ARF 'doing much better' with additional city funds
by Emily Adams
SYLACAUGA – Operations at the Animal Rescue Foundation have improved since the city funded the organization three times its previous appropriation this year, according to the ARF Board.

“We’re doing much better than we were, but we’re still barely keeping our heads above water,” said Celeste Landers, who was installed as board president during a meeting Tuesday night. “It was a great thing the city did for us, but really, it’s what they should have been doing all along, and they finally saw the need.”

The former City Council approved $90,000 to ARF for the current fiscal year ending in September. The appropriation was a sharp increase from the $29,000 it received in years prior, an amount ARF repeatedly told the city was not enough to cover the costs of animal control services it is contracted to provide. Even still, the extra funding leaves only $900 a month after payroll for medications, veterinarian bills, euthanization, spay and neutering and cleaning costs, Landers said.

“There are so many unpredictable expenses at a shelter,” she said. “You don’t know how many animals you’re going to get any given month or what condition they’ll be in, so you’re costs are going to vary, and that’s something we have to deal with.”

In the financial report given during Tuesday’s meeting, treasurer Pam Waters said ARF spent about $11,200 in May and had $8,000 in income; however, that includes the purchase of a new truck transmission, which was an unusual expense. It has a balance of $8,600, with another $14,800 in donations.

The shelter is currently overpopulated with 144 animals. It has 72 cats and 72 dogs, with only 25 cages and 56 kennels. During May, it took in 43 new animals, 34 of which were delivered from animal control, said ARF Executive Director Barbara Hamilton. There were 10 adoptions (up from four adoptions each of the previous two months), and nine pet owners retrieved their animals.

The city is working with ARF to improve animal control throughout the city, including the upkeep of the city-owned shelter facility and revision of its outdated animal control ordinance. Councilman Tom Roberts told the board nuisance control officer Michelle Taylor has put in many hours working on a revised and much stricter animal ordinance that will impose stiff penalties and give incentives to pet owners for spay and neutering.

“Through all the many incarnations of animal control in Sylacauga, this will be the first time I’m aware of that anybody has addressed the root problem, and that’s too many animals running around loose making more animals,” Roberts said. “Everybody always wants to argue about how to deal with the problem and how much it costs, but until we deal effectively with reducing the population, it’s not going to matter.”

Landers said ARF is careful to separate the city’s funding from the work it does as a rescue shelter, and the board is being realistic about the animals it can save.

“It’s a tough line we talk between being a no-kill shelter and using common sense, and I think we’ve got a board now that’s really good about common sense,” she said. “We’re going to give the animals a fair chance if they’re adoptable, but there’s no holding them for a year, and we are not going to waste the city’s money on an animal we know cannot be saved.”

ARF has several fundraisers on the horizon to support its rescue efforts. It is hosting a yard sale this Saturday beginning at 7 a.m. at Pickle Patch Market, and it also has jewelry and CDs for sale at Pickle Patch. In addition, ARF will be at the upcoming Grits Festival on June 15 and at Home Depot’s First Friday on July 6. Adoptable animals will be available at each event.

The organization installed a new panel of officers at its Tuesday meeting as follows: Landers as president, Dennis Murphy as vice president, Charles Sims as chairman, Jim Adams as treasurer, Terry Morris as deputy treasurer, and Therron Works as secretary. Its next regular board meeting is July 2 at 5:30 p.m. at Hickory Street Café.

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