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Lebanon to end animal control agreement with Mt. Juliet
Oct 24, 2005 12:00 am
October 22, 2005
The City of Mt. Juliet will apparently soon be on its own when it comes to housing stray pets, the result of an incident in Lebanon's animal shelter which left a dog seriously injured.
Lebanon Public Safety Commissioner Billy Weeks said the city sent a letter to Mt. Juliet City Manager Rob Shearer on Thursday informing him the end is nearing for an informal agreement between the two cities on housing stray pets.
The letter – penned by City Attorney Andy Wright – tells Mt. Juliet the agreement will end in 30 days, apparently throwing the growing West Wilson city into the animal control business.
"We don't intend to leave them high and dry," Weeks said. "The letter gives them 30 days, and we're certainly willing to work with them on transitioning this thing smoothly."
Wright's letter begins by noting the "informal agreement" on housing animals between the two cities "has been of late, a topical issue" and says a "general consensus amongst" officials – including Weeks and Mayor Don Fox – is "that the liability issues for both of our cities have become too broad to allow this practice to continue."
"Therefore, I must regretfully inform you that after 30 days from the date of this letter, the city of Lebanon will no longer accept any more animals from the City of Mt. Juliet at its animal control facility," the letter said. "The 30 days is to allow you to make alternative arrangements for your animals, during which period the city … will continue to accept your animals."
An attempt to contact Shearer was unsuccessful Thursday.
Lebanon's animal control operation fell under public scrutiny earlier this week when a black Labrador named Zania was apparently injured in a fracas with other dogs at the city's pound.
The dog – seriously injured but said to be recovering – was picked up by Mt. Juliet police and taken to the pound under an agreement which has been in place between the two cities for several years.
Mt. Juliet officials have maintained their officers acted properly after placing the dog – the subject of at least one prior complaint – in a pen with three other canines, saying an officer remained on the scene until he was satisfied the animal was safe.
The dog was then found bloodied by Lebanon Animal Control Officer Josh Greer, who Weeks has said examined the animal and elected against seeking immediate treatment, though he reportedly told a co-worker the dog should be taken to a veterinarian the next morning if the animal's condition did not improve.
Greer was later reprimanded for failing to seek immediate medical attention for the dog, and Weeks vowed a "methodical" review of the city's animal control operation.
And the first result of that review was to bring to an end the agreement between the two municipalities, Weeks said.
"There was a lot of serious discussion about it, and in the end there was a determination that there is just too much potential liability for both cities for us to continue doing it this way," Weeks said.
He said Mt. Juliet did not contribute monetarily to operating the shelter, though officers are frequently sent to help Lebanon animal control workers with maintenance.
"They've been good about sending people to help clean up the pens, which is a lot of work just on its own, and they've helped us with keeping them fed and watered," he said, adding local dog food manufacturer Nutro supplies food to the city for free.
The city's budget for the current fiscal year earmarks $65,000 for animal control, he noted, though he emphasized money wasn't the driving force behind the decision to stop housing Mt. Juliet's strays.
"The bottom line, after discussions with several city officials and with our attorney, was that it all came down to liability," Weeks said. "The way it's being handled now leaves too much potential liability for both cities, there's no doubt about that."
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.