Animal Society, county seek common ground

Published 8:04 pm Thursday, August 21, 2014

Members of the Crenshaw County Animal Society discussed finances with county commissioners at Monday’s meeting.

The county currently allots $4,000 to control the area’s population of strays. Residents have to contact a commissioner for approval before the local animal clinic can take in a stray. The clinic spays or neuters the animal and holds it for up to seven days (at a cost of about $10 a day) before euthanizing it.

“They know that’s not working but don’t want to do anything about it,” said Kim Thiem, a founding member of the society.

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The association plans to open an animal shelter and take over the responsibility, but Thiem said $4,000 was not an adequate budget. She said a county of Crenshaw’s size could do better and left the meeting discouraged.

“I don’t see how we’re going to do this without the county,” she said. “At this point, it’s not exactly a conversation. They’re not particularly concerned.”

At a meeting in June, commissioners offered county property, a former hatchery in Rutledge, for the shelter. Thiem said the commission did not officially give the green light for the project. A commissioner absent from the June meeting had protested because the matter was not put to a vote.

If the 16,000-square-foot facility is acquired, funding may still be a problem. Commissioners have taken on an advisory role in the process, but have not offered funding. Commissioner Merrill Sport advised the association apply for grants, but not to include them in the budget because there was no guarantee they would receive the funds year after year.

Sport also suggested enlisting retired residents who own trucks to pick up strays. Commissioners could call upon the retired volunteers when a constituent called to report a stray. Commissioner Charlie Sankey recommended charging for the service. Sport agreed, “It’s better than trying to take up crushed cans.”

Sport complimented the society’s efforts. The plan the group presented was an improvement from its last presentation. “I really like this plan a lot better,” he said. “Because this is gonna be a learning curve for all of us.”

Thiem believes the county has a moral – if not legal ­­– obligation to operate a shelter. “I just think they want us to do their job for free and aren’t interested,” she said. “I understand they’re not working with a lot of money, but we do hire them when we vote them into office and should have some say in this.”

Thiem asked commissioners if they believed handling strays was a requirement of the position. Sport said he did not think it was a requirement. He also said Luverne has a dog leash law in place that they cannot enforce.

“It kinda goes with the neighbor rule. If the neighbors aren’t complaining, it’s alright,” he added.

Crenshaw County “neighbors” will be complaining for the foreseeable future. Thiem said members of her organization would continue to attend every commission meeting until the matter was settled. She invited other residents to join the effort and planned to circulate flyers in the coming weeks.

“This is not just about cleaning up poop,” said Kim Kent, a member of the society. “There’s something that everybody in this county can do.”

Up to this point, Thiem has not stressed the danger of strays roaming the county or of the county’s liability should someone get hurt.

“If it was criminals, not dogs, they’d have something to say about it. But dog attacks seem to be on the rise,” Thiem said. “Sadly, I don’t think they’ll care till it happens here. I don’t think they’ll give a crap until somebody gets hurt, until somebody gets mauled.”