The new revamped Oxford Animal Resource Center will soon open to take in surrendered animals, but it will only take in animals from the city of Oxford — for now.
That’s because the Oxford Board of Aldermen and Lafayette County Board of Supervisors have yet to come to an agreement that would make the two governments partners in funding the new center.
The city estimates the annual budget for the animal resource center will be about $869,000. After backing out expenses for animal control services — since there are no leash laws in the county — and modifications to the building and equipment, the city asked the county to split the estimated $682,000 annual costs to run the center. That would be about $28,500 a month from the county.
City officials said more animals have traditionally come from the county than from inside the city limits.
The county sent back a proposal to pay $9,994 a month, which is what the county was paying Mississippi Critterz for managing the shelter. The Board of Aldermen denied that proposal during its May meeting.
“Although the city chose not to accept our offer, we are hopeful that we can reach an agreement in the future,” Supervisor and Board President Mike Roberts told Hotty Toddy News recently.
The animal shelter, formerly managed by Mississippi Critterz, was closed earlier this year after an investigation into complaints about the shelter being overcrowded and accusations of neglect. MS Critterz took over in 2018, after the organization Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society, opted out of running the shelter after ongoing arguments among its board members.
“After the last two private ventures of running the animal shelter have been troublesome, the Board of Supervisors still offered to continue funding at the same level as we currently have in place and also offered the use of the transport van the county purchased, until we could verify the ‘county’ animal numbers being proposed are accurate, then adjust funding at that time,” Roberts said.
Roberts said while he and the other board members have no doubts the new center will be “the best in the state,” the supervisors could not justify an almost $500,000 expenditure under the current time constraints given.
“As one of the fastest-growing counties in the state, we face all kinds of growing needs,” he said. “Stray animals are just one of the needs that we have to manage. People are another.”
Roberts said with county hearings about to take place for the Fiscal Year 2022 budget, the board may get the opportunity to revisit the request.
“We have and will continue to look for ways to partner with the city, as well as service all citizens of this county, inside and outside city limits,” he said.
In the meantime, Roberts said the county is trying to work with local veterinarian clinics and surrounding rescue organizations that have offered to help until the county can find a more long-term solution.
One of those groups is headed up by local resident Carlin Curtis. She and her team of volunteers – Emily Yvonne Slocum, Bekah Chapman, Mary Tanner Simmons and Meghan Titus – are independent rescuers who partner with northern nonprofit rescues.
“Every animal we take, goes out into foster care,” Curtis said.
Shelters and rescues in the northern states are often looking for adoptable cats and dogs due to strict spay and neuter laws.
“Fosters play a huge role in our rescue mission, as lots of the animals we are called about are in life or death situations,” Curtis said. “Fosters allow us to take in the animal immediately, get them started on vaccines, and house them while they await transport.”
With the help of private donations, Curtis and her team supply foster homes with dog/cat crates, food and bowls, and cover all related medical expenses.
Curtis’s interest in helping strays started at 11 years old when she was a volunteer at the former Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society.
“Throughout the years, I have gained lots of experience and knowledge. That has led me to the work I do now,” she said. “This work wouldn’t be possible without my team members.”
Since the animal shelter closed and with spring being the official “puppy and kitten season,” Curtis said she and her team have been overwhelmed with the number of calls they have responded to recently.
“Last week, we took in close to 40 intakes — lots being from the county,” she said. “On a typical day, we are scrambling to make sure everyone in foster care is prepared for transport.”
To learn more about Curtis and her team, fostering, donating or adopting, visit her on Facebook.
For more information on the Oxford Animal Resource Center, visit its Facebook page.