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Mississippi Critterz contract approved by aldermen

Everything is now official between the City of Oxford and Mississippi Critterz, the new tenant for the City’s animal shelter building.

The contract was approved during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Board of Aldermen who also voted to purchase two commercial washers and dryers for the shelter’s use.

During the meeting, alderman Janice Antonow also thanked the former animal shelter tenant, the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society, for all their hard work during the years the organization operated the shelter.

“I want to thank them for their 25 years of animal control and shelter management,” Antonow said, “We really appreciate them very much and wish them well in their future endeavor.”

In August, OLHS elected not to renew their management contract with the City of Oxford and closed the doors of the shelter on McElroy Drive on Sept. 30.

After a submission process, the board selected Mississippi Critterz to take over the management of the shelter, which is expected to officially reopen around Oct. 17 following a couple weeks of renovation to the animal shelter building.

The agreement between the City and Mississippi Critterz will remain in effect through the current fiscal year and includes the City covering the costs of utilities “including but not limited to water, electricity, heating and cooling, and garbage pick-up,” the agreement reads. Mississippi Critterz will pay for telephone services.

The agreement also requires Mississippi Critterz to be responsible for the shelter’s daily operations, the hiring of employees, the care and feeding of the animals, the sanitation of the shelter and ensuring that the shelter complies with the Humane Society of the United States and the American Humane Association, as well as any additional requirements and standards given to the shelter from the Board of Aldermen. Bi-monthly public meetings, with three days notice given for each meeting, is another requirement of the management agreement.

The agreement also requires that a member of the Oxford Board of Aldermen and a member of the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors attend the meetings as a community liaison. Those members will be appointed by their respective boards, the agreement states.

Per the contract, the City will continue to provide animal control services, including the salaries of the animal control officer. The officers will work in conjunction with Mississippi Critterz.

In the agreement, the City will pay $78 per animal on a monthly basis. While the full amount the City will pay to the shelter for the fiscal year was unclear, Missisippi Critterz requested the City pay $62,968 per year in their initial proposal to the City to take over the shelter.

Currently, animals in the care of Mississippi Critterz – animals discovered by law enforcement or animal control – are being housed in a Mississippi Emergency Management Agency trailer on the animal shelter grounds.

“The trailer has air conditioning,” Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill said to those attending the meeting, “The animals are being taken care of.”

The management agreement with the City requires that Mississippi Critterz only accepts animals from within Lafayette County, a process which Mississippi Critterz director Gail Brown said will be documented by requiring that individuals who surrender animals to the shelter provide documentation that shows proof of residence, such as a driver’s license, utility bill or lease agreement.

On Monday, Brown told the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors that adoption rates for the animals will remain the same as OLHS. Adult dogs and puppies will cost $125, while cats six months and under will be $100. Cats over six months will be $50 to adopt. Mississippi Critterz, like OLHS, will require all animals which leave the shelter be spayed or neutered before adoption, unless the animal is too young to undergo the procedure.

In that case, Brown said, Mississippi Critterz will follow up with the owners to ensure that the surgery is performed once the animal reaches the appropriate age.

The board also voted to make after hour drop-offs of animals illegal for anyone but animal control or law enforcement officers. Citing a concern for the animals and for public health and safety, the ordinance will immediately go into effect.

The ordinance reads: It shall be unlawful for any person, except for law enforcement or animal control officers, to drop-off any animal at the city animal shelter or shelter grounds when the shelter is not open to receive animals. Animals shall not be left unattended in the city dog park.

“It has always been dangerous for people to drop off the animals when the shelter is closed, but right now with all that construction going on it would be a real problem. .. For now, it’s critical and after the building is back in shape, it’s still going to be unlawful to do that,” Antonow said. “There is no need. People can wait till morning to bring animals in that need to be dropped off.”

While the management agreement has been finalized with the City, Mississippi Critterz is in the process of crafting a separate agreement with the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors. That agreement will include the total amount that the County will pay to help run the animal shelter.

In previous years, Lafayette County paid approximately $25,000 to the shelter. During Monday’s supervisors’ meeting, Brown requested $92,830.50.

Mississippi Critterz is expected to move into the shelter on Oct. 17. The shelter will reopen soon after.