Animal rescue groups fight fee proposal

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Walk through the halls of the Wichita Animal Shelter, you'll probably notice a lot of animals waiting for adoption. Some of them are running out of time, facing possible euthanization in a matter of days. 

That's where rescue groups come in, many of them go through area shelters to foster animals in jeopardy. Those groups are scrambling now, facing fees that might put them under.

"I thought it was the lazy man's way out of a deficit, honestly," said Sarah Coffman, Founder and President of Wichita Animal Action League. 

She's referring to House Bill 2477, which would triple the fees that foster homes have to pay to care for and look after animals. Organizations like her's usually pay for those fees so volunteers don't.

Last year, it cost WAAL $490 to license 49 foster homes. If the fees go higher, it would cost $1500 and only if they don't add more volunteers during peak rescue seasons.

"My fear if this goes through, is that I'm going to be paying so much more in state licensing fees, I'm not going to be able to rescue as many animals," she said. 

The organization rescued 504 animals last year. If the proposed fees were in effect, they would have only been able to save approximately 168. 

But lawmakers said they wrote the bill to level the playing field and that the measure will ensure thorough inspections of shelters, breeders and pet stores are thorough and complete.

"I don't like higher fees, but sometimes you have to look at that in order to be able to do the inspections that are needed. Inspections for animal welfare," said Representative Kyle Hoffman, chair of the Committee on Agriculture.

Hoffman went on to say that there have been proposals to add penalties to breeders who don't answer inspectors when they arrive at facilities, but called it unfair to the breeding industry.

Opponents to the bill are now pushing for other sources of revenue. They said they fear that if the bill goes through they won't be able to continue their work.

"It seems a little discriminatory against rescues and shelters," Coffman said. "Against nonprofit organizations who are trying really hard to save lives, save the city money and reunite owners on a shoestring budget."

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