GULFPORT -- Care for 28 Yorkshire terriers rescued from a Gulfport home was so expensive the Humane Society of South Mississippi decided to increase adoption fees for purebred dogs from a top price of $175 to $350 -- a 100 percent increase.
The fee increase went into effect Friday, Executive Director Lori West said, when adoption of eight Yorkie puppies began. She said some board and staff members discussed the high cost of medical care for the Yorkies -- up to $722 for one dog -- before deciding on the price hike.
Not all purebreds cost $350 like the Yorkie pups. Prices for puppies start at $110, and for dogs up to age 5 at $95. Prices are based on breed, size and age, HSSM development director Brittany Chowske said.
The Humane Society has five Yorkie pups still in foster care until they grow to 3 pounds, the minimum weight for spaying or neutering. Foster parents will have first dibs on the puppies, Chowske said.
Despite the higher price for pooches without papers, Yorkies are flying out the door.
"People are signing up for that pet alert," Chowske said. "They were out of here as soon as they hit that adoption floor." The pet alert on the Humane Society website allows people to put in particulars about the dog, cat or other pet they want, then receive an email when one is available.
Chowske said HSSM has been telling potential puppy parents to sign up for the pet alert because the staff does not have exact times the remaining Yorkies will be available.
Of the 20 adults taken from the home, 18 were adopted, one is still in foster care with kidney issues and a 14-year-old had to be euthanized because she was in end-stage kidney failure, Chowske said.
HSSM did not know if the condition came strictly with age or if the previous environment contributed.
The Yorkies were rescued from what Gulfport police said was the home of a "backyard breeder." James G. Wright, 59, has a May court date in Gulfport Municipal Court on multiple animal-cruelty charges, Prosecutor Richard Smith said.
Police said they found the Yorkies, a retriever-chow mix named Buck and a cockatoo packed into his house on Fifth Avenue. Buck was in foster care, but has been returned to the shelter, West said, because he has behavioral problems.
The Yorkies have no behavioral problems, but the experience in the home apparently left its mark.
"They love having animal companions," Chowske said. "They're much more accustomed to being with other animals rather than people, but they're very sweet and docile."
HSSM depleted its Chicken Soup Fund, which provides veterinary care for its animals, caring for the Yorkies. The dogs received vaccinations, heartworm treatments, dental care, spaying or neutering, flea treatments and other medical care, West said.
She added, "We carefully consider our pricing when necessary to ensure all of the shelter pets are given every opportunity to find a loving home."