The Jackson County Commission is no longer in the business of selling frozen euthanized cats from the Animal Shelter.
During a meeting on May 16, the Commission approved a request from Great Lakes Biological of Howell Michigan, a company owned by Fred Hodgins. The company wanted to purchase euthanized cats from the Animal Shelter to sell to universities and veterinary schools for anatomical study.
Hodgins' company donated $5 for each euthanized cat over 6 months old and offered to furnish a chest freezer to store them in until they were picked up.
The Commission approved the measure by unanimous vote. There was no public discussion of the proposal during the meeting, prior to or after the vote.
On Wednesday, the Commission voted to terminate the agreement. No public discussion was conducted prior to the vote.
Commission President Dick Waybright said the decision to terminate was made in order to prevent the employees of the animal shelter from being “harassed” by Kathy Stone, president of Operation Fancy Free, a program that traps, neuters and returns community cats in Jackson County.
Stone and her group were vocal opponents of cadaver-selling.
Waybright said Stone gave the proposal her blessing but “changed her mind” and started to campaign against it on social media.
“We wouldn't have done it to begin with if she hadn't said it was OK,” Waybright said.
Stone adamantly denied that she approved of the policy to sell deceased cats. She said she wasn't contacted about the policy until the end of June, well after it had already been approved.
Stone said shelter employees contacted her at the end of June, after the request had already been approved by the Commission. She said she told shelter employees she did not like the idea of the policy.
Stone also said she did not harass animal shelter employees.
“They would not meet with me, so my only choice was to go public with it, not to harass the shelter staff – I like those people – but to stop a disgusting policy that was hidden from the public,” she said.
Stone said she questioned Hodgins' professional certification and noted he has been cited multiple times for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
During the public comment portion of Wednesday's meeting, after Commissioners terminated the agreement, Stone told the Commission they should have never considered such a policy in the first place.
“While I appreciate today's reversal of your May 16 decision to start selling dead shelter cats for $5, I also want you to know that today's decision does very little to undo the damage you caused or return any confidence we may have had in this Commission. It won't bring back the lives of the 13 cats, or possibly more, you sold and collected $60 for,” she said.
Stone said there should have been discussion prior to the policy's approval. She said it is poor meeting conduct to allow public comments only after votes have already been taken. The public should have an opportunity to voice their concerns before the Commission acts, she said.
Stone said the Commission must have discussed the proposal at some point before voting on it. If so, those discussions were conducted out of view of the public, she said. And if they didn't discuss it at some point prior to voting on it, there was no due diligence before enacting a policy that affected the public, she said.
“Discussions on topics you plan to implement and/or vote on are being held in secret, away from the public domain with no records of those discussions,” she said.
Waybright maintains there were no secret meetings or discussions.
Waybright said the policy wasn't worth the fuss created by Stone and Operation Fancy Free. As a result, the Commission will go back to disposing of euthanized cats in the same manner it always has, by throwing them into a dumpster and carting them off to the landfill, Waybright said.