Editorial – No Matter What The Motivation

editorial-logo3Jefferson County has successfully negotiated the move from 2017 to 2018 with little fanfare. It was not the changing of the year that has brought the most recent turmoil to our area, but decisions that were made in late 2017 that appear to persist into the new year, most notably that of the Humane Society of Jefferson County to cease open surrender of animals at the local shelter. This decision has caused a ripple in the waves that can only come when people are personally touched by a decision or issue, either by circumstance or commitment. The reasoning behind the decision, which was according to the president of the Humane Society Board a position that was heavily supported by the Board, was to limit the number of animals taken in due to space and employee considerations. Historically, according to the Humane Society, animals have been sheltered both inside and outside despite the temperatures. This most recent decision has left many members of the Humane Society scratching their heads at turning away animals during record cold temperatures even if those animals had to be sheltered outside, the contention being that the comforts afforded in the outside cages at the shelter were far better than no comforts for stray and unwanted animals.

As concerning to some in the County has been the breech of agreement with the County regarding additional funding that the shelter received after the president pleaded to County Commission that closure was imminent if financial help was not forthcoming. The County Commission stepped up and gave an additional $30,000 to the Animal Shelter with the written caveat that services remain through the end of the fiscal year which is June 30,2018. Less than one month after the additional money was received the Humane Society announced via Facebook that they would no longer accept open surrender and that they would take animals on a space available basis, despite having several open outdoor spaces available. One animal would have to leave before another was accepted, according to shelter representatives.

On Friday the County Animal Control Oversight Board , which consists of two County Commissioners, the president of the Humane Society and the Secretary of the Humane Society and a citizen at large, as well as the County Mayor and Sheriff as nonvoting members, met to discuss the intake issues as well as the issue of a recent dog bite. Several concerned citizens attended the early morning meeting and comments were largely in opposition to the change in open surrender that was instituted by the Board. Chairman of the ACOB, Commissioner Randy Bales, posed several questions to the president of the Humane Society, Scott Lubas, concerning the decision. Though direct answers to Bale’s questions were few, Lubas referred to confusion in regard to terminology and denied that any animals had been turned away from the shelter. On the day that the announcement was made, the Jefferson County Post contacted the Animal Shelter and a representative took our questions to the Board for answers. One of our questions was the number of animals that had been turned away on day one of the new policy. We were told that three dogs and four cats were turned away that first day and one puppy was admitted to the puppy room. When Lubas was asked to explain the discrepancies in his statement that no animals had been turned away in the multiple days that the shelter has been operating with their new space available polices in contrast to their previous open surrender policy and the statement that the shelter gave to the Post on that first day Mr. Lubas had no answer. Instead, he was focused on the person who provided the information rather than the validity of the statement.

For my part, I am taking Mr, Lubas’s declaration that no animals have been turned away with a grain of salt. Just a few months ago Lubas also approached Dandridge for an increase in contribution, which he received to the tune of another $2000 dollars. His contention was that the intake numbers were so high that the additional funds were required to cover Dandridge’s part of the large number of animals serviced. The amount he requested was well into five figures due to large numbers in the 37725 zip code which proved to be largely outside the city limits. Jefferson City gave the Humane Society a $5,000 increase in the current fiscal year which means that the Humane Society/Animal Shelter received and additional $37,000 beyond their regular funding this fiscal year to meet the needs of a large intake of animals. I do not suggest that the shelter is not without need to cover the cost of caring for their self described large number of animals that pass through their doors. Instead I am suggesting that the information they presented to the local governing bodies is out of line with Mr. Lubas statement that no animals were turned away. Either the shelter has been adopting animals out at an alarming rate to accommodate the daily intake that their annual numbers suggest they house or something is rotten in Denmark. Either way, there is the appearance of some serious misrepresentation. Or, perhaps all the animals in Jefferson County currently have homes and we have only a handful of strays that are in need. It would be nice if that were the reality but I have my serious doubts.

So, this week the County Commission will determine how to address the balking on the agreement with the County for additional funding. Much as I hate to take anything away from some of the most vulnerable in our community, I cannot find justification for additional funding for lesser service and I seriously doubt that the County Commission is going to either. Like many in our community, I am an animal lover and it breaks my heart to see them pawned in whatever game is going on at the Shelter. I do not pretend to understand the motivations of the Humane Society Board in this most recent decision but I know that there are ideological differences within the group as a whole and I might even agree with the fundamental arguments for a no kill vs a kill shelter. But, and this is a big but, the current decision has left many homeless animals at risk and that is not an acceptable way to make a point or make a change. I don’t know what the answer is for the County or municipalities but I do know what the answer is for me. I have picked up an application for membership for the Humane Society and will be voicing my opinion via my vote. As with anything, if you will not participate in finding a solution you are simply a part of the problem. Apathy is not a virtue and neither is misrepresentation no matter what the motivation.

Source: K. Depew, News Director