Commissioners directed County Manager Jamie McCord to negotiate terms of a contract with Dalton-based National Spay Alliance Foundation. The county’s Public Animal Welfare Services facility — which opened last December at 99 North Ave. — contains a surgical suite.

“If this works, every year we do this the number we take in will go down,” Commissioner Scotty Hancock said.

The NSAF could be operating by January. Plans are for each adoptable animal to be sterilized and vaccinated. The nonprofit also would offer low-cost spay and neuter services to the public, along with other options such as micro-chipping and flea treatments.

“You could leave the facility with a fully vetted animal,” McCord said.

A 12-month contract for an estimated 3,400 animals a year would cost the county about $273,000, McCord said. Plans are to offset that by about $136,000 by increasing the adoption fees by $40 — to $80 for dogs and $75 for cats. Rescue groups that pay nothing now would pay $40.

Commissioner Allison Watters, who works with Claws for Paws, said the increase is not likely to dampen adoptions or rescues because the animals wouldn’t need further medical care. Some rescue groups could be authorized to take un-sterilized animals at no charge.

“We don’t have another answer. We’ve got to try this,” Commissioner Wright Bagby said.

Hancock said grants also could be available, and commissioners also are mulling the idea of charging a fee to surrender a pet at PAWS.

“It’s been a good thing in other communities,” Watters said. “You have a conversation (about their situation) when they come in.”

The county received no responses to its first request for proposals in February and a single response, at retail prices, for a second call-out in April. McCord said they sent letters seeking proposals to two-dozen area providers but netted no interest.

NSAF responded to the third call, and also submitted a proposal for animal wellness services.

McCord said that would likely be added later. Berry College, whose animal science students volunteer at PAWS weekly, also may be interested in providing that component as a work-study opportunity.

“Our goal is to decrease our shelter intake and increase our live outcome,” McCord said.