Humane Society responds to Chilton County Commission discussion

Published 2:16 pm Monday, May 1, 2023

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By JOYANNA LOVE | Managing Editor

The Humane Society of Chilton County was not contacted about attending the recent Chilton County Commission work session where concerns about its operations were discussed.

“Why were we not made aware of the work session we were the topic of?” Animal shelter director Jennifer Fesmire said in a recent interview.

In the April 5 work session, commissioners said they had received numerous phone calls about the shelter not taking animals.

But, Fesmire and staff said they took in plenty of animals that week.

“We have been bombarded with animal control animals,” Fesmire said. “We took in 26 animals that week (the April 5 meeting was held). It was 22 dogs and four cats.”

Animals are also being accepted from the public, Fesmire said.

Although the animal shelter does have posted hours for only certain days, there are employees at the shelter every day.

“Animals come in nearly daily,” Fesmire said.

Julia McGhar, who is in charge of the cats, said someone is at the shelter from early morning to about mid-afternoon.

“We work seven days a week … we do what we do because we care about these animals,” McGhar said. “I don’t feel like it’s fair that they are talking about us and what we’re not doing, when we are basically doing all we can do.”

Fesmire told Chairman Jimmie Hardee in November that additional funding to pay more staff would be needed to be open more hours to the public.

Hardee said at the April 5 meeting that if the animal shelter is not accepting animals, then it is in violation of the lease agreement for the shelter. However, Fesmire said the commission had already violated the lease by not providing its financial contributions in the time frame specified. Under the lease contract, the commission agreed to provide $2,500 to the animal shelter every month. The commission caught up on these payments on March 31.

In response to discussion about the county starting its own animal shelter with financial support from the city of Clanton, Fesmire asked “Why aren’t they willing to help us build it versus building their own facility?”

The Humane Society of Chilton County has about $200,000 that was given as a donation from someone’s estate with the requirement it only be used for construction of a new facility. Recently, the organization purchased property next to the current shelter to take the next step toward this project.

The shelter has supplies to build 12 additional kennel spaces, but only one volunteer has come to help set them up.

Fesmire said Commissioner Allen Williams “was supposed to be the animal shelter liaison, yet he has not spoken to the shelter director, nor has he been to any of the shelter meetings to discuss any of the issues that the County Commission seems to have.”

The commission having no oversight of the animal shelter had also been discussed at the work session. As a 501c3 nonprofit, the Humane Society is an independent entity and has its own board. Fesmire said when the commission requested a financial review of the facility, the Humane Society had the review completed by Hull & Russell and provided it to the commission. The report had zero negative findings.

“Anything they want to know or need, all they have to do is ask,” Fesmire said.

The Humane Society consists of three full-time and three part-time employees. Overly sick or aggressive animals are euthanized at local veterinarian because the shelter cannot afford the $6,000 a year to get the required DEA license to have euthanasia drugs onsite.

To continue to keep a no-kill mentality, the shelter coordinates with animal rescue organizations that are registered 501c3 organizations with documentation and photos of where the animals are taken.

“We get pictures of them in homes … six and seven years later I have gotten updates on dogs we have sent out of here,” Fesmire said.

The rescue organizations will often donate the adoption fee for each transported animal to the animal shelter.