By Alyssa Schnugg
In the ongoing saga of the Mississippi Critterz Animal Shelter, another official resigned Monday as a report from two veterinarians claiming the shelter “violates even the most basic standards of care for animals in animal shelters” went public.
Tamara Austin, who served as vice president, submitted her letter of resignation from the Board of Directors Monday during the board’s regular meeting.
Last week, shelter director Jenn Petermann submitted her resignation, effective on Wednesday. Former board member Gail Brown was voted off the board the same night.
Earlier in the day, veterinarians Phil Bushby and Kathy Kvam released an evaluation report of their findings after touring the shelter a week ago.
The site visit was requested after numerous complaints about the care of animals at the shelter were posted on social media and following a two-week investigation of the operations of the shelter conducted by the Oxford Police Department.
The report noted that the director was not present during the time of the tour.
“There was no identifying information (names or numbers) on the animal enclosures or on the animals. There were no records available for review and no medical records,” the report states. “ The Board member could not tell us exactly how many animals were present in the shelter at the time of our visit. (She estimated 100 dogs). In addition, the Board member could not provide any statistics related to intake numbers, the number of animals adopted, the number placed in foster care, the number transported to other rescues or shelters or the number of animals euthanized.”
The report also noted that most of the dogs were in small, stainless-steel cages or temporary wire cages and that the facility was dirty and cluttered.
“The tour through the facility was conducted from approximately 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. At that time of day, virtually all of the animals were still in enclosures soiled with urine and or feces,” the report states.
The veterinarians found that the number of animals at the Oxford shelter far exceeded the capacity for care.
“It is not possible for the current staff at the shelter to properly care for the number of animals that are present,” the report stated.
City officials received the report on March 5. After reviewing the report, the city closed the shelter to new surrenders.
During Monday’s board meeting, Board President Aynslee Smith said she believed with the community’s help, and move volunteers the shelter could get back on its feet and be successful. She said with spring around the corner, the shelter would soon be seeing an influx of kittens and puppies and asked the community to volunteer and become fosters.
However, Aldermen Janice Antonow, who serves as the liaison between the shelter and the Board of Aldermen spoke up and said the shelter would not be taking in kittens and puppies, or any animals for an unknown amount of time, which appeared to come as a surprise for the MS Critterz board members.
“We are talking to other shelters around the region to see if they will take animals from Lafayette County. We’re going to take a break from being involved in shelter services for a while, at least temporarily.”
Antonow said there are currently no specific plans for the shelter reopening.
“The most important thing is getting the animals there now adopted or transported to another shelter,” she said. “We would love if some of the individuals who are concerned about the animals would consider opening a world-class shelter in Oxford.”
Several members of the community attended the meeting that was held via Zoom. Some asked questions about the veterinarians’ report and lost records, while others focused on how the shelter was currently trying to improve living conditions.
Smith said the dogs noted in the report who were in cages that are too small have been “addressed.”
At times, the conversation became heated, with guests expressing frustration over the lack of complete answers to the questions being asked.
Smith reported there were currently 69 dogs and 11 cats in the shelter, with another 12 cats and 25 dogs in foster homes.
The shelter is open for people interested in adopting an animal from 12 to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays. The shelter is closed Sunday and Monday.