By Julia Peoples
The Oxford Board of Aldermen voted unanimously to renew the city’s contract with Mississippi Critterz for shelter and animal control services Tuesday night at its regular board meeting.
Renewal of the contract follows a recent controversy regarding the shelter’s previous president, Gail Brown, who stepped down as president last week after racist comments made on her Facebook page several years ago resurfaced.
Mayor Robyn Tannehill turned the floor to Alderman Janice Antonow, who also serves as the liaison from the city to the Mississippi Critterz Board, to discuss the decision prior to the vote.
Antonow began by emphasizing the shelter’s status as an independent contractor to the city.
According to their contract with the city, this means they must adhere to “the statutes and common-law of the state of Mississippi, and its own by-laws and requirements of its status as a non-profit agency or corporate entity.”
She then went through each requirement within the contract between Mississippi Critterz and the city of Oxford point by point, evaluating the shelter’s performance on each issue.
When deciding whether or not they met the requirements, Antonow said the shelter had earned a “100 out of 100.”
The city’s contract with the shelter includes covering the utilities and repairs for the shelter, the cost of animal control and the vehicle for it, and $93 per animal for assistance with medical expenses and care based on the number of animals brought in for the previous year.
Antonow also stated that while Mississippi Critterz claims it is a no-kill shelter, the city’s request for proposals regarding the shelter did not stipulate this as a requirement.
According to the alderman, they also successfully transported 609 animals last year to other no-kill shelters.
Shelter employees in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting included Jen Peterman, shelter director; Becca Chapman, part-time animal control officer; Natascha Scott, board member, and Aynslee Smith, newly elected board president.
Mayor Robyn Tannehill addressed some community concerns regarding overcrowding and conditions at the shelter.
Tannehill said she made a surprise visit to the shelter recently after receiving a complaint and found that the shelter “was so clean, not only were the cages not overcrowded, there were empty cages.”
The mayor concluded before the vote by addressing the shelter staff.
“Thank you for the job that you’re doing, thank you for the service that you are providing to our community,” she said. “You are doing a great job, you are checking all the boxes on this contract that we have. That’s what our decision is based on. Our decision is based on a contract with an outside company that has a list of expectations.”
The renewal of their contract ensures Mississippi Critterz will continue to operate as the animal shelter and animal control service provider for the city of Oxford for another 12 months beginning in October.
The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on renewing its contract with MS Critterz within the next two weeks. The county does not utilize animal control services but rather pays the shelter to help house stray dogs found in the county.