By Valerie Baldowski
The Henry County Animal Control Shelter is making it cheaper to adopt a dog, or cat, but owners who allow the animals to go unchecked, and run free, face new fees, and fines.
Also, the county agency has begun using a microchip to keep tabs on pets it offers for adoption.
Existing fees of $30 to reclaim a pet running free, $15 to vaccinate a dog or cat, and $30 to euthanize a pet for reasons or health, or temperament, have not changed.
Starting July 1, however, the shelter's adoption fee will be reduced from $85, to $65. It will include a pre-registered microchip, and a rabies vaccination voucher.
Fees for reclaiming an impounded animal will remain at $30, but owners of dogs or cats who are picked up as repeaters, face an additional $30 fee, plus a $15 rabies vaccination voucher is required, showing the pet has proof it is free of rabies.
The county's $30 impound fee will be charged each time the same pet is impounded, county animal officials said.
"Our current impound fee is $30, and we are seeing an increasing number of animals that we're re-impounding two, three, four and five times," said Director of Animal Control and Care, Gerri Yoder. "They are paying that same $30 coming to pick up their animals, so we're hoping that by having that fee double each time, that's an added incentive for these owners to keep their animals restrained."
The Henry County Board of Commissioners approved the restructured fees June 1.
One reason the fee change is needed is "to decrease the number of animals that are found repeatedly at-large in our county," Yoder told the commissioners during a meeting June 1. She said the restructured fees are similar to what other area animal control departments charge. "We did an extensive survey of all the metro-Atlanta counties, and they are very much in line with what other counties are charging," she added.
The commission also gave Yoder permission to buy microchips to implant into each dog and cat brought to the shelter. The microchips will cost of $9 each, and the money charged to pet owners reclaiming their pets, is projected to defray the cost of the devices.
"Microchipping is rapidly becoming the worldwide industry standard for pet identification," Yoder told commissioners Tuesday. "We see a lot at the shelter ... pet collars come off, tags come off collars, but an implanted microchip remains with that pet no matter where that pet goes."
Implanting microchips into the dogs and cats will help animal control officers unite pets with their owners faster, provided the owners update them with the most recent address information, said Vince Farah, rabies control officer-department coordinator for the animal shelter.
"It will help other agencies track the animal, as long as the people keep their information [current]," he added. "If that person moves, then they have to update their information. If they live here, and they move to, say, North Carolina, and they don't update that information, and that dog is found up in North Carolina, obviously they're going to call the previous residence, with the information they have on file."