Young-Williams Animal Center has raised its pet surrender fee to $50.

The increase started Oct. 1, and YWAC said it’s part of a new initiative to help pet-owners keep their pets and make surrendering pets the last resort.

In 2016, YWAC took in 4,399 surrendered pets. So far this year, it’s taken in 2,412 surrendered pets, which is 10 percent fewer intakes than the same time in 2016.

YWAC CEO Janet Testerman says they get calls daily from people looking to give up their pets for a variety of reasons, often financial. Testerman said for too long Young-Williams has been pet owners’ first option for getting rid of their animals. Now she said YWAC is trying to shift its focus to helping.

“Often times it’s really as simple as, you know, ‘I need food. I can’t afford food.’ And they don’t know we have a pet food pantry,” Testerman said.

Over the past few months, through the mentorship of national animal organizations, YWAC has been working on “managed intake,” or taking in animals when space opens up. Part of that focus is increasing the surrender fee to $50. That way if someone does need to give their pet away, they’re helping pay for some of its care.

Another part of the new focus is offering free or low-cost adoption days. YWAC has offered several in the past few months. In August, there were 316 adoptions over a span of five days.

Testerman said the new focus seems to be working. Not only does YWAC have fewer year-to-date surrenders from last year, it reached a record leave-alive rate. Testerman said in August, 91 percent of animals that left the shelter didn’t have to be humanely euthanized.

“Our goal is to keep every animal outside the shelter and help problem-solve so that animal never has to come in,” Testerman said.

Testerman hopes to continue this trend, and hopes the community can understand and help.

“The fear is that they’re going to open their front door and let animals out and just let them be picked up as strays,” Testerman said. “There is humanity, and that people have good hearts, and they want to do the right thing, they just need a little help.”

People who need to surrender their pets will have to set up an appointment with YWAC. For more information, visit their website.

EDITORS NOTE: The previous web story stated that surrender fees were $30. The Young-Williams Animal Center had mixed up policies when providing WBIR that information. According to YWAC, surrender fees for Knoxville and Knox County residents were free before Oct. 1. The out-of-county surrender fees were $20.