Officials respond to animal control controversy in Barbour Co - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Officials respond to animal control controversy in Barbour County

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EUFAULA, AL (WTVM) -

We're investigating complaints made by rescue volunteers who say authorities are not equipped to deal with animal-related issues correctly in Barbour County.

"The overpopulation problem here is astronomical," said Vickie Cawley.

 She and Renee Klein run a low cost spay and neuter program called PAL of Barbour County. Currently, they say the county has no official system in place to deal with common animal problems.  Commissioner Earl Gilmore said the sheriff can put down dogs considered to be vicious or dangerous, but he recognizes the county is lacking in other areas.

We asked him, "when it comes to stray dogs, there's nothing anyone can do about that?

"Right now there is not," said Gilmore.

For more than ten years, Commissioner Gilmore said the county has been trying to build an animal shelter, but they've run into one problem after another with operational funding and county laws.  He said he tried to pass an ordinance to run the shelter several years ago, but the public voted no.

"They voted it down; said we could pass a tax on it.  So they voted it out.  That's where we stand, we're still out on it."

Renee Klein is one of the county's most ardent critics, accusing officials of what she claims are unnecessary delays and other improprieties.

She said, "They took the heating and air conditioning unit out of that building and put it over at the landfill because theirs died.  When I questioned them on that, which is illegal, it was built with grant money, I was told by Mr. Gilmore, 'I don't know what the problem is, when we open it, we'll put a new one in. They're never going to open it."

Commissioner Gilmore disagrees.  He said the shelter should be open by this time next year once a bill is passed in Montgomery giving Barbour County the authority to govern their program independently.  He said this is an added obstacle that other counties in Alabama don't have to go through. 

"Like Russell County- they're with the city.  And, we've been talking to [Eufaula] about connecting with them," said Gilmore.

But that prospect has just become more complicated too.  Unlike Phenix City, Eufaula has temporarily suspended some of its animal control activities because the mayor is reviewing the process.

"Currently, we're not euthanizing animals, to my knowledge," said Mayor Jack Tibbs.

Over the past month, a non-profit online publication called barbourcountyreporter.com has written several articles accusing the city of Eufaula of cruelty to animals and disposing of dogs in a way they say puts the environment at risk.

"I can find no evidence of it ever taking place.  We've actually had some folks call and say, 'we've heard the lake was poisoned and that is totally untrue," said Tibbs, "With all this commotion about our animal control, I did reach out to the Alabama Animal Control Association, and I actually had one of their board members, who is also a consultant, come in and review our processes and procedures."

The advisor suggested making some changes that the city plans to implement, including transferring paper records to an electronic filing system.

"The disposal process, in the past, when an animal was euthanized, it was put into a dumpster and emptied daily and put into a landfill," said Tibbs.

Now, the mayor explains, animals injected with poison will be frozen and taken directly to Coffee County for burial so they will spend less time waiting outside in an open dumpster. Regarding the claims of animal abuse made by an unnamed source quoted by barbourcountyreporter.com, the mayor had this to say:

 "The only thing that would disturb me about it is, if it's a current employee or a past employee from the animal control department, the things that he or she is alleging would have been his or her responsibility.  So you know, they're telling on themselves."

Mayor Tibbs says he is committed to getting the animal control program back up and running in the future.

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