Commission severs ties with animal groups

Published 2:44 pm Thursday, September 24, 2015

County commissioners recently voted to officially sever all ties with local animal groups.

Over the course of the last year, three organizations – Crenshaw County Animal Shelter, Crenshaw Animal Rescue Project and Animal Tails Rescue – have vied for county support of their efforts to control the number of strays in Crenshaw and raise money for an animal shelter.

The commission sought a partnership where one of the groups would take responsibility for all stray animals in the area. In other words, commissioners could redirect any calls received regarding a stray to one organization.

State law mandates that the county is responsible for having a plan in place for animal control. Commission attorney Levi Nichols said the county was compliant with that law because they could direct residents to drive found strays to the Troy veterinarian and could call on the sheriff’s office to handle any stray deemed too dangerous for a resident to go near.

Local animal rescue groups argued that the commission’s responsibility included providing a local animal shelter and spaying and neutering animals that were caught. The commission budgeted $6,000 for the care of stray animals and reached an agreement with one of the groups, the Crenshaw Animal Rescue Project. In exchange for endorsing the group’s efforts to raise money for a shelter, the group agreed to take responsibility for picking up county’s stray animals for no more than the amount budgeted.

That agreement fell apart for two reasons. First, CARP stopped taking in strays. Those who were picking up animals formed a new organization, Animal Tails Rescue.

“You can’t be endorsed and not provide a service,” said Commission Chair Charlie Sankey.

Second, the organization disbanded, citing the commission’s unwillingness to partner to build a shelter. Volunteers asked commissioners to offer county property to build the shelter and to staff the shelter with a few county employees.

Each proposed location was met with opposition. The list included property near the local jail, a building at the landfill and a ConAgra building in Rutledge. The ConAgra building was recently offered for closed bids for the second time. No offers were received during the first round.

Two animal organizations – CCAS and ATR – are still hard at work, adopting out strays, building community awareness, forming educational programs and raising money for an animal shelter.

Commissioner Michelle Stephens said some irate members of local animal groups had threatened to start leaving strays in her yard until the commission chose to take responsibility for the unwanted animals. Other commissioners received similar threats.

Stephens warned that such an act was against the law and offenders would be prosecuted.

“The sheriff’s office is going to be on the lookout for it,” she said.