A disagreement over adoption policy has put a local animal rescue group and the county's animal control department at odds.
Paula Joyner, president of East Mississippi Animal Rescue, has asked to take pets from the animal shelter and place them in foster homes until they can be permanently adopted. But animal control has said no — at least not on her terms.
"I think our major disagreement now is which pets does she get," said County Administrator Mike Sumrall. Sumrall said Joyner was offered the option to take any pets who are slated to be euthanized, but said Joyner wasn't happy with that arrangement.
"If you're going to save all of them, you're going to save all of them, not just the ones you pick and choose out of the pack," he said.
Joyner said it's not that simple. "I can't save them all, and I'm glad we've got an animal control, but I think I can save some of the ones that are being put down."
"They say as long as they've had the animals for four weeks, I can come and get animals that are going to be euthanized that day," she added. "It's kind of like I'm on call. I've got to go down there and I've got to pick between Fifi and Fluffy."
Joyner said there are numerous reasons she's not happy with that arrangement. For one, she said EMAR may not have an opening in a foster home at the same time the pets in the animal shelter are made available. She said small animal rescue groups like EMAR have to be extra careful not to take in too many pets, because it could easily become more than they can handle.
"I wish I could take them all in, but I know I can't. I would have a million," she said.
Joyner also wants to have time to test the animals for diseases that would make them impossible to adopt.
"I'm going to run into more issues of Parvo than a little bit because they don't vaccinate," she said.
Sumrall said there are a number of reasons why the county has told Joyner she can only adopt certain animals. He said one is that the county prefers to let county residents who are planning to take animals straight to their new permanent home adopt first.
"They are funded by the taxpayers of the county, and we let the county residents adopt them," he said. "This group likes to come in and take the best pick of the animals."
Joyner said that she is a county resident, and that she is the only county resident who is not allowed to adopt animals from the animal shelter.
She also said she is not trying to "take the best pick" of the animals.
"I don't want them to call me before the animal goes (up for adoption)," she said. "I just want to go down there every once in a while and take one and place it (in a new home)," she said.
Another problem, Sumrall said, is that if the county allows Joyner to adopt animals on behalf of EMAR, they'll have to let other animal rescue groups do the same thing.
"We don't want a situation like up in Kemper County where somebody's been hoarding animals," said Sumrall. "I don't think that's the case with (Joyner), but there ought to be some kind of restrictions on how many animals you can adopt."
One other problem, Sumrall said, is that the county wants to be sure Joyner is not making a profit on the animals.
Joyner said that's far from the case. "I'm a 501(c)3 non-profit," she said. "All my money (from adoption fees) goes to the vet... By the time I spay, neuter, rabies shots and all that, I'm not making anything on these animals."
Joyner said EMAR also has some animals treated for heartworms and other ailments that cost hundreds of dollars to treat.
She also said that the animal shelter does adopt animals to people who do make a profit from them, because they do not require the animals to be spayed or neutered. "How many people do you think go down there and get a purebred dog, and how many people do you think go out and breed it?" she said.
Sumrall said the county wants to see EMAR's 501(c)3 paperwork as proof that they are a non-profit organization. He said the county wants to work out a suitable agreement with Joyner, and that they're trying to reach a compromise.
"The majority of the board are for doing anything possible other than killing dogs or cats," he said. "I'm not saying that she can't adopt, but we've just got to set some kind of rules or guidelines as to which and how many."
Sumrall also said the county plans to try to carry out some of the suggestions EMAR has made for the shelter, such as posting pets up for adoption on the internet.
Joyner said she, too, looks forward to reaching a compromise, which she hopes will happen this week when she meets with the county's animal control committee. She added that, if the offer to take animals who are slated for euthanization is the only one she gets, she does not know whether she will accept it.
"It's just a complicated situation, and I think we can work out something," said Sumrall.
Joyner echoed the same sentiment: "There's just a lot of kinks to work out."