By Alyssa Schnugg
The Oxford Board of Aldermen renewed its annual contract with Mississippi Critterz Tuesday to operate the animal shelter on McElroy Drive and to provide animal control services.
The contract includes the city covering the costs for utilities and maintaining the building, including the exterior and interior of the building as well as lawn maintenance. MS Critters retains ownership of all equipment, cages, appliances, computers and other items in the shelter.
The city will pay the shelter $93 per animal for medical care expenses and care based on the number of animals brought in each month. The city will make payments to MS Critters monthly.
As a contracted service, MS Critterz will be responsible for hiring employees, for the care and feeding of the animals at the shelter and ensuring the shelter is sanitary.
The city also requires MS Critterz to hold regular meetings of its Board of Directors that are open to the public, at a time and place reasonably accessible to the public. Minutes of each meeting must be kept and posted for public review on the MS Critterz website and a member of the Oxford Board of Aldermen and a member of the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors will serve as liaisons and attend the MS Critterz board meetings.
The city pays about $106,000 annually for MS Critterz to provide animal control services. Lafayette County also helps to fund the shelter. Last year, the county paid $94,000 but does not pay for animal control services since there is no leash law in the county.
Mississippi Critterz was awarded the contract to take over management of the shelter in 2018 when the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society Board of Directors announced it would no longer be running the shelter and would be, instead, focusing on providing local cost spaying and neutering for local cats and dogs. That organization is now called Tubb Spay & Neuter Project, offering low-cost spay and neuter options for Oxford and Lafayette County pet owners.
In the fiscal year 2021 contract, a change was put in to automatically renew the contract with MS Critterz at the end of the fiscal year which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, if both parties wish to continue with the contract. If either party wants to discontinue the contract, they must notify the other party 30 days prior to the end of the contract.
Aldermen Janice Antonow, who serves as the liaison for the city, commended the work of the shelter over the last year.
“You all are really doing a great job,” she said Tuesday.
MS Critterz Director Jenn Peterman told the board that the last six months have been challenging at the shelter due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are still trying to navigate fundraising, adoption and transports in the COVID landscape,” she said. “It’s been a learning curve for us. I’m in awe of the staff and how they’ve stepped up to the plate during all this.”