Vidalia officials: ‘A lot of misinformation out there’ about future of town’s animal shelter

Published 5:34 pm Wednesday, June 19, 2024

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VIDALIA, La. – The mayor and police chief pushed back on Wednesday against “a lot of misinformation out there” about the future of the city’s animal shelter.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” said Mayor Buz Craft. “The Town of Vidalia and the administration or council have not made any decision to make the shelter a ‘kill shelter.’”

Craft cited an unsourced and widely circulated social media post that reported the Town of Vidalia is turning its existing animal shelter into a kill shelter at the end of the month, prompting outrage among commenters about the atrocity of a kill shelter.

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“I’ve not had one citizen reach out to me, but they’ve all been commenting on social media,” Craft said.

He said Deedee Roberts, who has overseen the city’s animal shelter for more than eight years, is retiring, and Police Chief Joey Merrill will assume responsibility for operations. While the council has not finalized any policies, Merrill and Craft said the goal is to operate the facility as a dog pound rather than a long-term shelter.

“If we pick up a dog, we’re going to try and find the owner,” Merrill said. “If we can’t, then we’re going to try and adopt the dog out or find another shelter to take the dog. Deedee is working with me to help identify other shelters, some of them out of state.”

Merrill said he has not contacted or confirmed agreements with any local shelters at this time.

When asked to take over the shelter’s operation, Merrill’s only request was that he wanted an “empty facility,” citing that some of the dogs in the current shelter have been housed there for more than a year.

While Roberts and others have been on-site to man the shelter during the day and interact with the animals, the police department cannot provide that interaction. It, therefore, will shift to a more “dog pound” type operation.

“My goal is not to have to euthanize any animal either,” Merrill said. “But I don’t think a municipality needs to run a shelter.”

Citing the fact that the town currently picks up “very few dogs that don’t belong to somebody,” Merrill envisions a place where dogs that have been picked up for roaming streets, becoming a nuisance or even biting someone to be housed “until a shelter can take them or their owners can be found.”

However, both Merrill and Craft said in cases of dogs that are sick or vicious and unsafe, humane euthanasia in cooperation with a veterinarian would be used.

“The word ‘kill shelter’ is really not a fair term for people to use on Facebook,” Craft said, adding that Merrill is gathering policies and procedures from other municipalities to help craft the new policies for Vidalia, and the council will give the public input before any policies are finalized.

“Anything else out there at this point is a lot of misinformation,” he said.

The town council meets again on July 9 and likely would consider policy changes at that point.