By SCOTT PESZNECKER
Millie Mascot was still saddened by the loss of her 14-year canine companion when she first saw Aussie.
An Australian shepherd just beyond puppyhood, Aussie was due for euthanasia at the Calaveras County Animal Shelter. But his life was spared when a Humane Society volunteer rescued him and became his foster parent.
Mascot, also a volunteer with the Humane Society of Calaveras County, met Aussie soon after.
"He looked so much like my other one, I had to get him," the Copperopolis woman said yesterday morning. "He may not be the brightest crayon in the box, but he is the sweetest."
Because she is so grateful for the companionship she found from a dog that was near death, Mascot joined other Humane Society volunteers and their dogs to attend yesterday's Calaveras County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Supervisors voted unanimously to reduce the price of adopting animals to $5 each for organizations like the Humane Society. They also voted to allow volunteers of animal rescue organizations to keep up to five dogs at a time, provided at least two are only being held temporarily.
After the vote, the Humane Society volunteers paraded their dogs into the board room to introduce them to the supervisors.
"This program is going to increase adoptions and reduce euthanasias," Calaveras County Animal Control Supervisor Brent Ferguson said.
Adoption fees usually depend on the animal's age and whether it is spayed or neutered. For example, an older dog that is not fixed would cost about $40.
To get an animal at the reduced $5 rate, an organization would have to show proof of its nonprofit status.
"There are a lot of rescue groups out there that already work with Animal Control," said Amy Monsen, the Humane Society vice president. "This will just make it easier."
Ferguson said 645 dogs and 1,076 cats were euthanized last year at the county animal shelter.
In 2001, the county euthanized 820 dogs and 1,012 cats, Ferguson said. He attributes the drop in dogs to the "county's and the Humane Society's aggressive spay and neuter programs."