April 4, 2018 at 5:30 p.m.

New shelter approved but animal control practices questioned

By HSJ Online [email protected]

Updated: Town officials clarified the town's animal control ordinance and rules governing private use of town vehicles.

The Hope Town Council took steps last night to honor former Councilwoman Paula Pollitt with a new animal shelter in town.

But one resident raised concerns and accusations about the town's animal control practices.

Pollitt died in June 2015 while serving as president of the Town Council. One of her passions was the training and use of therapy dogs at Columbus Regional Hospital and other facilities. Town officials brought up a plan after her death to build a new set of kennels shelter for animals at the Hope Utilities office yard. Animals picked up around town are currently held for a few days before being turned over to Bartholomew County's Humane Society.

Town Manager J.T. Doane brought a proposal before the council last night to improve the plight of stray animals by turning the former well house on Jackson Street into an animal shelter, named in Pollitt's memory.

He said several other options had been considered with a cost estimate of about $24,195 to build a new shelter in the lagoons area. He recommended that the well house could be used instead, at a cost not to exceed the same $24,195.

The new shelter would include fenced runs for animals and outdoor access through doggie doors. As an added benefit, the town already owns the building and has been paying utilities and other upkeep on the largely unused building, Doane said.

"The building itself is obsolete to us," Doane said. "For the purpose it once served, it is no longer being used for that. So it is a building that is (already) there. It has water, it has electric, it has a drain already built in. With some cosmetic changes to make it an animal shelter, that would definitely be our best option."

The council approved the request unanimously, but resident Annessa Thayer asked to speak on the proposal and was turned down by Council President Clyde Compton.

Later in Monday's agenda, Thayer was slated to speak and she took the town to task for animal care practices that she claimed amounted to animal abuse and theft in some cases.

Thayer accused the town of keeping animals only a few days, instead of the required five days under county ordinances. Town officials pointed out later that the town has its own animal control ordinance it follows, a new version of which was approved earlier this year.

Further, she claimed that many cats that were picked up off of town streets were "adopted out" by dumping them on area farms. She cited a cousin who, she said, lets the town dump the cats on his farm because coyotes will just eat them.

She also accused the town of stealing one of her pet dogs and of allowing personal use of the town's animal control vehicle.

Town officials said later that there is no town rule being violated by the personal use of the vehicle.

As the accusations continued, the conversation grew heated, until Compton told Thayer that she had exceeded her five minutes of time.

"Has it been five minutes?" Compton asked.

"Diane (Burton) went over," Thayer responded.

"She is a public official," Compton said.

"And?" Thayer asked.

"And you are not," Compton said.

"Just because you don't want to hear what I have to say?" Thayer asked.

"I have heard it and I have heard enough!" Compton said. "You keep going over the same damn subject over and over again. She is driving the van, OK so what? Now finish up and sit down. Now!"

Compton said she could not be told to sit down and that she would stand as long as she wanted.

"No you won't, I will have you taken out of here," Compton said.

Thayer then spent the rest of the meeting standing along the wall behind the microphone.

During the public comment period at the end of the meeting, resident JoEllen Seright chastised the council and Compton for the handling of Thayer's concerns.

"I think you did a lousy job with the Thayer girl," Seright said. "I think you need to look into it. She had lots of good information. I think you blew her off and I didn't like that."

After the meeting, Compton said that Thayer and the town have had long-running confrontations over several issues. He said he would ask Doane and Town Marshal Matt Tallent to look into Thayer's complaints and see if they were valid.

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