Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Animal Turn-In Fee

There seems to be some concerns about a pet drop off fee at the Arlington Animal Shelter.  This fee is proposed in the 2015 Budget, and it seems to be the only concern of our citizens about the budget.  Now the reason for the fee is that it takes money to accept a citizen’s pet and care for it until the pet is either reclaimed or euthanized.  There will also be an expenditure, for the purpose of hiring an animal abuse investigator.  This investigator will respond to calls where animals are observed being in abusive environments.

Now there has been some citizens that have stated their collective concerns about individuals simply dumping their pets at schools or open fields etc..  I get your concern and I have weighed your emails against other factors, and I have come to the conclusion that I support the collection of the fee.  The following are my reasons:

1.  When an individual accepts the responsibility of pet ownership, they have made a commitment to that pet and their family to give the animal a good home for its entire life.  This responsibility cannot be taken lightly, and should be made good because of the inability of the animal to care for itself.  Therefore, there should be some penalty when that promise is broken. 

2.  If someone decides to turn in their pet there is a cost to the city.  That cost to the city is one that is passed along to the tax payers as a whole.  Why should I or anyone else be saddled with the financial burden of caring for the pet that you have turned into the city.  Therefore, you should pay for the cost of turning your pet over to the city.  Again, you broke the promise.

3.  Our society is made up of a spectrum of people.  Some are responsible individuals and some are not.  This is true of our society as a whole, and not just Arlington residents.  Therefore, we will always have the type of people that simply release their pets into the city, without regard for their requirements of care.  This is a sad statement but true.  This will happen if there is or is not a fee.

Studies have shown us that the utilization of a fee structure for turning in a pet, in other cities, has not resulted in an increase of stray animals.  I personally am a dog lover.  I have had German Short Hair Pointers my entire adult life.  When the day comes to say good bye to these members of our family they die in my arms, and are still loved to this day.  They are brought home and buried in the same yard they use to play in throughout their life.  It is a sad day, but they are paid the respect that they deserve for their constant love and devotion.


  1. I understand to promise to provide for a pet but maybe my apartment suddenly decides to change it's policy, or worse yet some other life changing event happens. This fee does have negative consequences.

  2. Nothing is perfect, not even in a vacuum. Maybe your responsibility has shifted to finding a good home rather than dropping your pet off at the shelter.

    1. Where I live is not the issue at hand. Maybe you should consider not communicating with the public in this fashion as it is belittling.

  3. Stated concisely, your reasoning is, regrettably, quite faulty. In the abstract, holding people accountable is perfectly fine. In reality and in practice, you are incentivizing exactly the opposite.
    Reason No. 1: Agree that reneging on responsibility to care for animal should incur a cost. The flaw is that paying that cost is a voluntary decision and the irresponsible now have an additional reason to not take their pets to Animal Services.
    Reason No. 2: This is sadly the hypocritical argument everyone uses when they want to charge a fee. If you are such a believer in this principle, you may wish to charge families using city park children's playgrounds or cyclists using the River Legacy tracks. After all, why should other residents pay for parks when they don't use them. Or for library books etc. etc.?
    Reason No.3: Agree there are responsible people and irresponsible people. The correct question to ask, in that case, what is the effect on the behavior of each group in adopting the surrender fee. Your observation that there is no increase in the stray population in cities that have adopted a fee is in error, I believe. If you are relying on the statistics provided by Mike Bass, Plano saw a 3% decline in surrenders from the prior year post-fee. If you were a mathematician or a logician, you would realize the relevant measure for surrenders is not the prior year's total, but what that number would have been in the year following the fee adoption. That number is, of course, unknown. If the fee had not been adopted, the following year's total could have been several percent higher than the previous year, let's say 3%, and, so the actual drop in surrenders in this case would have been 6%. That is a lot of animals being dumped!! So unless you can share some rigorous facts and numbers from the"studies" supporting your thesis, you appear to be completely in error in asserting that the fee will not contribute to dumping.
    The sense I get from your comments above is that of someone who sternly wishes to hold people accountable for their irresponsibility. If you had the means to do so reliably, I would support you completely. The sad error you make is in not recognizing that you and the City cannot enforce responsibility in a very great number of cases, that you have increased the incentive for irresponsibility, and that the price for your mistake will be paid not by you, but by many many innocent helpless animals. If you have already voted on this, I very much regret the shortsighted heartlessness of your action.

