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Advocates cry out on shelter

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Director defends practices

By Beth Braden

Facebook groups, petitions and emails have popped up in recent weeks with strong allegations against the Adrion Baird Animal Shelter and its director, Betty Crumley. The county mayor calls the allegations “retaliatory” because citizens are made to obey the animal control laws. Some of the advocates maintain there’s a massive cover-up regarding animal control within the county.

A number of the complaints have the same theme:  animals are not regularly advertised for adoption, animals are improperly euthanized, volunteers are not welcome, and fees are inconsistent.

Advocate allegations

Missy Sharp said she started the Facebook group, “Lost and Found Animals of Campbell and Surrounding Areas” in order to help people find lost pets and help stray pets find new homes.

Sharp said she wanted to do more, so she went to the shelter to take some pictures of the animals and put them online. She said she had permission from Crumley to take photos of some of the cats.

“As I was leaving, there was some people gonna surrender their puppies and they were letting me play with them and pet them. They let me take pictures,” said Sharp. ”The next thing I know, Betty, the director, runs out screaming and yelling at me to not post those pictures. She don’t give me a reason why.”

Shawn Kincaid claims she has taken puppies to the shelter and the pups were put down within two days.

“They didn’t have a chance,” Kincaid said.

Another member of the group, Patricia Simpson, said she has personally rescued, vetted, and found homes for 40 animals in the last year. She joined the lost and found animals group about a month ago after a stray cat wandered into her yard.

“I had put a picture of a cat on there and said, ‘Hey, this cat showed up in my neighborhood and I know she belongs to someone.’” The group was able to find a home for the cat.

Simpson sees a lot of anger and hurt feelings on both sides of the issue.

“I think if we could find a way to get everyone to quit bickering, we could actually get a lot accomplished.”

Simpson says she and many other people from the community would be willing to volunteer at the shelter.

“There’s a group of volunteers who’s willing to go and clean litter boxes and socialize the animals and take pictures,” Simpson said.

Adoption Methods

The advocates are doing more harm than good, according to Crumley. She believes the group is the reason for decreased interest in adopting from the shelter.

“All they’ve done is hurt an animal going out,” she said.

The shelter, located at 749 Towe String Road in Jacksboro, has room for 20 dogs and 16 cats. Crumley estimates that roughly 3,000 animals have been through the shelter so far this year.

“If they wanted to build a building as big as CCHS (Campbell County High School), I might could save all these animals,” Crumley said.

Despite page two of the animal control and protection resolution and ordinance calling for the shelter to “promote an effective adoption program,” there appears to be no formal adoption program in place.

Some of the advocates previously placed photos on Facebook, but Crumley said she put a stop to it after the group posted pictures of what she said was a stuffed animal and attempted to pass it off as real. In another instance, Crumley said she had given Terri Woodward with the Campbell County Humane Society permission to take photos, but Sharp came and began taking photos of everything.

“I allowed Terri Woodward to take pictures. She’s with the humane society. The next thing I know, Missy Sharp is in here taking pictures of everything. I did catch her out here; some man had pulled up and had four puppies. Well she was out there taking pictures of the four puppies and I said ‘Ma’am, please don’t take pictures of those. They haven’t even been turned in yet.’ You have to observe every animal that comes in here. All dogs aren’t adoptable. All cats aren’t adoptable. We have the authority,” Crumley said. 

Animals cannot be advertised for adoption because there is no guarantee that the animal will still be available when the potential owner arrives at the shelter, according to Crumley. By policy, the shelter is only required to hold stray pets for three days.

“Three days is not long. By the time you take pictures and put them on the Internet and put it wherever you’re gonna take it, something’s gonna happen to this dog, or we’ll determine it’s not adoptable,” Crumley said.

“If it’s a good dog, I’ll keep it a month,” she then added. Word of mouth and a list of people who are looking for a certain type of pet are the main ways animals are adopted out.

