Shelter to stay open for now

Published 1:53am Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A proposal presented by Humane Society of Escambia County officials last Friday has given the group a three-month reprieve on the closing of the county’s two animal shelters.

Renee Jones, manager of the HSEC’s shelter in Brewton and Atmore, said she was encouraged by the response from municipal and county officials at last week’s meeting.

“I came away more encouraged than ever about the future of our shelters,” Jones said. “Negotiations are under way as we discuss options for animal control and sheltering in the county.”

Due to budget issues, the HSEC opted to cease shelter operation last month. Officials with the volunteer-based group ended animal control/sheltering contracts with municipalities in the county with a May 31 end date. The group continues to provide animal control/sheltering for Escambia County through the end of June.

David Stokes, Escambia County Commission chairman, said the reprieve will allow the group to continue operations for another three months. He said everyone at the table is hoping to find a permanent solution.

“We’ve been able to come up with a temporary solution that gives HSEC a chance to operate for three more months,” Stokes said. “The work they are going to be doing is going to be very basic for the time being. We certainly hope that everyone can come together and find a permanent solution to this problem.”

Stokes said he is hopeful that talks among municipal, county and HSEC officials can continue in a positive way.

“After this last meeting, I feel positive there will be a solution,” Stokes said. “Representatives from each of the cities involved will be approaching officials to present issues and possible solutions. We are hoping to keep the shelters going for three months which will give us a chance to get a grasp on how we can handle this situation and find a long-term solution.”

Jones said the Brewton shelter location is closed with all animals currently being housed at the shelter in Atmore.

“Right now we are not operating out of Brewton at all,” Jones said. “We are still open in Atmore and will remain there for a period of time. There is work to be done on the Brewton location before it can be fully operational again. For the time being, we are going to continue to operate in Atmore until other arrangements can be made.”

In the proposal submitted last Friday by HSEC officials, operating a basic animal control/shelter program for the county would require just over $250,000 in funding.

The funding is broken down to show approximate operation costs of $128,800 and staffing costs of $121,000 annually.

Having a working animal control program in the county and available to municipalities is imperative if the area is to be viewed in a positive light, Stokes said.

“Having a good animal control program creates a good image for the county,” Stokes said. “I have confidence that we can all work together to have a civilized animal control program here. We need it.”

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