CHARLESTON — A group of concerned citizens are asking residents for their support in raising awareness of the ongoing issues at the Coles County Animal Shelter.
“I just care about the quality of life for the animals in Coles County,” said Latonya Davies, owner of All For Them, Latonya’s Pet Care Services. “I’m here to speak up and make sure these animals in these shelters aren’t forgotten.”
In response, the group plans to attend the Coles County Health and Safety Committee meeting at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 22 at the Coles County Courthouse, 651 Jackson Ave. in Charleston, to present findings that the shelter is underfunded, understaffed. , and who need help.
Davies, who has hundreds of clients in and around the county, said he hoped to urge the committee and county council to use COVID-19 relief funds to help fund the shelter.
Davies said she received phone calls about allegations and some issues happening at the shelter, which prompted her to learn more about their situation and partner with Melissa Brown Burton-Sanders. , a former director of the shelter.
Burton-Sanders, owner of Topa Farms, which shelters stray and wild animals, said she ran the shelter in 2002 for about two years and knows the work is about people, especially when they have to put down animals. for no other reason than they don’t have space or can’t find accommodation.
Recently, Burton-Sanders said she was appointed as the shelter’s acting director from September 22 to October 26, 2021, when current director Julie Deters was placed on administrative leave for six weeks.
The Gazette & Times-Courier Journal contacted Deters for an interview but she did not respond to the request until this article was published.
While there, Burton-Sanders said she was impressed with the way the staff pulled together and worked day-to-day, but still noticed issues with the shelter being understaffed and not having enough space for the number of animals brought.
“One of the goals we are trying to achieve is to get more animals adopted and less euthanized through rescues, volunteer organizations and transporting them to other shelters because they have a higher euthanasia rate than people would like to see,” Burton-Sanders said. “Especially with the pandemic, there has been a huge influx of returned animals that are unspayed and neutered and the shelter needs a lot of help.”
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The shelter also lost its primary means of spaying and spaying animals after the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine suspended its spaying and spaying program that provided low-cost services to partner shelters, said Burton-Sanders.
Spaying and spaying of animals is necessary for the shelter because the state requires all animals housed to be spayed and neutered in order to be adopted from the shelter, Burton-Sanders said.
During her tenure as acting director, Burton-Sanders said she would only euthanize animals if it was the worst case scenario and instead ask adopters to pay upfront to have them spayed and neutered. the animal.
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Burton-Sanders said another problem is the ongoing problem of feral cat colonies occupying the county and the shelter not having the resources to trap, neuter and release them into the wild, ensuring that they do not reproduce.
“If a cat comes in and is deemed unadoptable, either for health reasons or feral, it will most likely be euthanized,” Burton-Sanders said.
Outside of staffing, space and program issues, Burton-Sanders said the shelter was unable to receive the Better Cities For Pets grant for Mars Petcare because they weren’t allowing for required inspections and audits. to be considered for the grant.
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“Julie is a wonderful human being, she really cares about these animals, but she’s between a rock and a hard place,” Burton-Sanders said. “She’s in an understaffed and understaffed facility and having been in her place, I don’t know how she’s done for so long.”
For now, Burton-Sanders said she continues to catch and release feral cats while housing around 70 others on her farm that she hopes will find new homes on other farms as barn cats. .
Davies said they hope to bring the issues to light and are currently in the process of receiving 501(c)3 nonprofit status to receive donations for the shelter, but for now, they do it themselves.
“It’s been a long talk and a late topic, but now is the time to talk,” Davies said. “It’s time to make some positive changes.”
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