Vet terminates county’s stray animal agreement

Published 4:02 pm Thursday, September 4, 2014

In a letter to county commissioners last Friday, local veterinarian Alethea Gammage ended a longstanding arrangement as a makeshift impound for the county’s stray animals. As of Sept. 30, the county will have to send stray animals elsewhere.

“I guess we’ll have to find something else. We certainly will need something,” said Commission Chairman Ricky McElwain.

The county’s current animal control system involves having residents seek permission from a commissioner to bring a stray animal to Grammage’s Third Street animal clinic. The vet would then charge the county a discounted rate to provide medical care, room and board for the animals until they were adopted or euthanized.

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“This may not be the best program, but it’s worked,” said McElwain after members of the Crenshaw Humane Society voiced concerns and took issue with the $4,000 per year allocated to animal control.

Gammage listed three reasons for ending the arrangement. She said the number of strays has increased and her clinic can no longer accommodate all of them.

“My facility is simply not equipped to house these strays without compromising the space I need for the care and boarding of my patients who come first and foremost,” she said.

Gammage said animal control had become a burden. The care, visits from prospective families and constant phone calls take more and more time away from daily operations.

“These calls are more than we can handle,” she said. “Time spent dealing with the strays means time is taken from my business…”

Her final reason given was the newly formed Crenshaw County Animal Society. “The core individuals have explored and learned about the creation and operation of an animal shelter. Some in the group have experience in dealing with a shelter situation.” She encouraged commissioners to work with and support the group of “thoughtful, mature, energetic, very concerned citizens.”

McElwain said the animal society did not have adequate funding to run a shelter. “I could just see the money situation getting out of hand and we can’t foot the bill,” he said, adding that giving employees a raise was more of a priority than funding an animal shelter.

The county may have no choice. According to Alabama Law (Section 3-7A-7 of the Alabama code), it is the duty of each and every county in the state to provide “a suitable county pound and impounding officer for the impoundment of dogs, cats, and ferrets found running at large…” Crenshaw does not have an impounding officer or a county pound.

Gammage ended her letter with a few suggestions for commissioners.

“If I may suggest, you might consider contacting Dr. Warren Williams’ daughter, Emily Williams Newman, about possibly leasing his old veterinary hospital building to immediately house stray animals,” she said. “Thank you, Commissioners, for taking care of this very important matter. The citizens of Crenshaw County are counting on you.”