Fee reduction could spur pet adoptions

Jackson County Animal Care and Control could reduce or eliminate several fees and charges soon, a move intended to place more animals in permanent homes.

The Jackson County Board of Commissioners will consider the proposal at its Wednesday meeting at 9:30 a.m. in the Jackson County Courthouse Auditorium, 10 S. Oakdale Ave. If passed, it will mean fees for special adoption events, the pilot Free Rides Home program and transferring pets to other facilities for adoption could drop or disappear completely.

Jackson Baures, manager for Jackson County Environmental Public Health, said it is part of an agency strategy to adopt out more animals. "Really, it's part of a broad strategy to improve the shelter, improve our operations to get (animals) in homes quicker," he said. "It goes to trying to reduce the length of stay."

Adoption fees now are $85 for dogs and $70 for cats, according to Jackson County's website. The fee reduction would not apply to all adoptions.

"It'd be more promotional events at certain times," Baures said. "It wouldn't be just an ongoing reduction of fees as a whole."

The pilot project Free Rides Home would continue under the proposal. Under the test-phase program, missing animals that are licensed with the county and are retrieved by Animal Care and Control are taken back to their owners for free.

County officials said the reduced rates would mean a loss of revenue to the county but they hope to recoup those expenses through increased animal adoptions and licensing.

"If the ordinance changes are passed, including the ability to waive fees, I expect our revenue, overall, would increase, at the same time reducing the cost to our citizens," Baures said.

At its Wednesday meeting, the board also will hold a public hearing on a proposed ordinance that would require veterinarians to report rabies vaccinations to Jackson County's Health and Human Services Department, which issues dog licenses. Animals that are unlicensed would then receive a letter from the county, requesting them to register the animal.

Baures said the proposed ordinance and fee structure changes are part of a bigger transformation Animal Care and Control has been working on since August 2012.

The changes include modifying and enhancing the adoption process, transferring animals to other shelters and reducing the intake of strays. All changes have been made with the intent to reduce euthanasia rates.

So far, the changes have yielded results county officials are happy with. In 2011, the live release rate for cats was about 17 percent. It grew to 37 percent in 2012. So far for 2013, it's about 55 percent. For dogs, the rate has risen from 2011's rate of 65 percent to about 85 percent for 2013 thus far.

"It's been going really well. There's a lot of work to do, obviously," Baures said. "It's very rewarding when you see statistics like this."

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or email rpfeil@mailtribune.com.

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