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Animal Control gets permission to waive adoption fees

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By FrankCBranchini - Posted on 07 October 2012

By ALLISON BOURG, Capital Staff Writer | Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2012 11:00 am

How much is that doggie in the window at the county’s animal shelter?

The pooch could soon be free.

The County Council unanimously passed a bill Tuesday allowing county Animal Control to waive adoption fees in certain circumstances — namely when the shelter is full.

County Executive John R. Leopold sent the bill to the council in an attempt to reduce the shelter’s population and cut the number of animals who have to be euthanized.

Animal Control Administrator Robin Small said last week that adoption fees vary, depending on the animal and its gender. The fees range from $26 to $56.

Right now, she has no authority to waive any of the payments.

She said last week during the council’s work session that shelters such as that of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Anne Arundel County, which sometimes runs special promotions reducing or waiving adoption fees, look more appealing to would-be pet owners.

The authorization to waive fees “is another effort to increase adoptions and be as competitive as we can be to the shelters around us,” Small said.

On Oct. 13, Animal Control will hold an adopt-a-thon at its shelter in Millersville. Because the law won’t take effect until 45 days after it’s signed by the county executive, Small won’t be able to waive the fees then. But she said it’s the perfect example of a promotion that would benefit from the legislation.

Last week, the county shelter had about 230 animals, which is considered high capacity.

The shelter brought in around $344,000 in revenue for the county last year. Waiving adoption fees periodically would cost about $50,000, county officials said.

Frank Branchini, a spokesman for the political action committee Maryland Votes for Animals, said he commended the county for coming up with a creative way to promote animal adoptions.

“Conducting adoption promotion campaigns featuring reduced fees is a proven method for increasing adoptions,” Branchini said.

Three shelters in the Baltimore Animal Welfare Alliance — Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, Baltimore Humane Society and the Maryland SPCA — each conduct an annual campaign in June in which they waive the adoption fees for cats and kittens, Branchini said.

This June, 769 cats and kittens were adopted at the three shelters, more than twice the number adopted before the promotion began.

“Americans love to get a bargain,” Branchini said.

Euthanasia rates in the county have been declining.

Last year, Animal Control put down 3,775 domestic and wild animals, less than the 4,871 in 2010 and 5,356 in 2009. Small said it’s hard to tell how many animals the shelter is likely to euthanize this year because it varies by season. For instance, intake is higher in the summer, but so are adoption rates.

In December 2010, an investigation by The Capital showed that Animal Control was on track to euthanize 65 percent of the animals it received that year. But new statistics released earlier this year indicate the agency put down fewer adoptable pets in 2010 than it originally believed.

The county defines adoptable animals as those that aren’t sick, injured, aggressive or brought in to be euthanized.

Small said the law passed Tuesday wasn’t a response to any particular numbers.

“It’s just become standard practice in other shelters, and our goal is always to reduce euthanasia,” she said.

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