LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. - Lawrence County has been working for months to try to solve its ongoing animal control issue. In August, the county voted and approved a new animal control building to be built on County Road 150, across from the old International Paper Mill property.
This all started after the county's old animal control officer Bobbie Taylor was accused of abusing animals in her care in 2015.
For the last six months, the commission has had a contract with Changing 42 Animal Rescue to house the animals picked up by Lawrence County Animal Control.
On Wednesday the board voted not to renew that contract in favor of a new agreement with the Morgan County Animal Shelter. That decision is not sitting well with some animal advocates.
Melissa Lance runs a nonprofit called "Rescue Rangers", an organization similar to Changing 42 Animal Rescue.
"Lawrence County has passed off their responsibility for their animals in their community to either individuals or to other entities; rather than building a shelter," Lance said.
Lance said she has always been up to date with the issues surrounding Lawrence County as it relates to an animal shelter. "I first became aware of the problem in Lawrence County with their animals in June of 2013, when the commission didn't renew their contract with Carolyn Atchison," Lance said,
She also remembers when the Lawrence County Commission had a contract with Bobbie Taylor. "Which that was a horrible fiasco, that was when ASPCA came in and shut her down, because of mistreatment of the animals," Lance said.
Taylor was charged with 16 counts of animal cruelty and one count of animal abuse following accusations that led to the search of her property and seizure of over 250 animals. A district judge sentenced Taylor to 30 days with a suspended sentence.
Taylor maintained her innocence and appealed, asking for a jury trial where a mistrial was declared.
Lance said Morgan County's shelter is a high kill station, where Changing 42 is not. "Now that they have contracted with Morgan County Animal Control again, what that is going to do is double the euthanization rates in our community again," Lance said.
Lawrence County Administrator Heather Dyar said they didn't renew their contract with Changing 42 because they couldn't meet Changing 42's financial demands.
She said in this last contract the commission would pay the animal rescue group $20 per animal. For this new contract, Dyar said Changing 42 was asking for $20 an animal plus $3,000 a month. She said they just couldn't afford to keep doing business with the group.
Lance thinks they do have the money. "When Carolyn Atchison had that contract they paid her $70,000 a year. When Bobbie Talyor had that contract they paid her $80,000 a year," Lance said.
Lance said the commission's decision sends the message that the county leaders don't care about the animals in the community. We contacted the chairman of the Lawrence County Commission and he did not have any comment on this story.
The contract with Morgan County Animal Rescue lasts until March and the county's administrator confirmed the process of getting a local animal shelter built is in progress.