    1. Let me respond to #3 first if I could. Mike Bass reached out to Plano and they have instituted this charge for the years 2011-2013. Each year the reduction in animals turned in was 1% for a total of 3%. The numbers of animals not turned in per year was 12. The 1% figure is also comensurate with Richardson. Your statement that the city cannot enforce responsibility is true. I can't make people do the right thing. But I can make them think about their choices.

      Now let's look at #2. When you take a look at parks, librarys, schools and first responders, these are city services. City services are taken care of by your tax dollars. The decision to turn in a pet is not a city service. It is not your neighbor's responsibility to pay for your pet. Now the city is going to hire an abuse investigator to insure the pets are not in an abusive environment. That is when a citizen calls about an observed problem the city will respond. This is a situation like a first responder would take for action.

      So I'm sorry but I disagree with your position on this subject. Bad people are going to make bad decisions, and some pets will be released. But in some instances government pays for housing, food, and transportation. Government has no business paying for pets also. I draw the line here.

    2. Thank you for your response. I have one final brief response.
      Your opinion is that providing library books for free is a city service, but temporarily taking in homeless animals for free is not. That is your personal definition and it is an arbitrary one, without logic to support it. Regardless, you will agree with me that it is the wishes of the citizens of District 1 that you should follow. I urge you to conduct a private informal poll. I think you will find that your constituents overwhelmingly oppose the fee.
      As for the statistics from Plano and Richardson, they are unaudited self-reported figures/guesstimates generated by city departments keen on making themselves look good. No objective person would accept their figures at face value. Whatever their true numbers are, Arlington's will be much worse because our city has much more low-income housing than them, such as the concentration around Washington/Lincoln in your district.
      I hope you will discharge your responsibility to District 1 and make an honest effort to gauge its residents' preference for the fee.

    3. Providing library books for people to read is a city service. Taking care of a pet that you don't want is not a city service. This is not my opinion.

      Now if you don't want to accept the numbers of Plano and Richardson over a three year period that is fine. But who's to say that a poll would be acceptable to you. Of the 80,000 people in District 1 I have recieved 4 negative comments. I feel strongly that your definition of what the city should provide is inaccurate. You have been the only person to disregard statistics formulated by other cities, stating they are self reported and unaudited. Really! You have painted with too broad a brush. Since evereyone is wrong except for you I will simply agree to disagree with your position.

  4. Mr. Parker, sorry that you feel that this new Animal Shelter charge is the way to go. I understand that the city is looking for revenue, but why involve innocent animals. People who are trying to get rid of these animals are doing so for one of two reasons. 1. They do not want them anymore. 2. Can not pay to take care of them anymore. These people are not going to take the time to find a good home for the animal. A small percentage, but that is small. So to avoid this shelter charge, where are they going to end up, the streets. So I wish that you would reconsider you thinking, I am sure you have animals, like I do, we are responsible people, but most are not!

    1. I would say that some people are not responsible, not most. I would go back up to the top of this string and reread the reasons why I have taken the position that I have. I gave 3 solid reasons as to why I came up with my position. I feel strongly that these have merit. None of these positions consider revenue for the city.

  5. Please, Councilman Parker, as a concerned citizen I have to protest this wrong headed approach. The City has plenty of money in the budget now which is spent unwisely. Just make some changes. We have lived where fees were charged, briefly, and it was rescended within a year because it was not cost effective. More pets were simply abandoned. The responsible folks who wanted to turn in lost animals would not do so because the fee was demanded of them. Others would claim to have found animals which, actually, belonged to them. Turns out, such a fee is not enforceable because it's paid only by those who volunteer to do so. If you want my vote next election, change your position on this.

    1. I am glad that you formed your question in such a way as I can answer you definitively. One of the reasons for this blog is to express reasons for the positions that I take. I have explained myself thoroughly concerning my poistion. No other Council Member does this. I serve the city as a volunteer and donate my compensation to our veterans.

