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Friends of the Shelter addresses board

President of the Friends of the Brookhaven City Shelter Kelly McDonald addressed the Brookhaven Board of Alderman Tuesday about misconceptions facing the dissolution of the group.

“I came on behalf of the Friends of the City Shelter,” McDonald said. “As you know, we are no longer running or operating the city shelter. With y’all’s approval we took over in October and actually operated through the end of December, at which time — I guess situations existed to where we were asked to not go back out to the shelter because it was on a closed landfill.”

Friends hoped to renovate the shelter and begin an adoption agency for animals in Lincoln County. However, in a November Board of Aldermen meeting, city attorney Joe Fernald expressed concern 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.”

“There’s been some articles in the paper about this and it pretty well painted us as a group that took over a job, didn’t do much with it and then quit in the end, and I just wanted to come address that tonight, but that’s not what happened,” McDonald said.

“We did a good bit of work out there in three months,” McDonald said. “We walled in the front of the building to keep the wind off the dogs, we built three new cinderblock kennels to house vicious dogs — right now they’re full of pit bulls and one of them’s already been torn up to the point where the dog can almost get through the gate. We moved a 12×16 building out there to use as an office to where the officers can be on sight when they’re not collecting animals.”

McDonald said the organization tried to install a septic tank for the office but were prevented from doing so because the facility is located on the landfill.

“We tried to plant trees, but we couldn’t plant trees because you can’t break the crust down there because it’s a closed landfill,” McDonald said. “We did a good bit, and then we couldn’t do much after that.”

In January, the Board of Alderman requested that Friends stop going to the shelter, for fear of starting a fire, McDonald said.

“We’re not going to be throwing matches on the ground,” McDonald said. “Nobody on the board, nobody out there working smokes. I met with Mayor Cox a couple of weeks ago, and we discussed things and at that time we decided that it would probably be best for us to just to dissolve the board at that time because all we had was liability.”

McDonald said Friends was required to return the rest of the money the city granted them, with receipts for everything they purchased. In light of the city’s request for Friends to cease their involvement with the shelter, he said the organization transported 54 dogs to Hattiesburg, so they could be adopted out.

“Now if we hadn’t of done that, you’d have 54 more dogs out there, in a site that’s only got four functional pens right now because its torn all to pieces,” McDonald said. “Since we’ve not been out there, there’s not been a lot of work done, and there’s been some damage to it from vicious dogs, and dogs just trying to fight. That’s what I wanted to come talk to you about. I didn’t want anybody to think that our group was not active. And the other thing, I guess, is what’s going to happen to the animals while we wait to build a new facility? It’s going back to the way it was.”

McDonald said when the city finds another location and builds the new shelter, Friends would be willing to reunite and help operate the facility.

“We would be open to helping the city run this, if we could come to a mutual agreement about what our responsibilities are and what our authority is,” McDonald said.