By BOB PALMER,
With all dogs removed from the control of the Humane Society of Marion County, the group has ceased operations as questions about operations and finances abound. All of the dogs discovered at the Humane Society’s shelter off SH 49 in rain swept, feces laden cages have been adopted, fostered or transferred to Marshall Animal Hospital (MAH) as of Saturday.
On Monday the Humane Society of Marion County announced it had suspended operations. As the crisis unfolded last week, the Humane Society accepted an offer from Marshall Animal Hospital late Friday to treat, house and assist in adoption of the remaining dogs rescued from what authorities called “grievous” conditions.
Volunteers began moving dogs to Marshall Friday night. The relocation operation was completed Saturday with all dogs from both the SH 49 and Jayne’s Farm & Feed facilities relocated as monetary donations came in, including a $1,000 gift from a donor in Mississippi. The Marshall Animal Hospital reports receiving 52 dogs in total with four already adopted.
The Jimplecute witnessed an anonymous donor guarantee funds to pay for the $350/dog cost after HSMC depletes all of their funds. The HSMC board president pledged to do after HSMC bills are paid, and all outside donations are exhausted.
Outside donations were almost at $5,000 as of Wednesday. Upwards of $28,000 may be needed to cover this week’s cost for all of HSMC’s original 78 dogs. The decision to accept assistance from Marshall Animal Hospital followed a protest by shelter volunteers Thursday and Friday.
Several people who stepped forward to help rescue dogs at the Humane Society of Marion County facility for the past week turned in their keys the Jaynes facility in protest over what they perceived as foot dragging by the Society’s board.
HSMC legal advisor Bob Avery said Friday the board believed the volunteers were “making demands” and attempting to “take over.” “I think the board needs to come forward and be honest,” volunteer Christie Woodson told the Jimp. They keep promising transparency, and we need to work together. We need a number of how many dogs are still needing homes. We need a number of how much money the board has after Caroline went through what she did. It truly looks like more time is being spent by the board trying to do damage control.
When more board members are in front of the camera, and not out helping, it doesn’t look right.” Connie Cunningham told the Jimplecute. “As far as quitting, I and Laura Romine, and her grandson, picked up shovels and started cleaning kennels on Dec. 1. We were knee deep in filth, I was never offered a job. I was a volunteer.”
It was not the hard work that discouraged Cunningham. “A bunch of people I’ve never seen before, who have never touched a shovel, are now in charge,” Cunningham said. “It’s all gone crazy.” Melissa Lee, office manager with Marshall Animal Hospital, explained for $350 the animals will be spayed and neutered as well as given shots.
“All I can tell you is it would include a lot of work that will show if there’s anything wrong with their liver values,” Lee said. “Internally, it would pay for the heartworm test, a fecal exam to make sure there’s no worms in the soil that we need to treat and then a rabies vaccine, everything they need including trimming their toenails.”
Lee said the service normally costs $475. Lee continued, “When we were there [the Jayne’s facility] (Friday), they’re standing in kennels. At our facility, I just feel like our staff there, they get paid to take them out several times a day and play with them. It would help socialize them. ”
Avery said while the Marshall Animal Hospital offer sounded interesting, the board was concerned about what would be the ongoing fees if a dog was not placed after a week. “If it needs to go longer than that,” Lee said, “we’re not going to kick them out.”
Mayor Haggard said Wednesday a subpoena he requested has produced the bank records of HSMC at Northeast Texas Credit Union. “I think it is my job to find out where that $13,000 (the city paid Dixie for animal control services) went,” Haggard said. Saying he has not had time to fully examine the check register, Haggar said he has not spotted any “red flags.” Haggar added, “the content is very ambiguous.”
On Dec. 11, Caroline Wedding, founding director of HSMC who was ousted by the board after the discovery of stark conditions at the shelter, turned over $4,800 to Avery at Northeast Texas Credit Union of which she was the only signator.
The remaining balance was reported to be $200-300. The credit union staff confirmed for Avery that board minutes would be required to change the signatories on the account. Avery could not confirm today if that had been done or what names were on the HSMC account at Citizens National Bank.
Haggard said that at a HSMC board meeting he attended Monday, the group agreed to send their remaining funds, about $10,000, to Marshall Animal Hospital to help pay for the treatment of the dogs taken from the shelter. Marshall Animal Hospital confirmed funds had arrived Wednesday afternoon.
The Jimplecute has asked for copies of the board minutes naming the present board in addition to bank records or an accounting of funds. The only records filed with the Secretary of State’s office show Caroline Wedding, the recently dismissed operator of the shelter, Christina Wedding of Marshall and Sher Thompson of Avinger as directors.
Avery said board resolutions are required, and Jimplecute legal consultant Steven Shaw confirmed, to access bank records for him to research how Wedding spent money donated to HSMC and paid by the City of Jefferson for animal control services. Board minutes documenting changes in board members are not legally required to be filed the state.
