BROOKSVILLE — Bombarded by holiday sales screaming 50 percent off and free shipping, residents can now take advantage of something else that has gone down in price.
The cost of taking home a furry new family member from Hernando County Animal Services just got a lot cheaper.
The County Commission last week voted to reduce the cost of adopting a dog or cat by more than 50 percent.
For some, the savings will be even greater because after the commission advertised the proposal, the people at another local animal welfare group, PetLuv in Brooksville, offered free spaying or neutering and free vaccinations for those who obtain pets from the county.
Dog adoptions had cost $65, and there was an additional cost of $35 as a deposit if the animal had not yet been spayed or neutered. That made the out-of-pocket cost $100.
Cat adoption fees were $45, with the $35 sterilization deposit making the up-front cost $80.
The deposits are returned once new owners demonstrate that they have had their animals spayed or neutered. Then the county provides a one-year county license, which is worth $10.
The new adoption fees are $25 for dogs and $20 for cats. The sterilization deposit will still have to be paid. But if the new owner takes the animal to PetLuv for the surgery and vaccinations, there will be no charge, and the full deposit will be returned.
Officials hope the reduction in adoption fees will increase the number of adopted animals. History indicates that it should.
Three times recently the shelter has had adoption specials, and during those periods 74, 46 and 47 animals were adopted out, respectively. The highest number during a month without the special fee was 35, according to an Animal Services memo to the County Commission.
"Based on this limited data, staff estimates that lowering the adoption fees will result in increased adoptions significant enough for the county to maintain a revenue-neutral budget position while also saving an estimated 250 to 350 animals per year,'' the memo states.
"This means less brings in more,'' said commission Chairman Jim Adkins during Tuesday's meeting.
"That's the hope,'' responded Liana Teague, county code and animal services manager.
Teague also pointed out that the licensing fee had remained the same for some time, even though deep budget cuts in the department have trimmed away most of the services previously available. In 2009, the adoption of a dog came with sterilization, a rabies vaccination, a one-year county license, additional vaccinations, deworming, ear mite treatment and a heartworm test for dogs older than 6 months.
At the time, that was a good deal for the price, Teague said. But now all of that is gone.
Animal Services staffers plan to track numbers over the next several months to determine whether the move actually increases adoptions. Then the staff can use that information as it makes plans for its 2012-13 budget.
Teague said she hopes the new fees allow more residents to adopt pets. There are plenty that need homes. Last year, the county received 4,256 animals at the shelter. Of those, only 501 found new homes; 3,014 were euthanized.
Animal Services works closely with other rescue organizations — including the Humane Society of the Nature Coast and the SPCA, as well as a variety of breed rescues — to place animals. It also shows pictures of available pets on the Web at co.hernando.fl.us/code/animal and on other websites, including Petfinder at petfinder.com/shelters/FL1091.html.
At the county shelter, staffers work with a limited amount of space to try to keep the maximum number of adoptable animals for as long as possible.
Two or three staff members make the decisions regarding which animals to keep on display and which ones have run out of time. Teague said they look at temperament and behavior and use several guidelines.
Puppies and kittens are adopted more quickly than older animals. And small dogs get new homes faster than big ones, she said.
As for last-minute holiday shoppers, Teague said Animal Services has always discouraged gift adoptions unless it is for a household.
For those who know that a pet would be a welcome gift, they should consider sending a gift card, then letting the recipient pick out the animal, she said, because the person who will be the pet owner knows best what kind of pet would fit with their needs and lifestyle.
"You have to find one that suits you. Everybody wants the cute little puppy or the cute little kitten, but you don't think about what you'll have to go through with the training,'' Teague said.
"Adoptions are much more successful if the new owner picks out their own pet.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.