Lafayette County Board of Supervisors President Mike Roberts told Oxford Animal Shelter Watchdogs Monday that the board continues to look for solutions to the county’s lack of an animal shelter.
“I don’t want it to appear this board doesn’t care,” Roberts said. “We have, and are, financially and emotionally trying to find solutions. My commitment to you is that we’re not stopping.”
The Watchdogs group is a grassroots, citizen-led animal advocacy group that formed last year after animal neglect allegations concerning the Oxford animal shelter and its then-management group Mississippi Critterz.
The city of Oxford took over the shelter, now called Oxford Animal Resource Center, and asked the Board of Supervisors in April to contribute $360,000 a year toward the shelter. The county declined and offered $9,000 a month for six months, which is what the county was paying MS Critterz until the supervisors could review how the new shelter was running and look at the county’s budget.
The city denied that offer, and the shelter was prohibited from taking in animals from the county.
Watchdogs started a petition that garnered about 1,000 signatures, requesting the Board of Supervisors to find a solution to the growing problem of strays in the county.
Watchdogs President Leigh Ann Hubbard and Donna Niewiaroski, vice president, made a presentation to the supervisors Monday.
Hubbard said the group understands that when the city asked the county to pay three times more toward the shelter than it was paying, that the supervisors had to question the numbers and be fiscally responsible with taxpayers’ funds.
“This budget is not off the mark,” Hubbard said and showed a poster of photos of neglected animals at the former shelter. “But this is what $9,000 (a month) got you – cruelty and neglect.”
Niewiaroski said the lack of a shelter has caused local citizens to turn their homes into rescue centers, responding to calls in regard to stray dogs and cats in the county.
“This spring and summer have been especially difficult for people who are on their own doing the work of a shelter,” Niewiaroski said. “Many local rescuers are working out their home, motivated by concern and operating on a shoestring, being overwhelmed and worn out.”
Niewiaroski said her group wants to work with the supervisors.
“We would like to help you find a solution,” she said. “Our members are active and involved.”
She offered several suggestions, including partnering with the city, even if on a short-term basis and then reevaluate; build a separate Lafayette County shelter and partner with surrounding counties that don’t have a shelter; investigate and invest in low-cost spay and neuter programs and promote them publicly; consider partnering with other animal rescue organizations and participate in pilot programs, shelter programs or community projects; and connect with animal experts to learn about programs that work in southern states.
Roberts said the board is currently reviewing its annual budget and has already looked into some of the suggestions presented by Niewiaroski.