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Shelter hikes fees but will provide sterilized animals

January 27, 2000

ShelterBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Cumberland Valley Animal Shelter is taking a new approach some might consider novel. By tripling the cost of adopting pets, the shelter hopes to see fewer of them in the long run.

That's because the higher costs - $95 for dogs and $60 for cats - will deliver animals that are spayed or neutered, vaccinated and dewormed.

The system goes into effect Feb. 1, said Joseph LaGrassa, executive director of the facility.

Under the current system, a deposit of $20 for cats and $30 for dogs is required before adoption. The deposits are returned when the new owner brings in proof the pet has been spayed or neutered.

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"The system doesn't work," LaGrassa said. "It can cost anywhere from $60 to $200 to spay or neuter a dog, depending on its size." That's a lot less than the $30 deposit the shelter requires, so some people don't have it done, he said.

"Then we have to deal with the puppies next season," said Mary Jo Roane, the shelter's office manager.

The new rates - $95 for dogs and $60 for cats - are a bargain, LaGrassa said. In addition to spaying or neutering, dogs will get their first round of shots, be dewormed and be given collars. They will also have an identifying computer chip inserted under their skin. A veterinarian's bill for such services would typically cost much more, LaGrassa said.

The $60 adoption fee for cats includes spaying or neutering, a feline leukemia test, deworming, the computer chip and a pet carrier, he said.

The shelter plans to hire an adoption counselor to improve the match between a pet and its new owner. Part of the counselor's job will be to follow up on adoptions, including making home visits, Roane said.

The expansion of the shelter on Country Club Road south of Chambersburg on Pa. 316 cost about $170,000. Included were the addition of new kennels, renovation of old ones, a roof over the outside kennels, a new grooming room, a treatment and examination room and a new operating room.

LaGrassa said about 2,100 dogs and cats pass through the shelter every year. About 700 are adopted and the rest are put to sleep, he said. Many animals taken to the shelter are not adoptable because they are vicious, diseased, badly injured, old or wild. Some adoptable animals have to be put down because there isn't enough space at the shelter.

"We can't afford to save them all," LaGrassa said.

That leads him to another problem - disposal of the deceased animals. Part of the recent renovation includes a large walk-in freezer that holds carcasses. They can't be sent to the landfill, so the alternative often is sending them to a rendering company to be turned into fertilizer, animal food or other products.

LaGrassa wants the shelter to build its own crematory. The closest one is in Williamsport, Md., he said. The crematory would not only serve the shelter's needs, but those of area veterinarians and pet owners.

LaGrassa said running the shelter is challenging work. He retired more than 20 years ago from the Army, then worked for another 20 years as a stockbroker for a Chambersburg company before retiring a second time.

He serves on the shelter's board of directors and was asked to take over temporarily until a permanent replacement could be found when the former director resigned. He ended up taking the job himself.

"It is a challenge. I really feel as if I'm building something here. The shelter is going through a period of growth and I'm taking it to the next level," he said.

The shelter has two full-time employees, seven who work part time and about 40 volunteers.

Its annual budget is about $240,000. Income comes from adoptions, donations and a $10 fee paid by the state for each stray taken in.

Anyone wishing to make a donation can call the shelter at 1-717-263-5791.

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