      I am sorry that my reasoning is so flawed and yours is so clear. Keep your vote!

  6. Councilman Parker you responded to my email with a suggestion that I reread your blog. I have and I still disagree with your position. I've read both the comments from your constituents and your responses. I doubt that my opinion will change your mind but I'd like to go on record.

    1) As others have pointed out, life situations often determine our need to forfeit our pets. Those of us who are responsible (and I DO agree with you that most of us are responsible!) will certainly try to find a home for our pet. It's not always possible to find one and, if my reason for losing my pet is financial, the fee only adds insult to injury.

    2) I get your point that parks, libraries, etc., are city services. The animal shelter is also a city service provided so that animals are not simply dumped. If the city believes that this service should have a secondary source of funding, we should probably go that way with all services. I, for one, don't have any children in school, could you direct my tax dollars to the shelter instead? Of course not! We fully fund schools, just as we should fully fund the animal shelter.

    3) No argument here. You are absolutely correct. Some people will pay the fee, some will release their pets to the streets. A sad but true statement.

    I understand your concern about the impact to the city budget. There must be some type of middle ground between the fee and no fee. Perhaps a "suggested" donation when you surrender your pet? Is it possible to poll the voters in your District to see what our views are? You were elected to represent us and, based on the handful of comments on your blog, it appears that we don't want the fee.

    I too, have a dog whom I love more than I ever thought possible. I have also had other beloved pets who died in my arms. It's a pain that remains along with my love for these special friends. I once again ask you to reconsider the fee.

    Thank you,

    1. Ms. Thrift thank you for your email. Essentially it is impossible to poll the district unless you go door to door and get signatures to support your position. To be very honest all the Anonymous postings on this blog would really only count as one vote. Unless the posting individuals care enough to put their names and addresses down on a petition, then and only then would I consider them to be a vote of more than one.

      Now all I have heard on this blog in rebuttal is rhetorical. There is no substance to back up a theory. One guy wants a poll the other guy wants an audit of the numbers etc. Hogwash! The animal shelter is a city service and it performs services conducive of a shelter. The problem is that the decision of a citizen to turn in a pet is not a service that the shelter is required to perform. That is the difference. I'm not responsible for your pet. That is the issue in question. Not are you a responsible citizen or are you a good person or what your financial status is. I personally find it difficult for me or you to be resposnible, financially for someone elses lack of character. That is not a shelter responsibility, nor is it a city service. Just like it isn't a city service for the shelter to come over and bathe my dog every two weeks.

      When did this society become so dependent on government? When did the responsibility of individuals cease to exist? Until I am presented with 2,000 names that think that they should shoulder this financial burden, I believe that most people don't want to relieve others of their financial responsiblilty. Therefore, I am representing my district. I have presented my position on this issue and I think that I have said enough.

  7. Once again, Mr. Parker's arrogance and condescending attitude are plainly visible.

    There are basically three reasons for this new tax. Let's be honest and call it what it is. A new TAX. 1) Revenue 2) Revenue 3) Revenue

    The operation of the city shelter IS A CITY SERVICE. If the city wishes to cease operation of this service, then a privately-funded non-profit needs to be established to take it over.

    As long as we're on the subject of 'services' provided by the city, for which ALL are forced to pay, but benefit few:

    1. The millions of dollars being spent for renovation of Ditto Golf Course. Most people don't play golf, yet we're ALL being forced to pay for this. Additionally, these renovations are being undertaken solely for the purposes of fulfilling the Wish List Mandates of the NFL, regarding Superbowl hosting eligibility.

    2. As a previous constituent mentioned, there is PLENTY of fat in the city's budget... much waste. How about we stop subsidizing Ms. Capehart's Christkindl Market baby and let that event stand on it's own. Another great expenditure that benefits very few.

    3. How many millions are being wasted on the ridiculous Bike and Hike Plan? Another 'service' (?) that will benefit very few people, yet again EVERYONE is forced to pay.

    There are dozens of other examples, but space and time preclude listing all of them.

