Giving a pet a new home just got a little easier.
York County plans to drop some adoption costs at its animal shelter starting July 1. For a trial period through the end of the year, pricing specials will be available during peak seasons or at planned adoption events. New pet parents can take an animal home for less than half the typical rate.
“We’re trying some things to see what works,” said Suzanne Edson, animal control supervisor for York County. “I came from a shelter where we did this, and it worked really well.”
The rates won’t apply to all adoptions or at all times. Edson said Tuesday, not yet a full day after York County Council approved the plan, she would begin looking at how and when to implement it.
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“We’ve been waiting to schedule the event until we have the approval,” she said.
The York County Animal Shelter typically charges $77 per adoption. That fee came with a 2009 survey of area veterinarians based on costs of spaying and neutering animals. The average cost now for the shelter to get an animal ready for adoption is $35-$45. Staff is looking at the fee and whether base cost changes are needed.
Part of the review deals with what to do at peak times. Spring is “kitten season.” Holidays with fireworks often bring dogs found startled and separated from their owners. Sometimes large numbers of pets arrive from a home or area at once. Then there are adoption events like Christmas at the Shelter.
“At times when we have overpopulation of a specific type of animal, we can do this as a way of helping put more animals in homes,” Edson said.
In those cases, fees could be dropped to as low as $15 or $20. Two-for-one specials at the full adoption price would put pets together in a home. Prices would be lower than the cost of getting an animal ready for adoption, but overall the county could see savings.
At peak times, staff overtime increases. Euthanasia — based on medical issues, not space constraints — increases. Both cost the county.
York County Councilwoman Allison Love has been involved with animal control issues since taking her seat earlier this year. Council approved the changes Monday as one peak season ends with the spring kitten litters, and another looms with July 4 fireworks. The strategic price drops in those circumstances makes sense, she said.
“They need to be able to reduce some cats that have been there for a few months, especially at kitten times of the year,” Love said. “It’s about finding homes for animals.”
Last year, animal control took in 5,442 animals. Almost 60 percent arrived as strays, nearly 40 percent as owner surrenders and 1 percent as confiscated animals. Included were 3,002 cats and 2,347 dogs.
There were 1,257 cats adopted and 54 returned to their owners. There were 1,280 dogs adopted and 405 returned to their owners.
The shelter averages about 125 animals at a time. All adopted animals come with shots and medical work. Even with the lower prices, that won’t change, Edson said. The shelter gets more than just dogs and cats, but only is allowed to adopt out dogs and cats.
“If we find horses, cows, goats, pigs, chickens, which we sometimes do, we have to rely on our rescue groups,” Edson said.
Rescue organizations are key to keeping the shelter from reaching capacity. Edson said there are times the shelter leans heavily on those partnerships. With the new pricing, perhaps they can steer clear of emergency situations with rescue groups.
“We haven’t euthanized for space in this shelter for three years,” she said. “But we don’t want to get to that point.”
Grace Hutchinson, a Rock Hill resident, began volunteering at the shelter more than three years ago. She walks dogs and cats. Feeds them. The best part of her day there is helping families gain a new pet. Something the county is looking to make easier than ever.
“When the public comes in and they want to look at the dogs,” Hutchinson said. “I love to help them through the adoption process. I ask lots of questions. We can find the best pet to fit their family.”