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The Price of Leaving Them Behind

The pros and cons of surrender fees and appointment systems

The pros and cons of surrender fees and appointment systems

Michelle Riley/HSUS
When a pet owner decides to bring an animal to the shelter, has he truly run out of options? Would he reverse his decision if armed with more knowledge about behavior training techniques, pet-friendly rental housing, or lowcost spay/neuter arrangements? If the shelter sets up a time for him to discuss these issues with an expert, would he at least be more likely to share the history of his animal and explain the problems that have led to his choice to surrender?

What if the relinquisher shows up unannounced and expects the shelter to immediately take on the obligation of feeding, housing, and socializing his furry former family member? Is it the shelter’s responsibility to do so—and to fund that care as well? What is best for the community, the shelter, and the animals themselves?

For decades, most animal shelters have served as agents of unconditional love, opening their doors to any animal in need. But in recent years, many organizations have begun requiring relinquishers to pay a fee or make an appointment—making it just slightly more difficult to drop off an animal and walk away. These new intake policies are designed to help shift responsibility back to pet owners and involve the community in solving the problems that lead to pet relinquishment.

But the questions remain: Are these strategies effective? And do they have the potential to backfire, encouraging pet owners to abandon their animals in lieu of turning them over to a responsible shelter? In the following profiles, we explore how individual organizations have grappled with these questions and examine the results of their efforts so far.

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