Humane Society may close shelter

Published 4:57pm Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The future of the Humane Society of Escambia County remains unclear as commissioners failed to take action this week on proposal that would keep the facility doors open through August.

The story has captured the attention of media outlets from Mobile and has sparked discussions on social media sites.

At a commission workshop last Tuesday, HSEC president Joe Thomas informed commissioners the board voted the night before to cease operations — unless the county could increase its annual $120,000 contribution to $200,000.

“At this point, the board has decided that without other funding, we’re going to opt out of the shelter business and re-organize and be committed to spaying and neutering and education,” Thomas said.

Two weeks ago, the City of Brewton announced it was opting out of its $65,000-per year contract with the Humane Society for animal control services, claiming it could operate and staff its own operation with the current budget amount. City officials cited a lack of response on complaints as the reason for the separation.

After some discussion, commissioners agreed there wasn’t enough money in the budget to meet the request. Now the group must decide how to continue offering animal control services to county residents.

Thomas said the facility’s current director said the commission’s annual allocation has been spent and an additional $32,000 is needed to continue operations through August. That figure does include past-due accounts payable, but does not include the director’s salary, Thomas said.

“She has agreed to back that figure out if it will help operations,” he said.

Discussions at the meeting revealed that approximately 150 animals were being housed at the shelter, with some on site for more than a year.
Commissioners asked County Administrator Tony Sanks to obtain the shelter’s true operational figures before making a decision.

“But we need to act pretty quickly on this,” Chairman David Stokes said. “Our challenge is to figure out how to combine good animal control with something we can afford.”

Commissioners canceled their Monday meeting, which left the HSEC’s fate unknown.

Attempts to reach ECHS director Renee Jones have been unsuccessful; however, the organization released a statement on Facebook:

“It is with a heavy heart that we must notify our loyal supporters that The Humane Society of Escambia County will no longer be operating a shelter or providing field services for our community.

“After much soul searching and discussion, we have come to the conclusion that we simply cannot humanely operate on the proposed budget put forth by the Escambia County Commission. Although we completely understand that the commissioners have the task of responsibly allocating taxpayer dollars, we believe that our role in the community is to work toward the long-term goal of a more humane community.

“We have been struggling for the past several years to adequately balance public safety issues with our humane philosophies and have simply reached the breaking point. Accepting the proposed budget of $120,000 would create a shelter only capable of bringing animals in for the 7-day stray hold period and then euthanizing them.

“HSEC will be working throughout the month of August to safely move the animals currently housed in the shelter to guaranteed adoption shelters and rescues.”

This article was written by Brewton Standard publisher Stephanie Nelson for The Atmore Advance.

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