Supervisors Discuss Animal Control Management

Meridian Mayor Cheri Barry is proposing an animal control advisory board be re-established to oversee the issue in Meridian and Lauderdale County. Her plan calls for the board to address the city's and county's animal control issues.

However, during a work session Thursday, county supervisors raised questions about whether this can happen.

Lauderdale County took over the running of the animal shelter in Meridian just over two years ago.

"We share a shelter, which is actually owned by the city and leased to the county and the county runs it," said Ryan Couch, director of Lauderdale County Animal Control. "So, both parties need to have an active role in it."

Since the county took over the operation in 2001, the city and county have shared the shelter, but operated independently. The shelter's three county workers respond to county calls and the two city workers respond to city calls. It is this arrangement which has supervisors questioning whether the mayor's proposal can be done.

"That's the question. And we just want the animal control committee to bring their recommendation back to us so we can discuss it further, because there are some legalities that have to be worked out," said Joe Norwood, president of the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors. "Within 24 hours we have not figured this out."

County attorney Rick Barry says when the county first took over the animal shelter there were questions about how city's and county's interaction could be handled.

"When this process took place around 2000, 2001, there was an attorney general's question that we asked for because there was a question about taking over animal control," said Rick Barry. "But the attorney general's opinion stated that inside the city, the city is going to enforce its ordinance and the county enforces its."

Because there are still many questions and few answers, District 2 supervisor Wayman Newell and District 5 supervisor Kyle Rutledge as members of the county's animal control committee have been asked to look into the matter.

Norwood says supervisors will likely not be able to make any decision about whether or not the county can get involved until their meeting in mid-April.

The county's animal control committee works to address the needs of the shelter. If the city relaunches its animal advisory board, supporters say the group would examine ways to secure grant money, donations and more volunteers for the shelter.

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