Guidelines

The county mayor’s office has fielded some complaints about the animal shelter, but says they are unfounded.

“I do know that they have some strict guidelines to go by,” said David Young, deputy mayor. “I can’t see them blatantly disregarding those. I know it’s not the perfect center, but it’s very well kept and well cleaned.”

Young estimates he has only received three to four calls in the last month. He describes the complaints as general complaints, and says Crumley can explain all of them.

County Mayor William Baird believes the advocates on the other side of the dispute are retaliating for being made to obey laws, such as purchasing a kennel license.

“You don’t follow the rules and then when you enforce the rules, somebody gets mad,” he said.

He says the majority of animals surrendered to the shelter are unwanted.

“The animals that we get at the shelter are strays, are nuisance animals, are not somebody’s ‘Little Fluffy’. They’re really not,” he said.

Of the animals that arrive at the shelter, roughly 10 percent are adopted, 10 percent are sent to rescue, some go back to the owner, but 70 percent of them are not adoptable, Crumley said. Animals can be deemed unadoptable if they are ill or aggressive.

Adoption fees vary for the animals deemed safe, but the adoption process could change, Crumley said. She believes the group has been adopting animals with out of county identifications.

Currently, in-county residents pay a $15 fee to adopt an animal plus an $80 fee to have the animal spayed or neutered. The $80 fee allows the pet to have the procedure performed by Dr. Babbi Dilbeck or Dr. Mark Garrett.

Potential pet owners from out of town pay only $15 to adopt a pet. The disparity prevents out-of-town pet owners from having to drive back to Campbell County for a spay/neuter appointment when another vet may be closer.

Simpson feels like the disparity potentially makes non-spayed or neutered pets another county’s problem.

“That’s just pawning off the problem. That’s not helping anything,” she said.

Euthanasia methods

Some of the advocates worry the animals aren’t humanely euthanized.

Animals are euthanized with euthanasia medicine. There is no merit to claims that animals necks are broken as a means to destroy them, Crumley said.

“We would be shut down in a heartbeat if that happened,” she said. “No. I’m not doing that. That’s ridiculous.”

There is no room for extra volunteers at the shelter, Crumley said.

“When you’ve got somebody standing around who doesn’t know where anything is, you end up spending half your time helping them,” she said. At the same time, she said she believes the advocates are more interested in keeping tabs on shelter operations than helping the animals.

“They think if they can get in here, they can keep up with the number of dogs and what’s happening to them and how quick they’re going out and all that kind of stuff. Plus, they don’t want to scoop poop. They want to probably walk dogs or whatever, but that won’t happen because you can’t sign away liability,” Crumley said.

Kitten questions

The advocates say there was a litter of kittens brought to the shelter the weekend of Sept 8.

Through Facebook, they say they organized adoption for the animals and messages were left at the shelter over the weekend saying that somebody would come to pick the felines up.

When potential owners arrived Monday, the kittens were gone.

“They was precious. The lady that rescues for us, she came and got the five kittens,” Crumley said.

Advocates worry that something else happened to the cats.

“I do 100 percent know that messages were left on the answering machine two different days regarding those kittens.” Simpson said. “Then the kittens weren’t there.”

Kill versus No-Kill

In the midst of the issue is the question of kill versus no-kill. Animal advocates would like to see the shelter become no kill. County leaders don’t see that as a possibility.

“They (the advocates) want this to be a no-kill shelter, and this belongs to the county and it’ll never happen. They can go get their own no-kill shelter, but this is not a no-kill shelter,” Crumley said.

“I am kind of a little suspect of shelters that say they’re no kill shelters. You just can’t handle the enormous volume of animals that come to them,” Baird said.

County records indicate that the shelter received 395 animals during August. Three hundred of them were euthanized. In July, 418 animals were turned in. 344 of those were euthanized. 

A meeting about the shelter’s operations is scheduled within the next week. Crumley, county leaders, commissioners and a representative from Young Williams Animal Center are expected to attend.