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‘AIKEN FOR CHANGE’

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NEW DIRECTOR, NEW AGENDA FOR EMBATTLED SHELTER

By Beth Braden

JACKSBORO—Adrion W. Baird Animal Center Director Michael Aiken said he’s “green as a gourd,” but willing to learn the ropes and make the shelter successful again.
Aiken took the reigns at the embattled facility on Aug. 5 and began preparations to reopen. As part of his plans for shelter operations, he hopes to work with local rescue groups to help find homes for lost and stray animals.
“I’m going to be open to work with any group to try and save as many animals as possible if they can be organized enough to work with the small, sometimes short window I have [to move them from the shelter],” he said.
Prior to working with the animal shelter, Aiken worked as a truancy officer. Earlier this summer, he said he went to County Mayor William Baird to see if there would be funding for another year of work. While the funding for working in juvenile court had run out, Baird told Aiken of the job at the shelter.
Aiken said he spent much of last week listening to concerns from citizens about how the shelter was managed under former director Betty Crumley, who resigned July 25. Shelter operations under Crumley’s watch are the current subject of a TBI investigation.
 Despite the shelter’s damaged reputation, he wants to move on.
“This is a new day. I cannot concern myself with what may or may not have happened,” Aiken said.
On Monday, Aiken appeared before the animal control committee of the county commission where he answered some questions from the commissioners.
“I’d like to let everybody on the committee know we’re about open for business,” Baird said.
Commissioner Bev Hall asked Aiken if he has any prior experience working in animal control.
“No,” Aiken answered.
He has, however, applied for a 50-hour training seminar in Memphis in October which will cover the basics of animal control techniques.
Baird went on to ask the committee to approve three exceptions to the “three-day rule.”
Current shelter guidelines say that incoming animals must be kept for three days before they are euthanized. Baird asked the committee to allow for exceptions in case of animals surrendered by owner, animals that are obviously sick, diseased or injured, or if the shelter is at maximum capacity and rescue groups can’t place pets.
The committee approved the request.
Last week, two inmates from the county jail were sent to help clean the facility and prepare it for furry occupants. This week, Aiken and animal control officer Otis Poore are cleaning the grounds. While a date to reopen has not been officially announced, Aiken says the reopening date is close.
The shelter can be reached at 566-1892.