Animal shelter contract under scrutiny

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The city’s $175,000 annual allocation to the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society came under scrutiny this week, with municipal leaders calling for a reduction.
Tupelo has provided the community’s sole animal shelter money since at least 2006 when a contract between the city and the nonprofit was last signed. The contract says TLHS will provide animal control services and house animals for the city in exchange for the payment.
But the contract hasn’t been reviewed in years, and the city Police Department this year hired its own full-time animal control officer, who still is in training.
“The scope of the contract needs to be revisited in light of fact we do now have a full-time trained animal control officer,” said city attorney John Hill. “Beyond that, we need to give some real thought as to what we want to allow the humane society to do.”
Hill said state law isn’t clear on whether cities can tap nonprofit agencies like TLHS to enforce its animal control laws. But recent opinions by the state Attorney General’s Office suggest it’s likely a bad idea, Hill said.
Despite the new animal control officer, police Chief Tony Carleton said the city alone can’t handle all the animal-related complaints. He said he wants to partner with the humane society, not diminish its role.
TLHS takes in thousands of animals annually from Tupelo, Lee County and the region. But it gets government funds from Tupelo and Lee County alone – about $210,000 total each year.
That’s roughly 45 percent of the nonprofit’s total annual operating budget, according to TLHS Director Debbie Hood, who was not present at the meeting.
Council members wanted to know why the humane society doesn’t collect money from the other municipalities and counties from which it takes animals. They also wanted to know more about its operating procedures.
Council President Fred Pitts said he’ll schedule another meeting with the TLHS officials before the council makes any decisions.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com