New director takes over Animal Control next week
by Brian Anderson
banderson@annistonstar.com
Dec 04, 2013 | 5181 views |  0 comments | 56 56 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Calhoun County Animal Control will have its third new director this year after a new board took over operations Tuesday, laying off all the shelter’s employees in the process.

Jane Cunningham, chairwoman of the Cheaha Regional Humane Society, which took over Animal Control from the county on Tuesday, said all five full-time employees will be paid through Jan. 10, and those who qualify will receive a one-time holiday pay increase. Cunningham said all of the employees have been encouraged to reapply for their jobs with the new board of directors.

According to Calhoun County Commission Chairman Rudy Abbott, Director Shannon Shanks chose not to reapply for her job. Cunningham said the board of directors has replaced her with Angie Persch, a former director of the Calhoun County Humane Society’s Animal Shelter in Anniston. Persch will take the position on Monday, and declined to talk to The Star until that time.

The dismissal of employees conflicts with what the commission and Cheaha Regional Humane Society previously told The Star about the takeover — that it wouldn’t affect the staff. Abbott said Wednesday the commission had no say in the matter.

“That’s their call,” Abbott said about Cheaha’s board of directors. “They have every legal right to hire or fire who they choose.”

Cunningham said she hopes the board will work with the employees as it assesses its needs. She said she did not know how many employees the group will hire.

“The county has been very generous,” Cunningham said about the decision to continue to pay employees into January. “I don’t know too many organizations that would have done that.”

Attempts to reach Shanks on Wednesday were unsuccessful, but the former director previously told The Star she was unhappy with the county’s decision to allow a nonprofit group to take over Animal Control. Shanks was hired in April by the county on the recommendation of the Animal Control Advisory Board. The County Commission appointed that board in 2012, after law enforcement investigated claims of animal abuse at the shelter. Most board members resigned in October after they learned the commission planned to give control of the shelter to the Cheaha Regional Humane Society.

The previous board appointed Dani LaPlant in January. She resigned two months later, and Shanks, then the assistant director, was hired in April.

The County Commission agreed to a contract with Cheaha Regional Humane Society in October. Abbott said the reason for the takeover was to save the county money. Animal Control was budgeted for $220,000 for the 2013 fiscal year.

Cunningham said Wednesday with the takeover ongoing, the center will be closed this week. She said starting next week, all adoption fees will be waived through Jan. 15 as the new management works on operating procedures.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.

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