Tribune-Courier News Editor
BENTON – Owners surrendering their animals to the Marshall County Animal Shelter will now face a $20 fee per animal left at the shelter.
The Marshall County Fiscal Court approved the fee at its Sept. 4 meeting.
Commissioner Misti Drew requested the Court reexamine the fee. She said she knew of one household with up to 30 cats. Collecting and housing the cats had cost the shelter and Marshall County Animal Control about $500.
“Owners are neglecting their responsibilities, and I do not feel the burden should be on taxpayers,” Drew said.
County Attorney Jeff Edwards said he researched fees in other shelters. Some shelters charge an increasing fee for every subsequent animal. Some have a flat fee, and others cap fees.
“Some shelters don’t take unwanted animals,” Drew said. “The purpose of a shelter should be to take nuisance or vicious animals, but we’ve got a problem with strays.”
Drew suggested a $20 fee to cover the expense of euthanizing an unwanted animal at $15, and defray some costs of housing and feeding an animal while in shelter custody.
“I don’t mind trying a fee, but I think this could lead to more animals being dumped,” Commissioner Bob Gold said.
Gold added that dumped animals could become a nuisance themselves, and large dogs could threaten livestock.
“What if someone has 30 or 40 cats? I know of a place that has about 60 cats. We all know what will happen when they leave the shelter,” Commissioner Terry Anderson warned when residents learn of the fee.
Edwards suggested taking names of people who refuse to pay a fee. If their animals are found abandoned, he said they could be prosecuted under a future ordinance.
The court passed the $20 fee unanimously.
Autumn Hollis, director of the shelter, said she sees advantages and disadvantages in the fee.
“There will be some that don’t want to pay and will dump animals somewhere,” Hollis said. “We hope it may make some owners more responsible, and they will spay and neuter their pets so they don’t have to bring unwanted animals down here.”
Hollis said the shelter does euthanize unwanted animals, and without a fee, the burden falls to taxpayers.
“People don’t understand that other than donations, the cost of food, water, care and electricity falls to the taxpayer,” Hollis said. “Maybe some owners will go out on their own and find their pets a home and not use us as a dumping ground.”
With the passage by the Fiscal Court, the shelter began assessing the fee immediately.