By Karen Hall
The euthanization of 13 dogs at Marshall County's Animal Shelter last week unleashed a firestorm of protest which appears to be growing.
A peaceful protest is planned for noon Saturday, July 28, on the square in Lewisburg, organized by Pit Bull Awareness of Tennessee (www.pabtn.org). The same group launched an online petition demanding an investigation of the shelter, and it had over 5,000 signatures as of noon Tuesday.
Local volunteers who have worked for two years to bring the shelter's euthanasia rate close to zero, were furious.
"What I cannot accept is the fact that nine of the 13 dogs that were euthanized had commitments to be picked up later that day," Laurie Adams wrote in an e-mail to the Tribune.
"I believe that killing the dogs was in retaliation for my speaking with Channel 4 on Tuesday afternoon," Jacki Moss wrote in an e-mail. "My belief is reinforced by the fact that (City Manager Tommy) Engram has made several remarks to media to the effect that as long as media is involved, more dogs will die. Plus, he has called the volunteers' voicing our concerns about the killings a 'publicity stunt.'"
Engram told the Tribune last week that the volunteers made it an emergency situation by leaving it until the scheduled day for euthanasia to pick up the rescued dogs.
"Dogs are going to die because we can't work out a relationship with those volunteer organizations," Engram said. "I hope to be able to develop a relationship with PAWS, not with those who like to see themselves on TV," he continued.
"There are some good volunteers here," he conceded. "If we were not under duress...we might have a good relationship. No government any place will negotiate under duress."
Moss claims to have uncovered proof that some dogs have been euthanized the same day animal control officers have picked them up. Volunteers were depending on animal control officers to provide lists of dogs for adoption, and Moss complains this was not being done on a timely basis. This resulted in overcrowding, and frantic last-minute attempts to get dogs adopted before their euthanasia date.
Engram solved the overcrowding problem, at least temporarily, by ordering the 13 euthanasias last week.
According to Moss, "Engram has also stated that from this point forward, the shelter is a 'holding facility.'
"That means that the shelter is, in essence, an all-kill shelter," wrote Moss.
"This is a poor fiscal management policy, since killing dogs costs the city money, but allowing them to be rescued and adopted brings money into the budget," Moss continued.
She questions whether such a drastic change of policy should have been approved by the City Council, and indeed, the subject of the animal shelter is due to be discussed at a council work session in the near future.
The county provides one of the ACOs, and pays half the cost of running the shelter, but county officials have not gone on record with any comments about last week's events. At press time, there is no meeting of the county's animal control committee scheduled.