Horry County's shelter animals will soon be free to good homes.
The shelter is launching a no-fee adoption program in the coming weeks. If the initiative succeeds, county officials might waive all adoption fees permanently.
“When you see those little animals behind those cages crying, it’s not right,” said Horry County Councilman Harold Worley, who on Tuesday directed county staff to use $25,000 from the council's community benefit fund for the pilot program. That money would come from the portion of the fund set aside for Worley's district, although the fees would be waived for anyone adopting a pet.
Adopting a dog from the Animal Care Center costs $80. A cat is $50. That charge pays for basic vaccinations and spaying or neutering.
County staff had discussed waiving the adoption fee for county employees as a way to incentivize choosing a shelter pet. However, Worley suggested a broader approach.
“I want everyone to adopt them free,” he said.
Under the pilot program, the normal adoption fees would be deducted from the money Worley allocated. He told county staff to update him after about $5,000 from the program is spent to see how it’s working.
“That’s the people’s money, not mine,” he said.
The $25,000 would cover the adoption fees for 312 dogs or 500 cats.
The center can house 150 animals, though the population has been known to swell past capacity during peak times. Over the summer, the center brought in an air-conditioned military tent to deal with the overcrowding.
In recent years, the center has tried to operate as a “no-kill” shelter, meaning it doesn’t euthanize adoptable animals. But that approach has made finding space difficult at times.
County officials hope to have the fee-free adoption program in place in a few weeks, though a specific date hasn’t been set.
“We’re going to have to work out some details as this was just sprung on us,” said Horry County Police Lt. Justin Wyatt, who oversees the Animal Care Center.
Wyatt did say the creation of the pilot program is timely — the holiday season is almost here.
“It’s going to make a lot of families very happy,” he said. “And it’s going to keep our of animals off the street and in good homes.”