By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – Supervisors voted 3-2 to contract with Second Chance Animal Alliance (SCAA) at a cost of $1,000 per month to handle animal problems in the county, duties that will include responding to reports of negligence or stray dogs as well as answering calls about vicious dogs.
Monday’s vote followed discussion in recent meetings after SCAA volunteers reached out to supervisors for support, explaining that they have routinely responded to calls in the county since the organization started in 2014. The organization’s initial request from the county was for $2,500 per month, but in Monday’s meeting SCAA Director Melissa Smith acknowledged that was a hefty sum.
“I know that $2,500 per month is a large chunk of change, so here I am to ask you what can you do? And do you feel Second Chance is a service to our county,” SCAA Director Melissa Smith asked supervisors.
“I absolutely agree that you ladies serve a purpose in the county. Y’all have done that without any funding from the county. We do agree that there is some form of financial need that we need to support,” Board President Cayce Washington answered.
But Washington added that $2,500 per month would be a stretch for the taxpayers and countered with paying SCAA $500 per month. District 3 Supervisor Lee McMinn voiced favor to increase that amount to $1,000 per month and received support from District 2 Supervisor Ken Rogers and District 4 Supervisor Timothy Booker in the split vote. Washington and District 5 Supervisor voted against McMinn’s motion.
“I just want to go to a lower dollar amount, it’s not that I am against it,” Washington said after the vote. “I am glad it passed because y’all are going to get what you need.”
“Please know it is not about y’all it is taxpayer money, nobody loves a dog more than me. I guarantee I have owned more dogs than anybody in this room,” Gray added.
“I agree, I have had my share of dogs too, unfortunately a lot of people don’t do the right thing,” McMinn said.
Much of Monday’s discussion focused on details on how calls will be handled as Smith cited examples of typical calls her organization receives and supervisors contemplated different scenarios.
“It’s a dog that has been dumped at Wildcat, or a dog that has been dropped on the side of the road, or showed up at somebody’s house and had a litter of puppies,” Smith explained. She also noted the calls come from all across the county.
“We need to distinguish between a stray and somebody’s dog,” Gray noted, pointing to a recent complaint he received about a hunting dog that was on somebody’s porch.
“She told me to come get that dog, well I called around and found the owner,” Gray explained. “We are not going to be picking up folks hunting dogs and bringing them up here and charging them room and board?” Gray asked.
Smith explained SCAA will not charge the owner for the pickup, adding their focus is to return the dog to the owner.
“What is important to us is that owner came to us and got their dog,” Smith said.
She also explained that SCAA has a microchip scanner to help identify dogs that have been chipped and the group has a large following on social media that is utilized to help located a missing dog’s owner.
Smith also stressed that SCAA will continue to do pickups instead of using the shelter as a drop-off point.
As part of the contract, SCAA will also respond to reports of vicious dogs, accompanying a deputy to determine if a dog fits the description of a vicious or potentially vicious dog in accordance with the county’s 2012 vicious dog ordinance. SCAA will also maintain the registry of vicious dogs in the county as part of the ordinance which requires registration for vicious dogs and an annual fee of $50.
Also noted in the meeting is that the county does not have an at-large ordinance or leash law meaning that dogs ranging free is not prohibited.
Speaking after the meeting, Smith said the county’s contribution will help SCAA fund an employee that will assist the volunteers with feeding and caring for the pets in their shelter twice a day. She also said with spring brings new litters and the organization has been extremely busy.
“We are growing very rapidly, we are taking it one day at a time, one dog at a time. It is taking our entire village,” Smith added about group effort from the dedicated volunteers.
SCAA is also finalizing a new contract with the City of Water Valley to help fund their work inside the city limits. The city has proposed to pay the organization $1,000 per month, plus the cost of utilities for the organization’s shelter located on Hwy. 315 and a second, smaller city-owned shelter.
The contract with the city is on the meeting agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.