By Alyssa Schnugg
Mississippi Critterz, the nonprofit organization that managed the city of Oxford’s animal shelter since 2018, is no longer running the shelter.
During the regular meeting of the Oxford Board of Aldermen Tuesday, Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill said the “management contract with Mississippi Critterz has been mutually terminated.”
The shelter came under fire last month after a complaint was filed with the Oxford Police Department by several former employees and volunteers claiming neglect, overcrowding and lack of medical care. OPD and the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department investigated the claims, and while they did not press criminal charges, they reported back to their respective governing boards that were many issues noted at the shelter.
Two veterinarians also issued a report last week claiming the shelter “violates even the most basic standards of care for animals in animal shelters”
The city is legally obligated to provide animal control services but not provide a shelter; however, it has helped fund both animal control services and a shelter for decades by contracting with nonprofit organizations to manage the shelter.
Two weeks ago, the Board of Aldermen voted to form a committee to evaluate the city’s contract with MS Critters and make recommendations.
However, Tannehill said Tuesday that after doing some research, the idea of forming the committee was not the city’s “best chance for success.”
The city was contacted by Animal Rescue Corps who agreed to pick up the remaining dogs left at the shelter.
“As of 1 p.m. today, all of the animals at the shelter have been transported to the ARC center outside of Nashville where they will receive medical examinations and daily care until they are ready to be adopted,” Tannehill said.
The Board of Aldermen voted to sign a contract with Tim Crum with Animal Shelter Services. Crum is a nationally recognized expert on fundraising, board governance and shelter operations in the animal shelter industry. The contract is for $22,000 and the cost will be shared equally with Lafayette County. The Board of Supervisors approved the contract on Monday during its regular meeting.
Crum and his staff will be in Oxford in April and spend about four days evaluating the shelter building, past management contracts and other reports in regard to the operation of the shelter, and will then make recommendations to the city and county on how best to move forward with providing an animal shelter for Oxford and Lafayette County.
The Board also approved hiring a new animal control officer and one kennel attendant to continue animal control services for the city. The Oxford Police Department will handle animal control services until a new officer is hired.
No surrenders are being accepted at the shelter until it is reopened.