HSEC shelter to close this month

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Renee Jones, shelter director for HSEC, checks on cats still up for adoption through the end of December.

With just three weeks left before being homeless workers with the Humane Society of Escambia County are busy packing, cleaning and moving from the facility they’ve called home for seven years.

HSEC Shelter Director Renee Jones said the move is traumatic and one that leaves the group without a place to call home.

“We’re not sure where we’ll be going and what we will do,” Jones said. “But, one things is certain, we will continue to operate under the plan to save animals.”

The City of Brewton’s plan to take its municipal animal control out of the hands of the Humane Society of Escambia County is moving forward — with a Jan. 1, 2012 start date.

That decision was made as the city’s annual budget was considered including a request of $60,000 by the HSEC.

City Clerk John Angel said the funding request wasn’t the only financial assistance HSEC had asked for from the city.

“They were also asking that we take care of things like trash, garbage, sewer, water and gas,” Angel said. “That would amount to around $400 a month in addition to the $3,300 per month we had budgeted for the Society,”

Angel said the city had asked for an accounting from the HSEC on how the funds were being used.

“We didn’t get anything letting us know how the funds were being used,” Angel said. “It just came down to a financial decision.”

The Humane Society of Escambia County took over animal control duties for municipalities in the county seven years ago, and Angel said the cost for the city’s animal control dropped.

“In 2002, we paid $71,558 to cover our animal control expenses,” Angel said. “We aren’t sure what the cost will be when we begin that service again. It’s been a few years and some things have changed.”

Members of a committee were responsible for the decision that put animal control back in the hands of the City of Brewton. Dennis Dunaway was head of a committee made up of councilmen who made the decision to end the services provided by HSEC.

“We denied all requests for funding from the Humane Society,” Dunaway said. “We want to continue a relationship with the Humane Society, but we will handle our own animal control beginning Jan. 1.”

Councilman Joe Watson was also on the committee recommending the denial of funding requests from the Humane Society.

“It comes down to animal control issues,” Watson said. “People in my district had told me that calls concerning animal issues in their neighborhood went unanswered by the Humane Society. If they aren’t taking care of animal control then we don’t need to pay them for that.”

Atmore’s city council recently decided to take similar steps for the west end of the county joining with the Poarch Band of Creek Indians to handle animal control for their area. Plans are to dedicate the new shelter in Atmore before the end of the year, officials said.

Renee Jones, director of the shelter managed by HSEC officials, said she’s looking for a silver lining in the recent decisions by the municipalities.

“I’m hoping for the best from this situation,” Jones said. “I really hope the cities can make it work. Maybe these changes will give the Humane Society an opportunity to do more of what we need to do — public awareness, community education and continue with an aggressive spay and neuter education program.”

Jones said HSEC will continue to provide animal control services for Escambia County with the county’s Commission paid up for those services until the end of the year.

“We have already stopped taking in any animals from the municipalities in the county,” Jones said. “We will do our job for the county since they pre-pay and they are paid up through Dec. 31.”

The majority of dogs taken in by HSEC workers have already been moved out of the facility located on U.S. 31 South, Jones said.

“We have a few dogs left that we hope to have placed by the end of the week,” Jones said. “Most of the dogs have either been transported to other no-kill shelters or rescue organizations. The ones we have left are going to be taken care of in the same way.”

Cats, on the other hand, are still available for adoption, Jones said.

“We have a low adoption fee on the cats we have and we have several kittens and adult cats available for adoption,” Jones said. “We are continuing to go by the book with these adoptions which requires an application and an adoption fee. We have taken some of our cats to PetSmart and Petco in Pensacola for adoptions there and have had good luck with that. We want to see that all of these animals find loving homes. That’s our job – to save animals and make sure they have a good home with people who care.”

Jones said kennel hours are erratic since workers are busy cleaning and moving supplies and HSEC property from the building.

“We are in an out a lot right now,” Jones said. “We certainly want to be available for those who want to adopt.”

Jones said those wishing to adopt one of the cats left at the HSEC shelter should call ahead to check for availability of animals and an appointment for viewing.

The Humane Society of Escambia County received a large part of their operation funding from the Neal Trust, which dissolved last year. Funding was additional provided by the Escambia County Commission and the cities of Brewton, Atmore and Flomaton with East Brewton paying fees per animal when sheltering was needed.