City redirects pound update efforts

Published 10:35 am Friday, February 5, 2016

Efforts that began in 2015 to improve the city pound have officially come to a halt, but bigger changes may be coming to animal control in Brookhaven.

Friends of the Brookhaven City Shelter, who hoped to renovate and run the shelter located at a landfill, has voted to dissolve, according to Friends adviser and coordinator Lu Becker.

In a November Board of Aldermen meeting, city attorney Joe Fernald voiced confusion about what the city’s role would be in the proposed arrangement. Friends of the Brookhaven City Shelter expected to have authority to run the facility, but Fernald said that wasn’t reflected in the minutes. There was also concern about liability and safety concerns when allowing “laymen” onto what is actually a landfill.

“My biggest concern is that they understand that there are rules in that landfill, like you don’t smoke and pitch a match, because if you set the landfill on fire we’re all in trouble,” Fernald said. “It will burn. It can catch fire. It’s not just a barren wilderness out there where people go out there to put their dogs. I think it’s a good thing they’re helping us — I’m all for it, but we need to set it up to where we know who’s responsible.”

Becker said in November that the organization did intend to have volunteers onsite to run the facility.

“Before now, there hasn’t been a place for anybody to be onsite, even animal control, because there’s been no office there,”  Becker said. “Remember this is a brand new organization with a brand new mission, and we do have a mission statement. Here’s what we’re working on right now: We’re working on our standard operating procedures. We’re working on getting incorporated and getting our 501(c)(3) status. We’re working on a contract between Friends (of the City Animal Shelter), and the city so that line is clear, and we have a vision of the county joining us and it becoming Friends of the Lincoln Animal Shelter.”

Whatever the terms of the agreement, the city did give Friends $20,000 to improve the shelter, which Friends hoped to use to bring the shelter up to humane standards. The county donated two heating units from an abandoned facility to help with the project.

The city’s agreement with Friends has been rescinded, and on Tuesday the board authorized Mayor Joe Cox to notify Friends that it should return the remaining money.

Becker said conditions at the pound have quickly deteriorated and are no better now than when Friends began, but change may still be coming to local animal control efforts. The board voted Tuesday to appoint Dr. William Kimble and Dr. Bob Watson as municipal veterinarians.

“Recently, within the last year or so, the state adopted some tougher animal cruelty legislation,” Watson said. “And so, quite naturally that means a lot of things in the past that were not considered cruel now are. Largely it’s going to be on an advisory basis, to advise them of the disposition of some of the animals that they either have to confiscate or detain. Certainly it would be to administer veterinary care as is required. But mostly it’s as an advisory — as far as animal health, animal behavior and in some cases the legal avenues that need to be taken. For example, if there’s a bite case, we’re consulted on what the proper rabies protocol is for taking care of an animal that is being suspected of rabies.”

Aldermen on Tuesday voted to update city ordinances to be in line with the new state laws, and Cox is also drawing up plans to move the shelter to a new facility.

“We are going to Meridian,” Fernald said about the design of the new facility. “Both of the vets said that the Meridian Animal Control facility was probably the most state-of-the-art and the best in the state. Dr. Kimble said he knew the people that were there, and he could submit plans on how to build what you need to build, plus procedural.”

Until these plans are drawn out and implemented, the pound will continue to be run as it has been, according to Fernald.