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Small orgs that rescue animals protest proposed new fees

Kitten waiting to be adopted.
Daga Roszkowska

Nearly 200 people testified at a hearing on a proposal to increase licensing fees for small animal rescue organizations in Oregon Tuesday.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture’s proposal, which comes out of a new state law to regulate animal shelters, would base licensing fees on how many animals a rescue is taking in.

Senate Bill 883, passed in 2019, that required ODA administer a licensing program for Animal Rescue Entities, ARES. That program is supposed to be funded through licencing fees. The proposal would be a nearly 600% increase according to small animal rescues who spoke at the meeting.

Many said the increased costs would make it impossible to continue operating. Melissa Sanford is with Friends of Felines in Salem.

“Animal rescues are really struggling,” she said. “Shouldn’t you be encouraging us, thanking us, and celebrating us for being part of the animal overpopulation that we are also facing? It’s a double whammy for us. We are non-profits, but you want to take more money from us, excuse me, the animals.”

Many of the speakers said their small organizations fill in gaps in animal services not met by county or municipal shelters.

Another speaker at the hearing was with Keitha’s Kitty Rescue in Linn County. She said the new fees would put them out of business. “We are currently the only cat rescue in Linn County.”

The hearing was scheduled for one hour, but was extended to accommodate all the testimony.

The ODA is also taking comments via email through March 5 or by mail to Oregon Department of Agriculture, Attention Animal Rescue Entity Program, 635 Capitol St. NE, Salem, OR, 97301.

Rachael McDonald is KLCC’s host for All Things Considered on weekday afternoons. She also is the editor of the KLCC Extra, the daily digital newspaper. Rachael has a BA in English from the University of Oregon. She started out in public radio as a newsroom volunteer at KLCC in 2000.