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Animal Issues Go Unanswered

Despite vocal worries from animal advocates, Lane County commissioners voted 3-2 to award a contract to run the animal services shelter to Greenhill Humane Society. However, there is no actual contract yet, something that concerned Commissioners Pete Sorenson and Rob Handy, who dissented on the vote.

“This fits the pattern of what seems to be happening with decision-making,” Handy says of the vote. He says earlier in the process when the county sent out its request for proposals (RFP) animal welfare advocates, including some who serve on the county’s animal services advisory committee, wanted a hand in writing the proposal. Handy made a motion for the board to have input or review the RFP, he says, but it also failed 3-2. 

“The board majority was basically comfortable with bureaucrats and Administrator [Liane] Richardson writing it,” he says, adding that the June 25 vote on authorizing Richardson to deal with the Greenhill contract was a similar dynamic.

Greenhill Executive Director Cary Lieberman says, “Everyone is still hopeful for a smooth transition on July 1, but we still don’t have a contract drafted with Lane County.”

The animal advisory committee and animal welfare advocates have brought up questions about the transition that remain unanswered about transparency, access to information and cost. They have requested an oversight committee for the shelter, as Lane County Animal Services (LCAS) has had in the past, but have been told that on Eugene’s part the Police Commission will serve as oversight.

Handy says there is little or no interest from Commissioners Jay Bozievich, Sid Leiken or Faye Stewart in having oversight or involvement. Bozievich has told EW he will only comment to the paper on county issues if a public records request is made. The county charges for public records requests. 

One concern that has been raised about Greenhill is the euthanasia policy. LCAS had largely gone “no kill,” only euthanizing pets if there is no other option due to illness or severe behavioral issues. Tamara Barnes of the Cat’s Pajamas Rescue cited a Facebook post by a Greenhill volunteer that says kittens with ringworm are killed due to lack of foster homes. “The animal has to not only be treatable, but the treatment possible,” the post says.

Barnes wrote in an email to the commissioners and the Eugene mayor and City Council that this is a “typical kill shelter excuse. So if other animals need a foster home and they don’t have it, are they killed too? This is not only morally reprehensible, but not Save Adoptable and Treatable Animals and certainly not No Kill.”

Lieberman says Greenhill has successfully treated many ringworm cases, but “unfortunately there were some that we were not able to treat.” He says ringworm is a challenging disease and that in a “shelter environment, which is often more stressful and may be populated with a number of animals with compromised health, it spreads easily and is often considered untreatable in that environment.” Lieberman’s full comments on the issue are at eugeneweekly.com/blogs

The city of Eugene is working on a FAQ (frequently asked questions) document regarding the transition and Greenhill is working on that with them, Lieberman says. “I do not know if Lane County is working on something similar at this time,” he says.

Handy says that after a decade of progress with saving adoptable and treatable animals and community involvement and standards around how animal care is practiced the county has given no assurances as to how things will move forward in this new model being proposed.