By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Individuals and municipalities outside of Lee County must pay $75 for each animal dropped off at the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society, a significant increase intended to decrease the volume of animals brought to the shelter.
Since Jan. 1, the shelter has increased the fee for multiple reasons, including a closer reflection of costs for vaccination, housing and euthanizing an animal. Prior to Jan. 1, the cost for government entities to drop off was $25 per animal and there was no fee for individuals, though a donation was requested.
Residents of Lee County pay no fee for dropping off dogs or cats, but a donation is suggested.
Data provided from Tupelo-Lee Humane Society shows the shelter takes in roughly 8,000 animals annually, around 650 each month. At any given time, the shelter has capacity to properly house less than 200 dogs and cats, leading to roughly 60 percent of them being euthanized.
Limited space to care for these animals, along with costs associated with providing the care have led to the fee change, said Nelson Gravatt, president of the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society Board of Directors.
“It comes down to economics, really,” he said. “If we keep a dog for five days, it costs an average of $82.50.”
The shelter at 2400 South Gloster St. contracts annually with the city of Tupelo, with the city paying the nonprofit $175,000 for services which include animal control, animal pickup and housing, and deceased animal pickup off the roads. The nonprofit organization’s total income was $768,277 for 2010, the most recent year available on the nonprofit database GuideStar-revenue from contracts, adoptions, spay and neuter fees, reclaimed pet costs and registrations. Expenses of $614,206 includes veterinary costs, medications, utilities, supplies and staff.
Along with paying operating costs, Tupelo-Lee Humane Society leadership continues to raise money for a new facility, an already multi-year effort that could take another five or more years.
Tupelo’s shelter is one of two shelters in the region to accept any dog or cat brought there, regardless of where it came from or whether it will likely be adopted.
Gravatt said the majority of animals from outside of Lee County brought in by other municipalities have sicknesses or other issues preventing them from being adoptable.