Tuscaloosa sheriff's office could take over animal shelter

If some Tuscaloosa County Commissioners have their way, the Sheriff's office may take over Metro Animal Shelter.{} The sudden announcement came during Monday's commission meeting when commissioners voted to warn current operators of the shelter that the commission does not intend to renew its contract.

After the Assistant Shelter director, Jennifer Earp said she wasn't necessarily shocked.{} She's worked for Metro Animal Shelter for 15 years. "Every time the contract comes up every three years there's always a proposal for someone to do it better," Earp said.

However, Earp was a bit stunned that commissioners are considering letting the Sheriff's office take over the shelter operations.{} Commissioner Jerry Tingle says they're mainly concerned about the shelter's euthanasia rate.{} "The number of animals being put down and that number is very high," said Tingle.

Tingle didn't have rate.{} ABC 33/40 asked the members of the Sheriff's office about the number immediately after their proposal to commissioners to take over.{} None of the three members including Chief Deputy Ron Abernathy would discuss the euthanasia rate at the shelter.{} But, outside the meeting Earp did. "Over the last couple of years our euthanasia rate has actually declined. We'll be happy to share those statistics for any one who wants to come by the shelter and see that."

Based on that assertion, we asked commissioners what difference would law enforcement at the shelter make.{} Commissioner Tingle responded saying, "You'd have someone in charge all the way up to the commission level. You'd have a lot more control on it. They're going to have a Division Commander down there...a lieutenant in charge. And they'll be able to work inmates out of the jail."

But, the proposal won't save the county any money...which leaves shelter workers asking -- why change.{} "Any day's a learning experience. I just invite anyone to come down to the shelter and see how we've improved over the years. To see what has worked -- at least consider that."

Since both the cities of Tuscaloosa and Northport contribute funding to the Animal Shelters, county commissioner must ask those cities to go along with the change.{} That hasn't happened yet.{} Leaders in Tuscaloosa and Northport have said they have not received any complaints.

We're told the county's contract with Metro Animal Shelter ends in September.