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Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society to shutter Sept. 30

OXFORD – The Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society will soon cease to exist in its current form, according to a letter sent to the Oxford Board of Aldermen following its Aug. 7 meeting.

In the letter, the OLHS board of directors stated they decided not to renew their management agreement with the City of Oxford, which ends Sept. 30 of this year. According to Alderman Janice Antonow, who was appointed to sit on the OLHS board last year, the decision was not easy, but it had to be made.

“The OLHS board of directors approached me this week, and they looked exhausted,” Antonow said. “The board, instead of going out and hosting fundraisers and things like that, has been essentially caught up with managing the shelter, and told me they just can’t do it anymore.”

The cause of that exhaustion, Antonow told the EAGLE, is the “out of control” animal situation in the LOU community. People aren’t spaying and neutering their pets, she said, leading to rampant overpopulation that the shelter couldn’t keep up with in its current form.

According to the letter, the shelter has seen over 100,000 animals come through its doors since it began – 40,000 of which arrived in its current building, which opened in 2011.

“Our goal is simple going forward. We want to make a long-lasting impact on the overpopulation of animals in this area. Continuing to operate currently, we cannot advance that goal,” the letter said. “We plan to focus our attention, going forward, to solving this greater problem, and look forward to and appreciate the continued support of our many dedicated advocates of this community.”

OLHS board member Lee Habeeb said the decision to shutter the shelter was “difficult,” but necessary due to the growth of the community and the subsequent increase in animals dropped off at the shelter.

“It was a difficult and sad decision, but one we felt we had to make in order to stop the growing number of animals being dropped off at the shelter, with not nearly enough homes to adopt them,” Habeeb said. “The community keeps growing and the number of animals we were taking in were just impossible to keep up with, even with the generous support of the town, county and local donors.”

In order to make a “long-lasting impact,” Antonow said the OLHS board members told her they’re planning to establish a free or low-cost spay and neuter service.

Where the service will be located, and when it will start, she said, is unclear.

Habeeb confirmed that the board is working hard to move in that direction.

“When we know more, we will quickly let the citizens of the town and county know. We will support that decision with public communication through social media, and advertisements…” Habeeb said. “With a sustained educational outreach, and a 100 percent focus on the problem of overpopulation, we are confident – from studying other communities around the state – that we can successfully tackle this problem to everyone’s benefit. And without costing the taxpayers a dime.”

What is clear, however, is that a new tenant will be able to move into the building in the coming months. Antonow said the City started working on Wednesday to get a request for proposal drafted, and hopefully, it will be sent out by next week.

Once OLHS vacates the property on Sept. 30, Antonow said the City will come in and evaluate the building and make necessary changes and repairs, which could take up to a month. The shelter promised to find alternate placement for the animals in its care, she said.

“Whoever moves in will be required to work with animal control, just as the humane society has done,” Antonow said. “We have a leash law in Oxford. That needs to be enforced, and that’s part of what animal control’s job is. We’re hoping to partner with a shelter in another county, maybe Yalobusha, to house those animals while the building is closed, and they will be reimbursed for it.”