Leyens says he’ll try once more to pen deal for joint animal shelter|[10/26/06]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 26, 2006

Mayor Laurence Leyens said Wednesday one last try will be made to negotiate a deal for a consolidated animal shelter for Vicksburg and Warren County.

Among the issues are whether to develop a more aggressive animal control plan and where to locate a shelter, Leyens said.

Talks among the city and county and the local Humane Society have been sporadic for five and a half years without resolution, Leyens said. Last week, he said it appeared no merger was in sight.

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&#8220The city’s animal shelter is a disaster,” Leyens said at Wednesday’s city board meeting, adding he wanted to see the issue resolved during his second four-year term as mayor, which began this summer.

Later in the day, he said he had invited the Vicksburg-Warren County Humane Society board to have &#8220a comprehensive conversation” on the subject.

Countywide animal control was an early topic for city-county discussions in Leyens’ first term. Warren County then had no ordinance and no enforcement mechanism.

As those talks broke off, supervisors passed an animal-control law less restrictive than the city’s – and hired the Humane Society in a $125,000-a-year contract.

That deal has worked, says Georgia Lynn, president and director of the Humane Society, but it has stretched its 1,800-square-foot shelter on U.S. 61 South beyond capacity.

The city has continued to fund its own animal-control staff and shelter, costing about $180,000 a year. It is about 2,000 square feet.

Leyens said the size of any new shelter the city would build was yet to be determined, but that any would be built based on research of other cities’ experiences.

The city and the Humane Society take different approaches and Leyens has indicated the Humane Society approach is better. The city keeps animals for five days. If not claimed or adopted, they are taken to Jackson for euthanization. The Humane Society, on the other hand, has other criteria besides time in the shelter. It also actively tries to find homes for animals.

The city and county has agreed to share the cost of building a new, consolidated shelter if a suitable location is identified but that has not occurred, Leyens said.

Leyens said Wednesday that the population of unwanted animals in the county is growing at a rate of about 15 to 20 percent a year. Any city or consolidated animal-control operation should offer pet-owners the option of having their animals spayed or neutered at low or no cost, Leyens added.

The Humane Society includes spaying or neutering in its adoption fee, $75, Lynn said. Local veterinarians perform the operations, charging from $50 to $55 per animal, she said.

Leyens said that fee should be lowered, possibly by up to $40 and to a level that would only cover the cost of surgical supplies. The remainder of the cost should be subsidized to encourage people to get their animals spayed or neutured, Leyens added.

Another reason talks between the city and the Humane Society have stalled is no such option has been included in Humane Society proposals to the city, Leyens said.