary costs at the time of adoption. The fee would be collected at the shelter upon adoption and the pet would be transported to the vet to be treated. The vet would be paid for their services out of the total adoption fee.
Williams said there are still some kinks to work out, but he is satisfied with the progress being made.
“It is a workable plan we do hope to have in place soon,” he said.
Board chairman Jefferson Strickland lauded Williams for his work.
“We commend you for the work you’re doing to find a workable solution going forward,” said Strickland.
Earlier this year, Williams said a spay and neuter program could cause a chain reaction that would see adoption rates rise dramatically to cover costs and a subsequent drop in animals adopted. At the time, Williams said options cost upwards of $130 to $200 per animal.
With around 5,000 animals coming through the Sampson shelter each year and a down economy that has seen many owners, especially those of low income, giving up their pets, Williams has said a fee hike could be debilitating. Of the thousands of animals, Williams said only about a quarter of them are able to be adopted currently. An increase in adoption fee could cut further into that number, he has noted.
He shared similar concerns this week, but said the shelter had a goal to control the pet population while seeking out ways to help people continue to adopt.
“I still think you’re going to see a decrease when you go up this much, but hopefully it won’t be devastating,” said Williams. “But we will probably see a decrease for at least a while. We’re down considerably off (previous proposed costs), so hopefully we won’t be hurt that bad. Our goal is to spay and neuter 100 percent of the animals coming out of the shelter.”
The shelter director said he hopes to use no county funds in implementing the spay and neuter program, which he is optimistic will be in place by June 1.
Williams said the shelter is applying for a grant that would help low-income residents offset the increased cost of adoption pets. He also said the proposed fees are comparable to those in place already in other counties.
“These prices would put us a little below average,” he said. “We would be well in line and a little below average of some prices in the state.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 121, or by email at email@example.com.