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Hall County commissioners’ decision to put a free policy at the new animal shelter (in December) is a perfect example of what happens when politicians try to micromanage a business they don’t understand. They have left out one important piece of the calculation: the number of animals coming into the shelter. This new policy will drive the intake numbers higher, increasing the county’s cost and increasing the kill rate at the shelter, the exact opposite of the stated goals.
The number of animals coming into a shelter can be predicted on average by a simple formula: 4 percent of population. In Hall County’s case, that means a yearly intake of around 7,600 animals. How you market the shelter affects the intake numbers. Just a 1 percent increase is an increase of almost 2,000 pets.
Offering pets for free leaves the mistaken impression that the shelter will not be euthanizing animals. People will drop off animals guilt-free, confident the shelter will give them to a good home. Hall County is going to be inundated with pets from here as well as from surrounding areas. Everyone with a pet problem and a relative or friend in Hall County will be driving across the county line.
Don’t believe this scenario can happen? Ask someone from the Dawson County shelter. When they opened their new shelter last year, the public got the mistaken impression that they would not be euthanizing. Their intake jumped to 9.6 percent of the population, swamping the little shelter almost from the day it opened.