Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the amount previously charged for adoptions. We regret the error.
TYLER, Texas (KETK) – The Smith County Commissioners Court unanimously approved policy changes to the county’s animal control on Tuesday and they will now begin charging for owner surrenders and increase their adoption fee.
Animal Control and Shelter Supervisor Amber Greene gave a presentation detailing the approved changes, she said were created to address concerns on the animal control and shelter’s operations.
President of the SPCA of East Texas Deborah Dobbs weighed in on the situation in an interview with KETK News.
“I was really proud to see these changes,” Dobbs said. “There’s much, much more that needs to be addressed on this front. By no means is this the answer. We have thousands of homeless animals right now on the streets.”
With so many homeless animals, Dobbs believes even the smallest steps in the right direction can save lives. She said the stray dog problem will never be fully resolved, but it can improve significantly with action and policy changes like these.
“I think there’s a real desire on the part of our citizenry, and so we’re going to continue to come to commissioner’s court and raise awareness,” Dobbs said.
The newly approved policies include the following:
The animal shelter will begin charging $75 for adoptions. Adoptions were previously $30. At the time of adoption, the adoptee will be issued a voucher for sterilization and rabies.
The shelter coordinator or director may waive any fee if it is necessary “upon showing of good cause or financial hardship,” according to Greene.
Commissioner Precinct 2 Cary Nix said the addition of adoption fees may negatively impact the shelter.
“You have free adoptions now and you can’t adopt them,” Nix said. “What makes you think when you go to start charging $75 that they’re all of a sudden going to start adopting dogs out? There’s some issues here that we have.”
The shelter will also have times where it offers free adoptions along with special events or promotions.
Owner surrenders will be by appointment only, based on available space and an online application is required. Smith County Animal Control will now begin charging for surrenders with fees based on the dog’s age, health and vetting.
The fees are estimated to be $200 per dog or $75 for 1-3 puppies 4-months and younger, $100 for 4 or more puppies 4-months and younger, $150 if fully vaccinated with proof, $100 if neutered/spayed with proof or $75 if fully vaccinated and sterilized with proof.
Owners are asked to give copies of any current vet records to the shelter and provide photo ID with proof of county residency. Animal Control said they have the right to refuse a dog for any reason, and will no longer take surrenders once the shelter has reached 80% capacity.
Commissioner Precinct 1 Neal Franklin asked Greene if the addition of fees with surrenders would increase the amount of dogs dumped and strays. Greene said the shelter is currently turning away surrenders.
Animal Control will not be accepting dogs found outside of Smith County or within any incorporated city or within any city limits.
Finders must provide photo ID, and fill out paperwork stating where the dog was found, and that they do not know who the dog belongs to. Strays can now be dropped off at the front door Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Animal Control officers will not be required to deliver owner surrenders to the shelter but “advise dog owners wishing to surrender their dog to the shelter to setup an appointment.”
If a person moves from a rented property, and abandons their dog, if the landlord sees the dog in distress and does not contact animal control, responsibility could fall onto the landlord, according to Greene. However, an appropriate waiting period on how long the landlord has to contact animal control has not yet been set.
The Smith County Animal Shelter will now offer public admission to the shelter from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
Animal Control will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Animal Control has purchased a carport and put kennels outside “for dogs to have some outside time,” according to Greene.
They are working on signage for the front of the shelter, and are working towards getting a transport van with kennels and said they will promote microchipping.
There is now a requirement of three full-time kennel techs and Greene said they will put forward a plan for the unused empty space in the shelter near the kennel area. The commissioner’s court said they do not want to promote expansion of the facility.
“This is a work in progress no doubt,” County Judge Nathaniel Moran said.