Those looking to adopt a dog from the Tullahoma Animal Shelter will soon have to dig deeper into their pockets to do so.
At the Jan. 24 meeting of the Council of Mayor and Aldermen of Tullahoma, the council approved a measure to increase certain fees to better recover the costs associated with caring for dogs adopted out of the shelter.
Ordinance #1571 would repeal and replace in its entirety Title 20, Chapter 10 of the Tullahoma Municipal Code, Fees and Fines for the Tullahoma Animal Sanctuary, to increase several fees, including adoption.
According to the ordinance, the collection fee would increase from $15 per animal to $50; animal maintenance costs would increase from $7.50 per animal per day to $15 per animal per day; the fee for animals in quarantine would increase from $12.50 per animal per day to $15 per animal per day; and adoption fees would increase from $10 to $100.
The $25 animal control fine would remain the same, as would the $50 fee for unvaccinated animals.
According to Police Chief Jason Williams, the average cost of care for dogs at the shelter is $125 per dog. With current adoption fees set at $10, the shelter cannot adequately offset the cost of medical care for animals, including neutering and neutering adopted dogs.
By raising adoption fees, city administrator Jennifer Moody said the police department, under which the shelter operates, can more easily recoup those costs.
“Tonight, we’re asking if you could consider increasing that adoption fee to $100 so it’s closer to our actual expenses,” she said at the meeting.
Alderman Jenna Amacher balked at the significant increase – a 900% increase from the current price – asking that the fee not be increased as much.
“We’re going to go from $10 to $100,” she said. “I think we need to focus more on volume than dollar signs. I think we might be able to adopt more dogs if we had better opening hours at the center.”
She proposed that fees only be increased to $60 from $100, citing a number of other animal shelters and societies that only charge between $45 and $85 for adoption fees, including Franklin County, Williamson County, Shelbyville and Bedford County.
Alderman Rupa Blackwell said she understood the shock of the price increase, but also felt that the price increase could also be in the best interests of the dogs at the shelter.
“We want people to adopt our dogs,” she said. “We also want them to be willing to adopt our dogs. What I’ve heard from people is that what we’ll see is that because it’s $10 they’ll adopt the dog and then they will see that same dog come back later.”
She said the $100 price tag is in line with several animal adoption organizations, including Animal Harbor and Lynchburg Friends of Animals, and would serve as a reminder for those looking for a dog at the shelter to really invest in the animal.
Pro Tem Mayor Jimmy Blanks said he doesn’t object to the $100 principle, but thinks the fee should gradually increase over time.
“My problem is such an increase,” he said.
Moody’s said the fee increase would not go into effect until April 1 to give the shelter enough time to notify the public of the rate increase, if approved.
Amacher said she appreciates the work of the shelter, but said the city “is not in the dog adoption business.”
“I don’t want this to be a revenue generating industry for the city of Tullahoma on our dog adoption fees,” she said. “If we do it with $10, why are we going from $10 to $100?”
Moody said the shelter “couldn’t come up” with $10, noting that the shelter may not be able to follow best practices, such as giving all necessary vaccinations or spaying and neutering all animals before they come. are not adopted due to high costs.
“The goal of the shelter is to reduce the population of unwanted pets,” Moody said.
Additionally, Moody said, the shelter previously relied solely on donations to cover the costs of all dog vaccinations and spaying/neutering, but the amount of donations the shelter receives could be as low as $10,000 for an entire year, which would leave the shelter in deficit for the number of dogs it takes in and adopts.
“It didn’t always cover the medical needs of our animals,” she said.
Dunn argued for the increase, saying the city shouldn’t rely on donations.
“Having worked in education, we don’t want to depend on donations for this to happen,” she said.
Amacher’s amendment failed 4-2, with only her and Blanks backing the $60 prize. The original motion, which would raise the price to $100, later passed 6-0 at first reading. All ordinances require two readings to take effect. The second reading will take place at the next city council meeting in February.