City updates, clarifies pet adoption ordinance

Published 6:55 pm Thursday, December 28, 2017

The LaGrange City Council voted last week to give the city manager the ability to waive adoption fees for animals at the city shelter when deemed necessary.

This was the second time that the ordinance was discussed by the council, and some additional concerns regarding the ordinance were brought forward, which the council hopes will be resolved by a team of experts. Those experts’ primary concerns with the possible fee waiver revolved around the ability of someone who cannot afford the adoption fee to pay for other related fees like annual visits to a veterinarian.

“If this new ordinance is only waiving adoption fees for animals that have already been spayed or neutered, we are essentially giving away a dog to someone who cannot afford $18.50 to adopt that animal,” said Mandi Bono, the executive director of the LaGrange-Troup County Humane Society. “How will they be able to take care of the regular maintenance expenses such as food, monthly heartworm preventative, annual vet appointments and vaccinations, not to mention accidents, injuries or illness?”

According to Bono, adoption fees for dogs from the shelter that have already been spayed or neutered is only $18.50. The humane society and animal shelter both partner with Puppy Pipeline to send dogs that are not being adopted to other areas where adoptable pets are in high demand. However, the ordinance was proposed to prevent euthanasia for animals who are unable to find homes when the shelter begins to become overcrowded.

“We certainly want the animals to go to good homes,” City Manger Meg Kelsey said. “That is certainly our intent. We have never had a screening process at the shelter, and certainly we can look at situations on a case by case basis and evaluate if those animals are going to good homes when we waive fees. I am certainly open to that.”

The LaGrange Animal Shelter does not currently perform any checks on potential pet owners, but some basic background checks were suggested in the case of waivers to ensure future pet welfare.

“There is a lot that needs to go into consideration when you are adopting out a pet,” said Evie Ketler, founder of Paws 4 Chainge.

Kelsey made a point to clarify that the ordinance would not get rid of adoption fees, only give the city manager the option to waive them when deemed necessary.

“I think the intent of the ordinance as I understand it from staff is to invest discretion in the city manager to make decisions and to take into account the concerns that the humane society, Evie (Ketler) and others have raised,” Mayor Jim Thornton said.

Council member Norma Tucker suggested forming a “dog task force” to determine what factors should be considered when waiving adoption fees. The task force would utilize experts like Bono and Ketler, who are familiar with the different aspects of the adoption process. Kelsey said she intended to meet with Bono, Ketler and Captain Mike Pheil of the LaGrange Police Department to discuss the conditions for fee waivers.

“We would look forward to working with you on any recommendations you have to make that a reality,” Kelsey said.

The council unanimously voted to approve the city manager’s ability to make the decision on when the waiver of adoption fees is appropriate with the understanding that local experts will likely be consulted on possible waivers.

“I think what we are trying to do is circumvent a case where the council can’t meet right then and there,” Council Member LeGree McCamey said. “We can have one person who you can go to and can vet people and do those kinds of things without just having to wait until a council meeting comes about.”

The LaGrange City Council is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, Jan. 9 at 5:30 p.m. at 208 Ridley Avenue.