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Mayor warns OLHS to adhere to management agreement; Quarterly numbers presented

Mayor Robyn Tannehill gave the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society the old parental “As-long-as-you-live-under-my-roof” speech Tuesday after confronting Executive Director Angela Avery about a letter the shelter obtained from an attorney claiming the shelter did not legally have to adhere to the same standards as a government body on holding public meetings.

In August, the aldermen and OLHS board of directors signed a three-month contract for animal control services. In the past, the contract was renewed on a yearly basis.

However, after some allegations and findings from the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office that the OHLS board was not following bylaws when it came to open meetings and elections, the aldermen voted in August to offer a three-month contract that is reviewed monthly.

Expectations in the contract include OLHS holding regular, open meetings with notice given as to the time, date and location of the meetings; conducting board meetings following Robert’s Rules of Order; keeping minutes that are available for public viewing and allowing the city and Lafayette County to attend the meetings as liaisons with their respective boards.

Tannehill said the shelter paid law firm Taggart, Rimes, & Graham for an opinion as to whether the shelter, being a nonprofit organization, was legally required to open meeting laws. The letter stated the shelter was not legally required to do so.

As long as you utilize our building, I expect for you to go by what you all agreed to in the signed management agreement, regardless what any lawyer says,” Tannehill said. “You all signed that you would operate in a manner that’s transparent … So if at any time you wanted to choose a different building and a different method of funding, then that would be an option, but as long as it’s in our building, then we would expect you to follow this management agreement.”

Avery said that since the shelter board signed the contract, that would indicate the board agrees to stick to the contract.

If I’m wrong on that, the board will get back to you,” she told Tannehill.

The management agreement also asks OLHS to present quarterly updates to the board.

Avery told the board the shelter hired a full-time animal control officer in conjunction with their already staffed part-time officer. She reported in the last four months, the shelter has taken in 1,265 animals – 190 from Oxford and 391 from Lafayette County. The rest of the animals came from other counties, including 211 from Panola County.

Alderman Janice Antonow said Panola County does have a shelter and suggested when people come to the OLHS from Panola to surrender an animal, staff hand them the address of the Panola shelter.

Some may just not know there is one there,” she said.

Of the animals taken in, 444 were adopted, 34 were returned to their owner, 97 were transferred to other shelters, 16 died at the shelter and 709 were euthanized – 78 percent due to illness, 12 percent for behavior issues and 10 percent for capacity.

Avery said when she previously worked for the shelter 10 years ago, the euthanasia rate was 81 percent, compared to the current 54 percent rate.

So we’ve come a long way in 10 years,” Avery said. “We’re going in the right direction.”