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Mississippi Critterz awarded animal shelter contract

The City of Oxford has awarded nonprofit animal rescue group Mississippi Critterz a one-year contract for management of the city’s animal shelter and animal control services.

Mississippi Critterz and Mississippi Humane, which is led by former Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society manager Angela Avery, were the only two organizations to turn in their proposals to the City-appointed animal control provider committee. While both organizations presented quality proposals, Alderman Janice Antonow, who spearheaded the effort, said during a Tuesday special meeting that the issue came down to budget needs.

“Both of the proposals, as far as the animal care sections, dealing with sanitation and animal care, were great. There was not any question about the ability of either group to do that kind of thing,” Antonow said. “The main difference that we discussed extensively was cost. We found that Mississippi Critterz had a budget that we could work with.”

The proposal for Mississippi Critterz includes the hire of a full-time receptionist, adoption counselor and kennel supervisor, as well as full-time and part-time kennel attendants and animal control officers.

The organization began taking in animals in June 2018 with a mission to provide temporary shelter to homeless animals waiting on their forever homes. Prior to the award of this contract, Mississippi Critterz did not have a building and housed animals in foster homes.

According to executive board president Gail Brown, Mississippi Critterz is thrilled to have this opportunity.

“Our whole board is very excited,” Brown said. “We worked hard on our proposal to get it in to the City, and we’re ecstatic that we get this opportunity to actually bring something to the LOU community that is way past due: a no-kill shelter.”

Mississippi Critterz is requesting $62,968 per year from the City of Oxford, and $92,839 from Lafayette County. In the past, the county has contributed approximately $25,000 annually, but Antonow said having Supervisor David Rikard on the selection committee made the county want to get more involved.

“… (Rikard) told me yesterday that as soon as we approve Mississippi Critterz, to let him know so he’ll add it to the agenda for the (Board of Supervisors) Monday meeting,” Antonow said. “What I’ve heard is, they’re ready now that we’re not taking in animals from other counties, they’re ready to participate more so than in the past.”

One of the major reasons the county decided to agree to contribute more to the animal shelter, Antonow went on, is the understanding that no animals from outside Lafayette County will be accepted. Having “half as many animals” moving forward, she said, will help offset costs of renovations and repairs on the building.

The decision comes after OLHS announced on Aug. 7 its intent to not renew its management agreement with the City for the animal shelter building, located on McElroy Drive. OLHS has occupied the building since it was built in 2011, but will officially vacate on Sept. 30.

After OLHS moves out, the City will move in to make necessary repairs, which include replacement of all ceiling tiles due to a rodent problem, remodeling and completion of a back room. The repairs were originally projected to take as long as three months, but Brown said the timeline has now been shortened.

According to Brown, Mississippi Critterz will assume animal control responsibilities beginning Oct. 1, and will be able to officially move into the animal shelter building on Oct. 17.

One solution the City has devised is the use of a Mississippi Emergency Management Agency trailer to house “12 to 18 small animals,” it was announced in the meeting. City emergency management coordinator Jimmy Allgood said the air-conditioned trailer will be adequate in the meantime, and can be stationed in the parking lot of the shelter.

“(The MEMA trailer) has got six very large cages and two large sized kennels. So, as long as the dogs are friendly, you could put two or three of the smaller dogs together per cage,” Allgood said. “It’s made as a pet shelter if we had to open up a people shelter. We could park it next to a church, for example, but it’ll do for this also.”

The contract awarded to Mississippi Critterz is good for one year. However, there will be an option to renew the contract for three years after the one-year mark.