Tidying up board resolutions has taken a backseat for the last two weeks to caring for the dogs, Avery said. To date, the Jimplecute has received minutes taken by board member Mary Bird at their Aug. 9 meeting. The record of the meeting shows a previous meeting in April did not occur because of lack of a quorum. Wedding reported 91 dogs were in HSMC’s custody, and she anticipated the city was going to increase the amount of their contract.
“Dixie Humane Society of Marion County
Date: Aug. 9, 2018 at 10:00 a.m.
Location: Catholic Church Office
Humane Society Director Caroline Wedding, called the meeting to order. Members present were Dusty and David Axe, Tammy Cornett, Brooke LaFleur, and Mary Bird. Absent: Missy DeLong.
Minutes: The meeting minutes of November 2017 were approved per MOTION and second. The April 13, 2018 meeting did not have a quorum.
City Council Meetings: Caroline requested that board members be present for the City Council meeting on Tuesday, August 21 at 5:30 p.m. According to City Manager, Kevin Huckabee, the city wants to increase our contract and appropriate funds for the building project. Possibly the Council may want to discuss the “cat” problem. Director’s Report: Caroline listed the assets an accomplishments of the Humane Society since the 501c3 was issued on March 7, 2007. We have about 91 dogs at the shelter now including 20 puppies less than 5 months old. Made in The Shade Boutique will host a “Pup A Rama” on August 25 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.”
The Jimplecute also made a Freedom of Information Act request of the City of Jefferson and Marion County for records of transactions between the two government entities and Wedding or the Humane Society. The City of Jefferson has provided the Jimp with copies of the $13,000 check made out on Oct. 25 to the “Dixie Humane Society.” City records show Humane Society of Marion County was paid a total of $29,000 in 2017 and 2018.
The contract signed Oct 16 between the City and Dixie Humane Society designated the society as the entity responsible for collecting animals in the city and receiving animals picked up by officers. “DHS agrees to feed, provide, water, and humanely care for all animals sheltered,” the contract, signed by Wedding and Mayor Haggard, stipulated. Wedding has not been available for comment since Monday, Dec 10.
For Weddings comments in an interview earlier this month, see that story beginning on Page 1. The City of Jefferson produced documents showing Jefferson paid the Humane Society of Marion County in addition to the $13,000 on Oct. 25, $4,000 on June 20, 2018, Dec. 12, 2017, July 5, 2017, and on Jan. 5, 2017.
The organization was also paid $225 on Jan. 8, 2016, $8,000 on Jan. 8, 2016, $450 on Nov. 18, 2016, $525 on Oct. 20, 2015, $675 on Oct. 2, 2015, $300 on Aug. 6, 2015, $550 on July 15, 2015, $425 on May 15, 2015, $450 on April 21, 2015, $1,125 on March 6, 2015, $150 on Jan. 23, 2015. The city produced no animal control records for the period between 2009 and 2015. City animal control was reported to be handled in partnership with the City of Marshall.
In 2009 the city paid Jefferson Animal Clinic $45 on Sept. 15, $327 on Aug. 14, $60 on July 13, $65 on June 15, $275 on May 14, $437 on April 13, $20 on March 13, $60 on Feb. 11, and $360 Jan. 13. Marion County also paid HSMC $3,000 on Sept. 26, 2016 for dog pens for quarantine area. The only other animal care expense incurred by the county was $1,000 paid to an area veterinarian for animal storage when circus animals were confiscated in 2010.
Jefferson Police Chief Gary Amburn said Tuesday his department is pursuing criminal charges in the matter. JPD officers were seen on the ground there late last week. Crime scene tapes could also be seen.
Amburn explained the investigation got off to a slow start but his department was now fully engaged and would be thorough. “We had to look at the situation then figure out what to do,” Amburn said. “We’re not going to cover anything up,” Amburn said last week.
“We found dirty kennels, found dead animals. It was a mess,” Amburn told the city council Tuesday. “We are going through the process to file a charge with the district attorney’s office.” Amburn said he will ask for the matter to be taken before the grand jury, but he has reservations.
“I don’t think Caroline Wedding is mentally capable of standing trial,” Amburn said. “Still we will go through the right process. We are going to go by the letter of the law.” Humane Society representatives say many dogs have been adopted.
Sketchy records indicate 78 dogs were originally found at the SH 49 shelter. There were 52 dogs taken to Marshall Animal Hospital. That leaves 27 dogs who are assumed to have been adopted or fostered. former Jayne’s Farm & Feed Store off US 59 provided shelter on an interim basis. Jaynes furnished the building rent-free to HSMC.
A copy of the paperwork HSMC provided adopters during the last few days
the 78 dogs were in their custody in Jefferson.
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