Arlington

Arlington pet-surrender-fee pilot program meeting goals, official says

Chris Huff, Arlington animal services manager, in a new exercise area in January with a dog to be adopted. A controversial pilot program that charges a $25 fee to residents who surrender their pets to the city animal shelter is meeting its goals so far, reducing drop-offs and raising funds to hire an animal cruelty investigator, a code official told the City Council on Tuesday.
Chris Huff, Arlington animal services manager, in a new exercise area in January with a dog to be adopted. A controversial pilot program that charges a $25 fee to residents who surrender their pets to the city animal shelter is meeting its goals so far, reducing drop-offs and raising funds to hire an animal cruelty investigator, a code official told the City Council on Tuesday. Star-Telegram archives

A pilot program that charges a $25 fee to residents who surrender their pets to the city animal shelter is meeting its goals, reducing drop-offs and raising funds to pay for an animal cruelty investigator, a code official told the City Council on Tuesday.

The number of stray animals impounded at the shelter the first three months of this year dropped by 11.8 percent, to 2,617 animals, compared with the same period in 2014. Also, the number of pets surrendered by owners declined 27 percent, code compliance administrator Mike Bass said in his status report.

Those numbers alone could have pointed to something officials hoped wouldn’t happen: more people just dumping their pets off anywhere in the city to avoid the fee. But Bass was heartened by another statistic — a 4 percent decrease in the number of residents calling to report loose or aggressive animals, in the first quarter of the fiscal year, October through December, versus the same period in 2014. The decrease was greater — 10 percent — in second-quarter comparisons.

Also, officials looked into other cities’ experiences and found that charging a surrender fee had “negligible impact” on the number of reports of loose or aggressive animals.

About 2,800 animals were surrendered by their owners during the full year that preceded the pilot program. Almost 1 in 5 of those owners requested that the shelter euthanize the pet because of its “decreasing quality of life” due to injury, illness or age, Bass said.

Overall, he added, the city shelter took in 9,595 surrendered pets and stray animals during fiscal year 2014, which ended Sept. 30.

The city hired a animal cruelty investigator using revenue from the surrender fees, which haven’t yet risen to the level needed to pay the full cost of the investigator, Bass said.

“But by the end of this budget year, Sept. 30, we should have enough to cover that,” he said.

The council wasn’t so supportive when it considered his proposal last September. The vote was 5-4.

The fee, part of a one-year pilot program, could generate $79,000 to offset the cost of the animals’ housing and care, officials have said. It will not apply to strays or unweaned litters of kittens or puppies.

Also at the afternoon council briefing session, new Mayor Jeff Williams batted .500 in one his first acts of his tenure. The council was supportive of his request for consideration of extending the allotted time —to three minutes from two minutes — that visitors have to address the council.

The council informally — and unanimously — approved Williams’ request at the evening meeting.The relaxed rule took effect immediately, in time for speakers at the end of the meeting.

Williams found less support when he asked to revive the practice of televising speakers not addressing agenda items during the public forum at the end of meetings. The first four council members who responded said they couldn’t support it because they feared the “abuses” and creation of “a hostile environment” by grandstanding, politicking and aggressively questioning the council members when the council, under its policy, is not allowed to respond immediately.

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7100

Twitter: @Kaddmann_ST

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