New York Newsday, Friday, January 30, 1998
Pet Advocates Rip Animal Shelter FeesBy Merle English
Animal advocates are condemning as extortion and cruelty to the poor new fees the city's animal shelter has imposed for redeeming animals that come into the pound.
Under charges imposed last fall, pet owners who want to reclaim an unlicensed or stray animal brought to the shelter must pay $250 if the animal is unaltered and the owner refuses to have it spayed or neutered.
The advocates say animals whose owners cannot afford the fee are put to death.
"This is extortion. It is literally holding a pet for ransom," said Robin Schulder of Animal Rescue Unit, a citywide non-profit agency based in Brooklyn that rescues and places strays.
"I'm all for neutering, but some people should not be forced to pay $250 to get their pet back," Schulder said. That's food money for some people, and families have to walk away with kids crying because they can't get the dog out. It's an outrage . . . and it has to be stopped."
City Councilwoman Kathryn Freed (D-Manhattan) said, "They can charge a fee for administrative services. but this is a penalty." She added, "It is much too high. I don't know if it's legal. It's something that will have to be looked into."
Marilyn Blohm, acting executive director of the Center for Animal Care and Control agency that euthanizes about 50,000 animals annually, said the fee is meant to help reduce the city's overpopulation of dogs and cats. "We don't do it as a penalty," she said. "It's an incentive to encourage owners to do the right thing and have their animal altered."
The center has a basic $80 charge that includes licensing, spaying or neutering, a rabies shot and insertion of a microchip that enables stray animals brought to the shelter to be traced, Blohm said. Animals whose owners cannot pay the $250 fee are put to sleep in 48 hours, Schulder said.
Tammy Caghigas, of Brooklyn said her dog was euthanized because she's on public assistance and couldn't afford the $310 she said the agency charged her. Caghigas said she asked if she could make partial payments but was not allowed to.
Blohm denied the accusations.
"We're not in the business of putting people's animals to sleep just because of a quibble over money," she said. "We waive certain fees if we felt the person wanted to do the right thing but didn't have the money then and there . . . We're not coldhearted."
Referring to Caghigas' $310 bill, Blohm said any extra charges owners pay would be for boarding.
Schulder, who said she had to pay the $250 to retrieve her grandfather's dog because he lives on Social Security, said many people do not wish to have their animals "fixed" because "some people's pets are champion bloodlines." And she said the city agency's fee was extortion because the procedure could be obtained for $25 to $35 at private animal agencies.