By Fred Woods
Opelika Observer

At last week’s Lee County Commission meeting, a standing- room-only group of citizens turned out to express their concerns about the county’s animal control/spay-neuter program, which just completed its first full year of operation. A number of citizens, including several veterinarians, expressed their concerns over a reported high euthanization rate (51.1 % for FY2017) for the county, low visibility of the county program, difficulty for owners to locate and recover pets and the related low adoption rate for dogs and cats.
Dr. Elizabeth Yorke, professor in the Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine, set the tone for the mostly positive discussion with a reasoned power point presentation outlining her ideas as to how to strengthen the present county program. Yorke was the first of a succession of speakers to propose a task force, composed of veterinarians, animal control personnel and pet owners to look at financial requirements, grant funding opportunities and manpower requirements for improving the present county program.
The Lee County Spay-Neuter Program is jointly administered by Dr. Buddy Bruce (Animal Health Center) and Drs. Colley and Gary Hunt (Opelika Animal Hospital) under the supervision of Lee County Director of Environmental Services John MacDonald. The county has a grand total of two animal control officers, one of whom has reportedly been on sick leave for a number of weeks.
Bruce, Colley and Hunt were the only respondents to a request for proposals issued by the county, submitting a joint proposal. The program is funded by a $15,000 contribution from each of Lee County’s four larger governmental jurisdictions–Lee County, Auburn, Opelika and Smiths Station.
It appears that most citizens’ concerns could be addressed by increased funding and manpower, to publicize where owners can recover pets, to put animal pictures on Facebook and/or a web site along with other relevant animal data and identifying and securing grants and other funds for the program.
The commission also adopted an updated, streamlined county seal which will be enlarged and affixed to the wall of the new Courthouse Annex, now under construction. The old seal was judged too cluttered with detail to be used for this purpose.
In other actions, the commission:
• Heard first readings (nominations) for vacancies on the Lee County Recreation Board (1), the East Alabama Health Care Authority Board (3), the Lee County 9-1-1 Board (2) and the Loachapoka Water Authority Board (1),
• Voted to lower the speed limit, in response to citizens’ requests, from 45 to 35 mph on a portion of Lee Road 246, between LR 179 and LR 935 and a portion of LR 035,
• Approved Revenue Commissioner Oline Price’s Report of Litigations and Insolvencies in preparation for the report’s submission to the Alabama Department of Revenue,
• Approved Sigma Nu Fraternity’s application to adopt one mile of Lee Road 50, which lies within the Auburn city limits, and
• Authorized Commission Chairman English to execute a Federal Aid Agreement for the widening and resurfacing of 2.8 miles of Lee Road 95 (Stonewall Road).