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Commentary

Pound Problems Complicated By Number Of Strays

Commentary
By Jack Gurner

A day late and a dollar short. That’s the way I describe the volunteers of the Second Chance Animal Alliance. Never heard of them? Neither had I until a story about a fundraising event appeared in last week’s Herald.

The purpose of the new organization, according to vice-president Mandy Mills Beard is to upgrade services of the Water Valley dog pound in co-operation with animal control officer William Beard and Mayor Larry Hart. Beard’s full-time job with the city is supervisor of the parks and cemeteries department, a job which takes most of his time. Animal control is an extra duty he has to handle.

The SCAA is flying under the radar. Way under the radar. They wanted to appear at the Water Valley Board of Aldermen meeting last week to air problems at the city’s pound and to make the community aware of their organization. But, in order to get to the meeting, you have to get past Mayor Hart, the city’s air traffic controller for the meetings.

Melissa Smith, the group’s president, called city hall on the Thursday before the meeting. That was the day it snowed and city hall was closed. So, she called back Friday and asked to be put on the list. The mayor would get back to her, she was told because they were a day past the Thursday deadline.

“He ended up calling me,” Ms. Beard told the Herald. “He asked what the call was about. I told him we wanted to get on the list to speak at the aldermen meeting. He asked what for and I told him we have a full house down there,” she said, referring to the large number of dogs at the pound.

Ms. Beard said that the mayor told her that the March 3 meeting was full, so they wouldn’t be able to come to it. But, he added that they could appear at the next meeting after getting some necessary liability paperwork signed regarding their work at the shelter.

Since they weren’t able to speak last week at the regular March meeting, the least we here at the Herald can do is help them out by giving the worthy cause some space in the newspaper. And, we can help city government by not forcing them to endure a long meeting. After all, they spent almost 26 minutes working through their full agenda which included an appearance by Eddie Ray for the Water Valley Business Alliance and the monthly report by Mickey Howley of Water Valley Main Street.

That may not seem like a long time, but compared to some past meetings, it is an eternity. For example, in November of 2009 they met for a full 13 minutes; in October of 2008 it took 16 minutes; in June 2010 the meeting time was 14 minutes. They did meet for 36 minutes in May 2010, but that included an appearance by a citizen requesting a zoning variance.

But, I digress.

Back to the SCAA, Ms. Beard told the Herald that the group wants to get the word out to the community that they need more help, more volunteers. “We really need that right now,” she pleaded.

When asked what was the worse problem her group faced, she said: “We have so many strays. We’re so overpopulated.”

The conditions at the city’s pound “are absolutely horrible,” she added. “We have had eight puppies down there in all this cold weather and two adult dogs. We think they have a home, but we haven’t had anybody step forward.”

Her group believes that the city should make an attempt to let the public know when a dog is picked up. “There should be a picture, at least, posted at city hall. It’s supposed to be from my understanding, but it’s not. And, run the picture from that week in the paper.”

Ms. Beard continued that people aren’t aware that dogs are being taken to the local pound, a small concrete block building located within the wastewater treatment facility compound. “I was under the impression until November that all our dogs were still going to Oxford,” she said, referring to the Oxford/Lafayette Humane Society. I didn’t know that Oxford had stopped taking them from us.”

She noted that the OLHS will take a dog brought in by an individual from Water Valley, but they will not take them from the city. One of the reasons is that the city and county have declined to provide any funds. “They took in more dogs from Water Valley than they did from any other county.”

That gives you an idea of just how bad the problem is here. And, what’s worse is that the city has provided no information on how many dogs have been picked up, how many were returned to their owners or how many were euthanized. “They couldn’t produce any records.” said Ms. Beard.

“For those dogs that have to be housed down there – even if it is only five days – it’s terrible conditions. We have provided beds and food and water bowls that don’t take up quite as much room as the barrel cutoffs they made after everything went public on Facebook back in November,” Ms. Beard said.

The group’s volunteers are not allowed in the pound by themselves. They are required to go with the animal control officer. “He has to let us in, stay there while we are there and then lock up behind us when we leave,” she said.

Once the group signs the liability document, they will be able to go in with their own key. The facility has to be locked because the gate is the entrance to the city’s wastewater treatment plant and there have been problems in the past with dogs being stolen from the pound.

The SCAA has provided all the money for the improvements they have made. “If a dog needs medical care, we get it to the vet,” she continued. “We’ve done a lot with them.”

“We’ll take all the help we can get.”

Melissa Smith is president of the group; Sandra Evans and Brittany Scero share the secretary duties; and Leigh Rounsaville is treasurer. Anyone interested in helping can make tax deductible donations to Second Chance Animal Alliance at Renasant Bank. To learn more about the organization, go to their Facebook page.

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The newly formed Water Valley Business Alliance was debuted at the monthly meeting of the mayor and board of aldermen March 3. President Eddie Ray read a statement of the group’s main purpose, which is to promote the interest of local business. The former CEO of Mechanics Bank noted that the organization evolved out of the “dust up” over changes to the beer ordinance.

Ray was quick to point out that he is a native of Water Valley. So are many of those involved in the WVBA. There have been some who have wanted to paint those opposed to changes to the beer ordinance as “those new people” in what is probably an effort to somehow discredit their efforts.

But, as those who are involved in the organization will tell you, the beer ordinance was just the straw that broke the camels back, to use an appropriate old saying. Those who watch what goes on in city government have seen some strange decisions made in the name of “city control” and they don’t all involve beer.

The WVBA organization wants to help make changes in the antiquated thinking of some in local government by “encouraging fair, equitable and minimally intrusive regulations by city, county and state government.”

For those who can’t or won’t change, the group will offer candidates to replace them who understand that this is the 21st century…like it or not. And, for the town to survive, we must move forward.

The town belongs to its citizens, not to a small group with an agenda. And that works both ways. The next city election should prove interesting and will set the course for Water Valley well into the future.

And, finally, while on the subject of city government. There was an interesting vote by Alderman Larry Bell at the March 3 meeting. Bell, who is known to ask questions, voted against a change in the beer ordinance regarding the reporting of sales figures of those who sell beer. Bell said that he didn’t believe that the reporting requirement was necessary.

While, he obviously knew that his one vote wasn’t going to make any difference, it was a gesture that may show that not everyone on the board is in agreement with the way things are being handled.

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