Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Hopes New Fees Cut Pet Drop-Offs by Owners; $35 Cost; Info on Animal Required

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Hopes New Fees Cut Pet Drop-Offs by Owners; $35 Cost; Info on Animal Required

Article excerpt

Byline: Adam Kealoha Causey

Clay leaders hope a new fee for abandoned pets will cut down on the number of unwanted animals that become the county's responsibility and often end up euthanized.

Residents no longer can drop off pets for free following an Aug. 23 County Commission vote. Now ex-owners must pay $35 and give background on their cat or dog, something that was difficult when they could simply leave animals in a pen at night or on weekends.

Proponents say knowing a pet's history, including whether it's good with children or has a history of biting or scratching, will help the county find the right match in a new home.

And it will save taxpayer money, according to Commissioner Ronnie Robinson, who has pushed for cost-saving in Animal Care and Control's approximately $1 million budget.

"If you bring me a dog because you're not responsible enough to feed it or it's too much trouble, that's not right," Robinson said. "You need to pay us to either dispose of the dog or get it adopted out. I can't do that for free anymore."

A pen at the shelter on Florida 16 where Northeast Floridians could leave their pets is no longer being used.

June Hatlestad, founder and president of Clay-based CatBugs Pet Rescue, said reaction to the new fee will be a mixed bag among those pondering getting rid of animals. But she's more hopeful than worried.

"Obviously some people are going to be upset about that," Hatlestad said. "But I believe it's going to make them more responsible for the pets in their home."

The county did not factor drop-off fees into the 2011-12 budget because spending plans are based on current-year revenue, according to Alan Altman, director of the Environmental Service, the umbrella department for animal services. Clay doesn't expect the fee to be a major cash flow.

Other fees have changed, too. Cats and dogs aged 3 and older can be adopted for free. Younger animals could cost up to $70 to take home. Previously, all adoptions were a flat $50.

"Obviously the kittens and puppies are very popular," Altman said.

Jenny Corona and Brent Verdel on Tuesday adopted 1-year-old dachshund/terrier mix Lucy. …

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