No amount of pleas from the public could convince the Board of Commissioners to reverse course and resume work on ordinance revisions between animal advocates and county staff at Thursday night’s meeting.
Earlier this year, advocates started working on what they see as much-needed revisions to the County’s full animal ordinances. Commissioner Steve Brown got involved early in the process, and County Administrator Steve Rapson, Animal Control Director Jerry Collins, and County Attorney Dennis Davenport played important roles in providing feedback and input during the process, with the remaining commissioners being updated and receiving copies of the draft ordinances back in the March. While the progress was not yet ready for presentation at an official meeting, Commissioner Randy Ognio voted at the July 13 meeting to stop the ordinance in progress, with the support of Commissioners Oddo, Rousseau, and Maxwell.
Furor among advocates has not died down, as evidenced by their presence at meetings since that night, and Brown requested an item be placed on the agenda asking his fellow commissioners to reconsider stopping the progress being made on the ordinance revisions. For more than two hours, 30 residents filed up to the microphone to have their say.
Leah Thomson, representing the Fayette County No Kill Coalition, recounted DeKalb County’s recent success in building a new shelter, thanks in large part to the efforts of an advisory board, a bone of contention in the ordinance work.
“It’s obvious that the animals in DeKalb County had the benefit and the support of the commissioners and the county staff. Our animals need your support as well,” Thomson said. “They and we are counting on you to do the right thing by implementing policies and ordinances that are forward-thinking and in the best interest of our animals.”
She also touched on talk from some commissioners tying the ordinance into calls for a new shelter, which has not been part of the process.
“This is not about building a new shelter. This is about drafting good policies and ordinances,” she said. “A new, upgraded shelter can come later.”
Rae Coley agreed, noting that a building won’t change what many of the advocates believe are cruel euthanasia policies.
“We have to have sound policies, otherwise it won’t matter that we have a million dollar facility,” she said. “We can pretty up the gas chamber all we want, it won’t do any good.”
Among reasons given by those in opposition was that standard procedure for bringing an ordinance before the Board was not followed. Residents asked that the bickering over procedure be put aside so that the work could be judged on its merits.
“It feels like we’re about to lose this ordinance because of a power struggle that’s going on up here, and nobody in this room cares about the progression. What we care about is where we are now and what has been done and presented to you,” said Abriel Rose. “All we are asking is for you to look at it and discuss it and maybe amend it. Work on it with us.
“I feel like you owe that to your county. This is what the people are asking for.”
Nancy Turk pleaded with the commissioners to ease their stubborn view points and see the value in listening to their constituents.
“There is nothing wrong with listening to others. It is our chance to learn and grow. Not listening and considering leads to regression and stale ideas. The my-way-or-the-highway philosophy is a road that rarely leads to progress,” she said, calling the ordinance review a win-win with a chance for the county to improve their facility at no expense while providing a lifeline for the shelter animals. “Please, if you don’t want to reconsider this proposal for the citizens, do it for the animals.”
In the end, it did nothing to change the Board’s direction.
Brown made the motion, “I’m going to ask if they would reverse the previous vote on July 13 that restricted the access to the staff and county attorney related to the animal ordinance revisions.”
It was met with silence. He got no second on his motion, leaving it dead before it could be discussed on the dais.
The crowd wasn’t as quiet once it became clear the Board was not budging.
“You guys ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”
“Who are you representing?”
Earlier in the evening, Karen Scannell reminded the room that the organization chart for the county places the citizens at the very top.
“You are here to support us,” she said. “You should be proud to live in a community where people do come out and care. We’re asking you to care like we do.
“Why cant you support the efforts of the people who so passionately support our shelter with their own time and money?”
Ed. note: We will have more online and in next week’s paper from the meeting, including the animal shelter update discussion.