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Pet Adoption Fee Doesn't Pay for Much at City Shelter

KUT News

The Austin Animal Center is running a promotion throughout June, reducing its adoption fees for all animals to $20. Normally, it runs you $75 to adopt a pet through the city. The center is running the promotion in order to get more people adopting. 

Abigail Smith, Austin’s Chief Animal Services Officer, says even the full $75 doesn’t come close to paying for the care of an animal that gets dropped off.

“It’s hundreds of dollars when you consider the stray holding period, the intake vaccines that we do. This year we’re seeing a particularly bad flea season, so everybody is getting flea and tick medicine," says Smith. "There’s a very high incidence of heartworm dogs that come in here, and that’s extremely expensive to treat. So, $75, which is basically our standard fee, doesn’t even cover hardly any of it.”

So why have a fee at all? Smith says it’s about placing a value on the animals.

“When animals are just given away, some folks feel that that compromises the integrity of the adoption and anybody can show up and take an animal,” says Smith.

It’s also about meeting a budget. “The city shelter is on the hook for a certain amount of revenue that we bring in from the fees that we charge,” Smith says. The way the shelter has made up for the drop in revenue from a reduced fee is, not surprisingly, through volume.

The Austin Animal Center currently has a record number of dogs and cats in its system. And other organizations like Austin Pets Alive and the Humane Society are filled to the brim as well. And this year has been an especially rough one for cats.

“Everybody has a ton of cats,” Smith says. “Right now in our inventory, the city has 770 cats.” To put that into perspective, it was about half that number last year. Smith says that over half the cats in their shelter are kittens. And she warns that well-meaning Austinites scooping up baby kittens and bringing them to the shelter might not be the best solution.

“These kittens are better taken care of by their mother right now than they are by people that have to bottle feed them every two hours,” she says. “It’s actually not good for them and our system can’t handle it.”

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