Dog Rescue Group Seeks To Reduce Dog Tag Fee

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An Athens County non-profit rescue organization says it may have to shut down after discovering that they have not been obeying state law.

Friends of the Shelter Dogs, which places dogs with no-kill rescue groups and foster homes, is seeking financial help from the county to cover the cost of a required fee.

Ohio law states that all dogs leaving the Athens County Dog Shelter must leave with a dog tag, a requirement that could cost the rescue group up to $16,000 each year.

Until earlier this month, Friends of the Shelter Dogs wasn't paying a dime for many of the dogs they rescued, but now the county auditor is insisting they adhere to the law by purchasing a $14 dog tag for each dog they take from the shelter.     

The organization says they're looking for a compromise.

"We would like them to set the price as low as they possibly can so we don't incur further costs beyond all of the costs we already have," said Sara Hartman, a Friends of the Shelter Dogs volunteer.

Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn says that Ohio counties must charge a minimum of $3 for dog tags, and the Athens County Commissioners say they are not sure if this fee is large enough. 

"I understand what you're staying, but you have to have a balance," said Larry Payne, Athens County Commissioner. "We have a job to make sure they can run [the shelter] efficiently and can pay for all their bills."

The likely alternative to finding homes for the animals is euthanasia, which costs the county $20 dollars per dog.

Representatives from Friends of the Shelter Dogs say the county will have to spend more money to euthanize the dogs than they would if the organization were to take the dogs at no or little charge.

"I would like to see the county want to see the number of dogs continue to get out of the shelter and on to safety as opposed to potentially be euthanized here," said Hartman.

With the help of the rescue group, the dog shelter euthanized only seven percent of the dogs brought in last year. In 2003, before Friends of the Shelter Dogs stepped in, the shelter euthanized 83 percent of the dogs it brought in.

If organization can't get financial help, they say won't be able continue their work to save dogs without homes.

The commissioners are expected to make a decision about the fee next week.