As Oxford braced for winter weather, another storm took over local social media after a photo of dogs left outside at the local animal shelter was shared on several pages.
Within a few hours, hundreds of people had commented – some defending Mississippi Critterz, the organization that manages the shelter, and others posting photos from several months ago, claiming abuse and neglect at the shelter.
The first photo to spark comments showed several dogs sitting in cages on Sunday as temperatures quickly dropped.
On Tuesday, Aynslee Smith, president of the Mississippi Critterz Board of Directors told Hotty Toddy News that the dogs were only outside for a short time.
“A few dogs were temporarily rotated outside while their indoor kennel runs were being cleaned. There was no precipitation at that point in time,” she said. “Every outdoor dog kennel was equipped with a blanket and, several dogs were provided with sweaters, except for those which we knew would ingest them.”
Former shelter volunteer Debbie Shearer posted another photo. She said she sent her son over to the shelter at 9 p.m. on Saturday and found two dogs outside in the cold.
Smith said the two dogs, Persephone and Leroy, were on the last rotation to go outside to the bathroom.
“They were brought in at approximately 9:20 p.m.,” she said. “They were not left outside overnight.”
As the two photos were shared hundreds of times, Meredith Roberson, a former animal control officer for the city of Oxford shared additional photos from last year. She said the pictures show plastic bags containing dead animals and other problems at the shelter.
The photos were presented to the MSCritterz Board in November by former shelter employees. Roberson said she had hoped changes would be made in the management of the facility after the meeting but was not satisfied with the board’s response.
Smith said on Tuesday that an internal investigation did take place after that board meeting.
“Our board brought in two veterinarians from outside of Lafayette County to access our animal care procedures and animal housing conditions,” Smith said. “They gave us recommendations, but overall felt we were doing a good job. After two weeks of internal investigations, vet visits, camera footage and employee interviews, we came to the conclusion that some of the complaints were not valid. Any improvements or changes that were needed were made. Those that were not valid, were dismissed.”
Mississippi Critterz runs the shelter on McElroy Drive and provides animal control services to the city of Oxford. Both Lafayette County and Oxford provide funding to the shelter. The city pays more for the animal control services since there are no leash laws in the county.
The Oxford Board of Aldermen and Lafayette County Board of Supervisors have not addressed the recent allegations publicly; however, Alderman Janice Antonow, who serves as a liaison between the shelter and the Board of Aldermen said her fellow board members and Mayor Robyn Tannehill have been made aware of the complaints.
Smith said the comments on social media over the weekend have been “unsettling to the employees who have gone over and beyond to ensure our animals have the necessary time outside.”