By Rachel McDaniel
Over the past 14 years, I’ve sat through many – so many – hours of discussion on the need for an animal shelter in Pike County. There have been dozens of Pike citizens who fought really hard in order to impress upon commissioners the need for a shelter. Most of them were willing to commit to hours of volunteering each week – not to mention monetary and animal food donations.
Lots of local citizens who volunteer countless hours to rescue and care for animals have moved on from trying to help in Pike to helping Coco’s Cupboard (originally started in Pike) which has a new facility in Meriwether County.
Commissioners agreed to accept a $225,000 donation from the CLC Foundation in 2020 in order to build and operate an animal shelter. At that time, they should have realized they would have to follow through with what they agreed to do – build and open an animal shelter in Pike County.
Ruth Chandler, the donor of the $225,000 said, “they are honorable men trying to do their best for the county and they have different ideas of what is important.”
It’s true, everyone has a different view of what’s important. But, the money should never have been accepted if they didn’t plan to follow through on using the building as a shelter.
Many proponents of animal control have noted the issue just continues to be kicked down the road. I think the commissioners’ decision will kick them back this time.
All politics aside, the money should never have been accepted and the agreement made. When it was, the county manager and county attorney both should have encouraged commissioners to follow through with their commitment from the beginning. I feel like much more research should have been done by all five board members as well as the county manager. It’s hard to make an informed decision without enough information.
All five commissioners who accepted the funding in 2020 are still in office. If their intention was to take the money and run, they did not succeed and I would hate anyone to think Pike County would try something like that. The commission did break an agreement and I think they broke the trust of many Pike citizens.
Before the day the decision was made, commissioners should have known the estimated cost of running a shelter and considered changes to the ordinance created by the animal shelter board to make the shelter affordable by the county. The ordinance was brought up in several meetings but there was never any real discussion about approving it – or altering it to benefit the county by placing limitations on the number of animals – or just dogs – that could be accepted by the shelter.
It seemed like some commissioners ‘did their homework’ and others did not. It also seemed like some commissioners’ minds were made up on the issue as soon as the money was requested to be returned.
All sides of an issue should be considered by commissioners for all decisions they make on behalf of the public. After all, they are elected to represent other citizens. Out of 15 letters submitted to the Journal Reporter about an animal shelter, 12 were in favor, two were against and one suggested more research.
There were 12 letters that said (in their own words) an animal shelter has been needed, is still needed and is unavoidable, that it’s time to do what needs to be done, that it’s time to open the shelter to volunteers, that there are too many stray animals for citizens to continue to care for them, that the shelter should not just be for vicious dogs, that the agreement should be fulfilled as agreed upon or the building sold and that it is the duty of commissioners is to care for God’s creatures.
If this decision was truly in the best interest of the county, then it was a good decision. But commissioners should never have agreed to take the funds if they did not intend on doing their best to fulfill the agreement.
After years of kicking the can on animal control, commissioners have stubbed their toes this time – and hurt the county’s chances of moving forward gracefully to care for the needs of Pike County citizens.