Mixed Feelings About Dallas’ Reduced Pet Adoption Fees

September 27, 2011 by · 1 Comment 


By Katie Simpson

Copper, 12-year-old Shih Tzu mix (Photo by Katie Simpson)

Copper, a 12-year-old Shih Tzu mix was boarded at East Lake Pet Orphanage in July. His owner had him scheduled for vaccinations and an annual exam during his stay at the clinic on Northwest Highway. Copper was to be picked up by his owner the next day. Nearly two months later, after several attempts to contact his owner, Copper is still sitting in his kennel. Since Copper is elderly, his chances of finding a new family grow slimmer every day.

Shelters like East Lake are becoming overly crowded, making it impossible to provide proper care to every animal. Authorities are often left with no other choice but to euthanize them. This overpopulation is largely due to the current economic troubles, say shelter workers.

“People will wait for as long as they can, but when it’s a choice between your kids and your pet, the pet’s got to go,” said Nicole Menaul, adoption counselor at East Lake Pet Orphanage.

In an effort to find more pets like Copper a loving home, the Dallas City Council approved a plan last month to selectively reduce adoption fees for senior citizens and older animals. Some animal advocates say this is a step in the right direction, but others question whether or not the strategy will actually benefit the animals. Menaul has mixed feelings about the new plan: “It will result in more pets getting adopted, but my concern is that by opening up adoption to a broader section of the community you are also opening it up to the people who can’t afford it to begin with,” she said.

The approved plan applies to senior citizens older than 65 and animals older than six. For dogs, the fee has dropped from $85 to $43, and for cats it has dropped from $55 to $27. The reduced fees also apply if you adopt more than one animal at a time.

According to the American Pet Products Association, $48.35 billion was spent on pets in the U.S. in 2010. Included in these costs were food, medicine, supplies, vet care, grooming and boarding.

“People have no clue of the costs, that’s why the dogs either end up not being taken care of, turned loose or returned to a shelter,” said Bettye Baker, executive director of Oak Hill Animal Rescue.

Sheer ignorance is another contributor to the high volume of animals in shelters, say officials. People aren’t aware that spaying and neutering their pets could easily prevent this problem.

“When cats and dogs run out of the house they mate, then the litters end up at kill shelters where the owners dump them off,” said Menaul.

Maddie, 5-month-old Terrier mix (Photo by Katie Simpson)

While shelters do their best to adopt out their animals, they are largely limited by the amount of space and resources available. According to the Humane Society of the United States, four million cats and dogs—about one every eight seconds—are put down in U.S. shelters each year.

“We can only help as many dogs as we have places,” says Melissa Worrell, President of Golden Retriever Rescue of North Texas.

GRRNT places its dogs in foster homes before finding them a permanent family. Therefore the number of dogs they can take in is limited to the number of foster homes available.

Spending over $650 per dog on medical expenses, Worrell says her group relies heavily on donations in order to provide its dogs with proper care.

Although the adoption process can be long and strenuous, many agree it is imperative in order to ensure that an animal goes to a good home.

“It’s not our intent to set the world on fire by the quantity of adoptions we do, but rather the quality of them,” says Baker.

Spencer Budde, proud owner of 4-year-old greyhound Katie, knows all too well how the process works. After going through online applications, reference checks, a home visit and dealing with unfriendly board members, Budde was finally able to take Katie home.

Katie, who spent the first part of her life as a racing dog, was originally fostered by one of Budde’s friends. Budde decided to adopt Katie shortly after meeting her.

Even though she says her experience was less than pleasant, Budde would still recommend adopting older dogs to others, especially for elderly people who want to skip the potty training.

“Most people want some form of a puppy,” said Budde, “but adopting an older dog is a good choice because it’s not as much of a lifetime commitment.”

“It is better to have a pet in a loving home than in a shelter to be euthanized,” said Menaul.