How much is that doggie in the shelter?

ANCRAM—Dog owners who are quick to fetch their lost canines will catch a break, while those who dawdle will pay more under the new fee structure at the Columbia-Greene Humane Society, starting January 1.

And if dog owners do not dig deep, the municipality where Fido was picked up will have to.

The Columbia-Greene Humane Society/Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (CGHS/SPCA) sent out a letter to municipalities in Columbia and Greene counties last month letting them know new rates will be in place for stray dogs taken in at the shelter next year.

Currently, a municipality that contracts with the CGHS/SPCA for its shelter services pays $305 per stray dog if the dog’s owner does not pick it up within 24 hours of its arrival. The municipality can recoup most of that money from the dog owner if an impoundment fee resolution passed by the governing board is in place and provided the dog owner is found and pays up.

The shelter’s new 2016 rate is $35 per dog per day for the first 10 days it is housed at the shelter. On the 11th day, the shelter assumes the owner will not redeem the dog and the animal becomes the responsibility of the shelter. At that point a flat $300 fee will be added to the $350 charged for the first 10 days “to cover any and all services beyond the first 10 days until the point of disposition,” the letter said.

At the August 20 Ancram Town Board meeting, Supervisor Art Bassin noted that the apparent doubling of fees charged by the shelter was a matter of concern among some town supervisors and was talked about at the county level.

CGHS/SPCA President Ron Perez told The Columbia Paper this week that the shelter serves 15 Columbia County municipalities, including the City of Hudson. He said most responsible dog owners will get to the shelter as quickly as possible to reclaim their lost dog once they know it is there—and that is usually within 10 days.

Mr. Perez estimates that the shelter takes in 160 stray dogs under municipal contracts annually and that 60%, or 96 of those animals, are never reclaimed by their owners.

Each of those abandoned dogs will cost the shelter $600 in food and medical costs to get it spayed or neutered, tested and treated if necessary for Lyme disease, worms, fleas before it can be offered for adoption. The average shelter stay of a stray dog is 40+ days, said Mr. Perez.

“We do what we do because we want to offer a safe place for dogs. We don’t want to penalize owners if their dogs get loose.

“The bigger issue is that dogs that are never picked up are costing the organization a tremendous amount and we can’t continue on the way we are,” said Mr. Perez.

Towns that have conscientious dog owners and animal control officers will pay less and municipalities from where dogs are never redeemed will pay more, he said.

Supervisor Bassin said in a follow-up interview that his town has an agreement with a private kennel, Fraser Kennel in Pine Plains run by Helen Paterson, who charges $20 night for each dog and is available 24 hours/day. He said the kennel is local and more convenient for people to go and redeem their animals. If for some reason, the kennel could not take a dog, then it would go to the humane society. Animal Control Officer Wes Powell estimated he picks up between five and eight stray dogs in Ancram annually.

Asked about the concern among supervisors at the county level, Columbia County Board of Supervisors Chairman Patrick Grattan (R-Kinderhook) said by phone this week that the shelter rate increase was talked about informally.

Mr. Grattan said he asked the county attorney to speak to shelter officials to see if he could “mitigate the increase.”

The chairman of the board said he thought the attorney might be able to negotiate a lower rate if a bunch of towns agreed to contract with the shelter.

Shelter fees can be “very costly” to some towns, said Mr. Grattan, noting that when people abandon their dogs in a certain town, that town is stuck with the bill whether or not the people doing the abandoning live there.

Nowadays many pets have microchips implanted to make identifying owners easier, but sometimes animal control officers cannot track down the dog owner no matter how hard they try, he said.

Supervisor Grattan recounted a story about someone just opening the car door on the Taconic State Parkway and dropping the poor dog off, leaving it lost and having to fend for itself.

He said only once in his six years as Kinderhook supervisor has his town had to pay a fee to the shelter for an unclaimed dog.

The humane society will send out renewal contracts to municipalities this fall and recommends that municipalities adjust their impoundment fees to reflect the new shelter rates.

To contact Diane Valden email

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