    Not every pet surrendered at the pound is being abandoned by it's owners; pet owners also die, are hospitalized, etc. In a perfect world, we look after each other... friends and neighbors step in to help take care of the pet(s) of a person incapacitated or deceased. As you freely admit, we do NOT live in a perfect world. Anyone who genuinely loves their pet will already be crushed by the process of saying goodbye this way. Another tax is simply salt in the wound.

    You live in the vicinity of both Sherrod Elementary and Parkway Central Park.... both areas popular for pet-dumping. Perhaps you should take the time and effort to canvass some of the households adjacent to them... my guess is you would be shocked at the number of residents who have found dogs and subsequently taken them home, choosing to adopt them rather than turning them in to the pound. I personally know of at least three households in my vicinity who have done this. Our household alone has taken in two dogs in the time we've been here.

    Did you stop to consider how many borderline-caring folks, who are looking to 'get rid' of a pet and actually DID drive to the pound, will turn around and leave with the dog or cat after learning they'll have to pay a tax to surrender? Those people aren't going to pay, they'll either dump the animal in the nearest convenient location, or mercilessly kill it. I suspect the notice of this new tax will be prominently stated on the door, so people who cannot/will not pay will leave immediately. If they don't actually enter the building, they can't be counted, that might hurt the statistics.

    Another bone-headed move by an ignorant and clearly short-sighted council. I wonder what other stunning plans are in the works.

  8. "Arrogance and condescending attitude" I think you need to take a step back and look at your postings. I don't disagree with you that a shelter is a city service, but why don't you go out in the community and poll by going door to door and ask your neighbors if they should shoulder the bill for your dog or cat. I think that you will find out that they don't think it is their problem.

    Concerning Ditto golf course, this upgrade will pay for itself. Will the dogs and cats under your scenario pay for themselves? I think not. So there you go again way off base, not even in left field but in the parking lot.

  9. Mr. Parker,
    In your response above you have said "ask your neighbors if they should shoulder the bill for your dog or cat.I think that you will find out that they don't think it is their problem. "
    Shoulder the bill for your dog or cat.You have made this same statement (with slight variations) again and again throughout this thread .
    But not a single person has suggested or asked for their neighbors (or their City) to pay for their or anybody else's pets. What everyone is asking for is that the City continue to, as it has already done for decades, to temporarily take a homeless animal without charge, shelter it for a few days/weeks, until it is adopted or euthanized. This could be for a period as little as three days. Whatever the period, it is TEMPORARY AND BRIEF.
    Yet you insist on characterizing this as the city (or our neighbors) taking care of others' pets, as if we were paying for the entire upkeep of pets in other people's homes.
    Such mischaracterization is either a display of exceedingly poor thinking skills or a deliberate attempt to mislead and obfuscate. Consequently, the position you trying to support with this falsity is wrong, as everyone here is trying to tell you.
    It is apparent to me from the tone of all your responses above that you have come to this subject with some prior fixed notions. We all have notions that are not properly tested. The trick is to recognize when a better argument is presented, which you have fought mightily to not do and I, for one, doubt that you have the capacity to change.

    1. I have expressed my position ad nausium. I have brought up the fact that animals being turned in without a fee violates a promise that the owner has made to the animal. The addition of the fee helps fund Animal Services that has to make the expenditure to feed and care for the animal, plus it promotes responsibile animal ownership.

      Right now anyone can discard an animal anytime. This is wrong! We need to encourage respnsible pet ownership, your argument does not. These animals are not just toys to be discarded at any whim. The Animal Services Advisory Board has overwhelmingly voted to establish this fee. I have presented several reasons why I have taken the position that I have, I believe that you are unable to recognize a better argument when you see it. Therefore, the inability to change rests in your lack of capacity. The number of animals being turned in is increasing not decreasing. The cost for care of these animals is around $48 a day. The charge would not completely cover the turn in of an anima,l but it would help. The Animal Shelter can use that help.

  10. One individual has stated that my views do not coincide with PETA, and therefore I am wrong concerning the position that I have taken. I personally think that organizing a ralley that throws buckets of blood on people to emphasize their position, is extreme. Therefore, I am sorry that I don't hold PETA in high esteem. Besides PETA was no where to be seen last night.


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