The feud between the City of Waycross (C.O.W.) and the Okefenokee Humane Society (OHS) is over.
The OHS emerged from what was essentially a two-hour executive session Thursday night with a message for the C.O.W.: “Stick it! Handle your own stray animal care!”
After what was deemed unconscionable treatment for the past month by three members of the city commission and the mayor — treatment that caused one OHS board member to wonder: “Why is the animal shelter the city’s chosen bastard child?” — the OHS board has concluded it best to dissolve itself and relinquish control of the shelter operation.
A letter released by the OHS board following the emergency called meeting at City Hall Thursday stated: “… with sad reluctance (the OHS board) has determined that it will no longer provide animal shelter care at the Okefenokee Humane Shelter on Blackwell Street … owned by the City of Waycross.”
The statement also reads: “When the local government makes unnecessary statements and suggests innuendoes about the shelter’s finances, keeps setting traps for non-domestic animals that cannot be housed because of shelter capacity, causing unnecessary visits by Georgia Department of Agriculture to investigate the shelter for too many animals, then it is apparent that a new direction needs to be put in place, a direction which will place the day-to-day operations of the shelter on the local governments.”
Absent an independent contractor (with the dissolution of the OHS) to deal with the stray dog and cat problem, it will now fall to the city and the Ware County government to deal with the expensive responsibility.
By contracting with the OHS for just $140,000 a year, the city was getting by “on the cheap,” said one of the OHS board members. She indicated that the shelter has operated on a shoestring budget and it has survived through charitable gifts.
The OHS letter continued: “The board is not in a postilion to advise the public as to how the city and county will handle animal shelter responsibilities and the care of the animals which are presently at the shelter, as well as those that will surely be delivered.”
It was unclear this morning whether the shelter was being manned and by whom. Mayor John Knox and the city commission are in Atlanta meeting with DOT and other state officials and are due to return to Waycross today. An annual city commission winter retreat was set to begin at City Hall today at 4 p.m.
Said Knox at a meeting Tuesday: “We do not need an adversarial relationship with the OHS.”
At the meeting the mayor dressed down the Journal-Herald for what he construed to be news coverage of the feud that was one-sided and “misleading, deceptive and maligning” against the city commission.
The OHS has maintained that Commissioners John Threat, Jon Tindall and Norman Davis have led an unfounded effort to browbeat the OHS, its staff and its board following the recent arrest of a relative of one of the commissioners on a charge of animal cruelty.
“It was misguided retaliation to go after the animal shelter for revenge,” said one OHS board member. “The city animal control and police made the case, not the animal shelter.”
The OHS letter also reads: “The board wishes to express its sincere thanks and appreciation to the individuals and the businesses who have generously provided assistance and support, financial and volunteer services, as well as need items such as food for the care of the animals over the years.
“In particular, the board thanks the Friends of the Society for their financial help and their friendship, for without their help, as well as the support of many individuals and businesses, the Okefenokee Humane Society would not have been able to operate for these many years.”
The statement concludes: “The board regrets these developments but wishes the citizens and the animals the very best.”