Approximately 25 members of the general public gathered at a popular eatery in Ripley Monday night to discuss the Jackson County Animal Shelter and ways to help change the shelter’s tarnished image.

Approximately 25 members of the general public gathered at a popular eatery in Ripley Monday night to discuss the Jackson County Animal Shelter and ways to help change the shelter’s tarnished image.  The January 18 meeting also enabled residents to discuss growing concerns with shelter policies and practices as well as dissatisfaction with the outcome of the January 14 Jackson County Commission meeting.

Along with circulating several disturbing pictures of a trash dumpster containing what looked to be mostly dogs, a few attendees relayed personal experiences with the staff of the shelter often citing rude behavior. Others recalled stories of alleged harassment involving Humane Officer Cindy Katris. Some said they were reluctant to report the harassment because they feared retaliation by Katris.

Most were in agreement that county commissioners were not listening to what they had to say or felt that commissioners simply did not care.  In addition, those who attended the January 14 county commission meeting reported that they were unhappy with the meeting’s outcome and thought that nothing was resolved.

Christina King, who has been at the forefront of the controversy, preceded to produce what she identified as evidence that the Jackson County Animal Shelter’s paperwork “is not in order.”

Referring to her paperwork, King stated that although only a few people work at the shelter about 35 employees are still on the shelter’s employee listing. She added that one employee has not worked at the shelter for 10 years.

She went on to ask how the shelter’s paperwork could say that 54 animals were taken in at the shelter and 54 put down. “Why is it always an even number? How can you take in 54 animals and kill 54 and still have animals there at the shelter?”

King also quoted statistics for 2009 of 1,518 animals taken in at the shelter with only 264 of that number actually adopted.

Said King, “I think it’s inhumane the way that they do things.”

Margaret Hampton added, “I helped get the animal shelter. It was not meant to run this way. There are no checks and balances. It’s been a disaster for years.”

Jim Kane, a former back-up dog warden at the JCAS, said, “Whenever I would pick up a dog I would keep it because I was afraid that they would put it down.  I’ve dealt with the county commission before when I was on the advisory board and I wasn’t impressed with them. We had a lot of good ideas and they fell on deaf ears. It’s very frustrating. ”

However, Kane went on to suggest that instead of pointing fingers and “going on personal attacks” that the group concentrate on what could be done to rectify the situation. He went on to say that a commissioner sympathetic to the plight of the animals was needed and that a qualified candidate was being sought for the upcoming election.

Kathy Garrett agreed with Kane, “Mr. Kane is right, you can’t just single out one person. It’s an election year and they are going for votes. Mobilize numbers. People in a political position are afraid of numbers.”

Garrett also offered that the public should push for the Humane Society to take over the shelter, which was met with much enthusiasm from attendees.

Kane in turn pointed out the positives that the change in agencies would have such as unlimited resources, ability to obtain grants, and 501C 3 charitable status. In addition, Kane stated that he felt that although not all of the animals could be saved and there was a need to put down ill and vicious dogs that the Humane Society would work to cut down on euthanizing animals. Kane also stated that the Humane Society would welcome volunteers to help care for the animals unlike the current administration who does not accept the assistance of volunteers.”

Humane Society President Marilou McClung invited those at the meeting to in the meantime become active in the Humane Society as a way to assist unwanted animals and save those that can be saved from being euthanized.

McClung then outlined the organization’s plans for 2010. Some of the ways that the animal rights group plans to reduce the euthanasia rate is with spay and neuter education in the local newspaper, at schools and by sponsoring adopt-a-thons at local businesses. In addition the group will make low-cost spay and neuter programs available to qualifying households as well as foster pet programs for animals needing a temporary home.

McClung offered that the Humane Society would like to work with local and state entities to promote spay and neuter initiatives. McClung stated that if people were held accountable for animals that were not spayed or neutered as well as unwanted offspring, the rate of animals sent to the shelter would be drastically reduced.

The Humane Society will have a special planning meeting on Monday, January 25, at 6 p.m. at Grace Episcopal Church. The church is located on the corner of Ann and Walnut Streets in Ravenswood.

For more information on the Humane Society and its programs, contact Marilou McClung at (304) 273-2028, Ann Rauh at 273-2961, Laura Sullivan at 532-8090 or Susan Kent at 273-0733.