Editorial: Pet-surrender fee unleashes avalanche - Albuquerque Journal

Editorial: Pet-surrender fee unleashes avalanche

Since the Journal implemented a weekly Top of Mind question last fall for our expanded Sunday Opinion section, reader participation has varied. Some questions prompt a limited number of responses, others unleash an avalanche.

Such was the case last week when the Journal asked: Should Albuquerque Animal Welfare charge a $20 “surrender fee” as a means of discouraging surrenders as well as generating additional revenue for the department?

After the question appeared in print, all responses opposed the plan, estimated to raise $85,500 annually. One reader asked “What Einstein dreamed this up?” Another warned of “unwanted pets being dumped all over the city.”

To cast a broader net, shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday the Journal sent the question to 16,000 readers who signed up for email alerts. Responses poured in immediately. Within 48 hours, a hundred readers had submitted responses of varied opinions. The question clearly touched a nerve.

Some supported the fee in Mayor Tim Keller’s proposed budget; most said it was a really bad idea. Because it was.

Yes, animal food costs are rising, like everything else, and it costs the city to house, medically treat and care for animals. But this is a poor state, and there’s good reason shelters don’t charge surrender fees: We don’t need barriers causing puppies and kittens to be dumped in the river or on the west mesa, and we already have too many feral animals.

Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn is also right that animal owners might claim animals are strays to avoid the fee, preventing shelter workers from obtaining medical histories, a sentiment cited often in the 100-plus reader responses.

Thankfully, the City Council stripped the surrender fee from Keller’s proposed $1.4 billion fiscal 2023 budget while also removing a miserly proposal to hike the price of coffee at its senior centers from 30 cents a cup to 50 cents, which would raise a mere $6,000 in new revenues. Readers didn’t like that idea either. (See the May 15 Sunday Journal). An amendment sponsored by Councilor Pat Davis would appropriate $50,000 and make the coffee free at senior centers.

That’s more like it considering the city expects to receive over $100 million more in gross receipts taxes and the city’s operating budget is slated to grow by about 20%.

City leaders could do themselves a favor and avoid allegations of nickel and diming taxpayers to death — they just need to read those reader responses.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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