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June 22, 2010 / V A Nichols

City of Sylacauga, ARF officials told ‘something is very wrong’

City, ARF officials told ‘something is very wrong’

by MATT QUILLEN

SYLACAUGA — The president of the Animal Rescue Foundation resigned Monday, as 150 animals were transferred out of the local shelter for the second time in two months.

ARF board president Wendy Scripps voluntarily gave her resignation to the board around 4 p.m. She said she was unable to fulfill her duties, work full-time and spend time with her family.

“I’m still going to volunteer and help with the shelter and the board as much as possible,” Scripps said. ‘I’m just not in a position where I can be effective anymore.”

At 1 p.m., employees and volunteers at the animal shelter loaded a truck with animals to be removed. Shelter director Tina Limbaugh said she contacted employees at the Greater Birmingham Humane Society and asked them to take the cats and dogs into their facility.

She said the shelter had more than twice as many animals as they would like to keep.

“Right now we have about 350 animals in here,” Limbaugh said. ‘They are coming in a lot faster than they are going out.”

This was the second time in eight weeks the shelter transferred more than 150 animals to Birmingham.

Workers from the Humane Society removed nearly 200 on April 28. Employees also closed the shelter for eight days after the initial removal to clean and renovate.

Jacqueline Meyer, executive director for Greater Birmingham Humane Society, criticized the ARF board and the city on Monday for the shelter’s operation.

Meyer said she believed the board needed to find a veterinarian to perform euthanasia services. Also, she said the city needed to suspend animal control services except in the case of emergencies.

Meyer sent a letter to Mayor Sam Wright, Scripps and The Daily Home. She wrote in her letter the Humane Society would not accept more animals from Sylacauga until an emergency plan was made to deal with the overcrowding.

“The city and the board have got to get together and decide something,” she said in a phone interview. “It is my understanding that they brought in 8,000 animals last year. We have also been told they only got $40,000 (from the city).”

“I brought in 10,000 animals last year, I have 32 employees and I have a $1.6 million budget. Something is very wrong.”

Meyer also discussed the costs to her organization. She claimed the Humane Society has incurred costs of more than $13,000 while helping the shelter.

She added it was difficult for her employees to take in so many animals and have to put most of them to sleep.

“We have no room,” she said. “We are going to have to euthanize them, which is just horrible for our staff.”

Scripps responded to Meyer’s claims, saying an emergency plan to treat animals was already in place. She said the workers at the shelter were equipped to handle basic medical care to the animals and a veterinarian was on call.

“We have a local veterinarian who will do an emergency euthanization for us if we have an animal that is severely injured and we cannot provide medical care,” Scripps said.

Scripps and Meyer both stated that some improvements had been made at the shelter.

Meyer noted in her letter that the shelter had been cleaned, air circulation was improved and cages were rearranged to make more space. Limbaugh also said the shelter planned to hire a part-time veterinarian in the next couple of weeks.

Wright authorized the use of city vehicles and employees to transport the animals to Birmingham. He spoke about the city becoming more involved with the shelter and the ARF board.

“We have got to do the right thing by it because we are mandated to have an animal shelter,” he said. “I’m going to get more involved in seeing why some things have not been done. We’ll stand behind them and help them, but at the same time (board members) have to help themselves.”

Wright also said Limbaugh planned to take training to do euthanasia at the next available time in October and the city would cover the costs.

Wright confirmed Meyer’s statement that the shelter took in around 8,000 stray animals last year. He said he would consider changes to animal control that Meyer suggested but did not think other ideas, like removing the drop-off kennels at the shelter, would be productive.

“All that is going to do is force people to turn (animals) loose,” he said. “I hate to think that is what we’ll have to do, but we may have to.”

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