Group concerned about animal shelter
About a dozen residents attended the Franklin County Commission’s work session Monday night to show support for a speaker who urged the commission to make major changes at the county’s animal control facility.
Michelle Ray, who lives in Sheffield and is actively involved with the Florence-Lauderdale and Colbert County animal control operations, presented a three-month plan for what she would like to see happen at Franklin County’s facility near Belgreen.
Ray worked in Russellville for about 17 years before retiring in 2009. During that time, she often heard complaints about the county’s facility, but was never in a position to help, she said.
In June, she heard from a couple of concerned county residents about the operation and decided to take a look for herself.
“What I saw was like nothing I had ever seen,” Ray said.
What concerned her most was the drop-off trailer placed at the facility where animals are placed when no one is working at the office.
Ray contends that animals are left in that bin and not taken inside the shelter at all though.
“There is really not even a way to sanitize the bin, so the animals are left to walk in their own feces,” she said.
Probate Judge Barry Moore said the drop-off bin was originally put there as a place for county residents to leave the animals after-hours.
“It started as a community service,” Moore said. “I think as time passed, that changed. We (the county commission) are looking at all of our options before we decide anything, but I think we will look to remove the drop-off bin.”
Ray said various volunteers visit the shelter daily checking on the animals’ conditions and if they appear to be fed and watered.
“When we first visited, we saw no evidence of food,” she said. “We provided documentation for what we saw and photos of puppies and adult dogs that had been in the heat for several days.”
Ray said all the kittens at the facility have been moved into foster homes.
She contends that many of the animals placed in the drop-off box are being picked up and sold at flea markets.
“They are not being held for seven days, which the law requires and they are not being spayed and neutered,” Ray said.
Ray also said she hopes to see the county move to a new form of euthanasia sooner than it’s required. A new state law stipulates that euthanasia can only be performed by lethal injection after Dec. 31. The county currently has a gas chamber.
“We hope they begin doing that as soon as possible.”
Ray asked commissioners to implement a volunteer program that would allow the facility to have more help caring for the animals placed there. The volunteers would help feed, water and socialize the animals as well as search for foster or adoptive homes for them.
As part of her three-month plan proposal, Ray said the facility would be brought up to code on all state, local and federal laws regarding animal care and all animals would be spayed and neutered.
Commissioner Don Hastings told the audience Monday that commissioners were looking to see what could be done.
“We are very concerned about this and we have been looking into it for some time,” Hastings said.
The county appropriates $80,000 to the operation of the facility yearly.
Moore said he sees three options, but is still listening to any possible solutions.
One solution would be to enter into a contract that would allow a certified group or individual to take control of the facility.
A second option is to repair and improve the shelter and to hire a full-time certified employee that could care for the animals and administer euthanasia when necessary.
A third option, he said, was to allow a certified person to handle euthanasia on a contract basis.
“We are looking at all of our options right now to see what we can do,” Moore said.
“If we eliminate the drop-off site, the number of animals we have may drop dramatically, so we really need to see where stand. This is something that all of us are looking at and working hard to find a solution. Unfortunately, there can’t be a complete resolution over night, but we are working to find out all of our options.”
Ray said she knows the county wants to find a solution.
“I know Judge Moore and the commissioners want to be compliant and we want to help,” she said.
“That’s what our focus is. We need to change the way people think about animals. They are not trash; you can’t just throw them away. We need to be able to educate our citizens about the importance of spaying and neutering our animals. The thing I want to see most is that the pound, which it is, it’s just a pound, become a humane shelter where animals can be rescued from.”