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County contracts with Humane Society to handle animals

Supervisors sealed their deal Monday, handing animal control in Warren County outside Vicksburg to the local chapter of the Humane Society.

The one-year comprehensive contract for $125,000 says the private group will provide housing for stray, unwanted and lost animals with the intent of finding an adoptive home for them.

The society is to provide emergency service on a 24-hour basis for injured, abused and/or vicious animals.

The deal replaces one where the county had been paying the society $1,000 per month for far less comprehensive services. It’s the first comprehensive approach to the issue outside the city and also rescues the society, which has teetered on the financial brink for about two years.

“They reached a point were they were not able to respond to calls at a level they wished to,” District 5 Supervisor Richard George said. “We’ve enjoyed their services and certainly have taken advantage of their immeasurable volunteer efforts for several years.”

The Humane Society will now have an expected income of $198,750 for 2003, including the $125,000 allocation from the county.

Addressing animal control had been a project of Mayor Laurence Leyens who accused supervisors of stalling during informal talks about new ordinances and a combined city-county solution.

“The Humane Society has a real chance of making it, although they will continue to need the support of donations,” Leyens said Monday.

The Mississippi non-profit organization will act as an independent contractor for Warren County from its shelter across U.S. 61 from the south end of Vicksburg Municipal Airport.

“This will be a great benefit to our territory and area,” George said. “When people find unattended, injured or vicious animals, not only can they use the drop-off facility but the Humane Society will be able to come into areas and assist residents in collecting these animals on an on-call basis.”

George said the money would come from the county’s share of gaming-tax revenue this year, but may come from a different account in future years.

The county also still plans to adopt an animal control ordinance, and at the time the ordinance is completed the contract will be amended to reflect the conditions of the ordinance, George said.

“We probably will have a draft ordinance ready for viewing by the public in February,” he said.

While the talks between the city and county to combine their animal control efforts ended, Leyens said the county’s new contract has the same end result.

“It’s good the county is handling their obligations since the bulk of the animals are coming from outside the city limits,” Leyens said. “The contract will have the same outcome we’ve been working on for 16 months.”

Leyens said the city, which operates its own shelter and spends $190,000 on animal control services, may also shut down the city animal shelter in Kings and hire the Humane Society.

“It is better for people who want to drop off their animals, and it’s better for people who want to adopt animals to have all the animals deposited in one location,” he said.

Leyens said the city’s animal shelter could be shut down as soon as the Humane Society is ready to accept additional animals.

Leyens has said a plan last year was for each board to fund conversion of an empty, city-owned building at City Park into an animal-control facility. Each government budgeted $125,000 to fund the project.

George said the county’s contract with the Humane Society would take the place of the county’s participation in that project.

“The county’s needs are different from the municipality,” George said. “The city’s requirements of these services may be a bit more complicated because their ordinance is more restrictive.”