San Diego Humane Society proposing sharp fee increases for pet adoptions, vaccinations, spaying, neutering

San Diego resident Chris Perez adopted an eight year-old German Shepherd named Zeuss at the San Diego Humane Society.
(John Gibbins / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The fee hikes come after San Diego agrees to 10-year contract with the nonprofit, which handles animal control for 14 of county’s 18 cities


The San Diego Humane Society is proposing sharp fee increases for a wide variety of services, including adoptions, vaccinations, licensing, boarding and the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats.

Leaders of the nonprofit, which handles animal services for 14 of the county’s 18 cities, said the proposed increases are necessary to keep up with rising operational costs and inflation. They would be the first comprehensive fee adjustments in a decade.

The increases come shortly after San Diego, by far the largest city served by the nonprofit, agreed to a new 10-year contract that increases the city’s annual payout from $14.8 million to $16.8 million during the first year of the deal.

The city opted against bringing service in-house after an analysis showed high start-up costs — and a search for a competitor came up empty.

April 27, 2023

Humane Society officials said Wednesday that if the City Council doesn’t approve the increases, which were part of financial calculations used when negotiating the new deal, it could accelerate increases in the city’s annual payout to the nonprofit.

City officials didn’t say why the fee increases weren’t approved simultaneously with the new contract in April if they were an essential part of the deal. Fee increases weren’t mentioned during public hearings before the council approved the new contract.

Examples of the proposed fee increases include cat adoptions rising from $65 to $100, dog adoptions going from $100 to $150, kitten adoptions climbing from $130 to $150 and puppy adoptions rising from $200 to $250.

Vaccinations would increase from $12 to $20 and boarding fees would rise from $20 to $25 for cats and dogs, from $25 to $30 for sheep and goats, and from $60 to $80 for horses and cows.

Spay procedures would increase from $65 to $75 for cats and from $110 to $130 for dogs. Neuter procedures would increase $45 to $65 for cats and from $90 to $120 for dogs.

License fees would increase anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent, depending on the type of license.

Humane Society officials said the increases would make all the fees the nonprofit charges the same in every city.

The San Diego City Council’s budget committee forwarded the proposed increases Wednesday to the full council for final approval next month. But Councilmember Monica Montgomery Steppe said she would like more information.

Montgomery Steppe said she wants to know how many of the fees are examples of the Humane Society simply recovering its costs and how many are fees based not on cost recovery but on goals such as increasing adoptions of stray animals.

Another factor is that the Humane Society isn’t necessarily aiming for full cost recovery, partly because it is a nonprofit that receives donations from people who want to see fewer animals euthanized and treated poorly, officials said.

Councilmember Joe LaCava, whose district includes Pacific Beach, agreed that more details on cost recovery are needed before the full council votes.

The Humane Society sometimes lowers adoption fees to $20 to encourage more adoptions. Officials said they couldn’t provide data on how many adoptions are typically full-cost and how many are discounted.

The Humane Society has approved nearly $500,000 in fee waivers and reductions since 2002 in a wide variety of situations, including when owners relinquish a pet they no longer want to care for.

The nonprofit also lowers or waives fees for reclaiming stray animals, some medical services and to encourage adoptions of specific animals, such as older dogs.

While this would be the first comprehensive fee increase for the Humane Society in many years, the nonprofit increased some fees in early 2020 for services like microchipping and euthanizing animals.

Deal cements nonprofit as city’s animal control provider, replacing county

Nov. 15, 2019

Those increases came 18 months after the Humane Society had to quickly take over service in summer 2018 for many local cities that had received animal control services from the county for decades.

The Humane Society doubled its staff and the scope of its operations to fill the void left by county officials, who decided to sharply scale back animal control operations and to cover just unincorporated communities.

The Humane Society handles animal control for every city in the county except Coronado, which has its own nonprofit provider, and Chula Vista, National City and Lemon Grove, which are all handled by Chula Vista.

San Diego officials said in April that they explored every possible alternative to renewing the city’s deal with the Humane Society, including soliciting bids from possible competitors and analyzing the cost of bringing animal control in-house.

But no competitors responded to a city request for proposals last October. And an analysis showed it would cost more for the city to handle animal services itself.