Cheaha Dogs

Hershey, one of 40 dogs on a euthanasia list at Cheaha Regional Humane Society in 2013, looks out from his kennel. (Kirsten Fiscus/The Anniston Star/file)

Cheaha Regional Humane Society has failed to provide the Calhoun County Commission with documents required by its contract to run the county animal control center for several years, according to county officials.

The most recent contract between the two entities is from 2016, and requires Cheaha to submit annual financial statements within 60 days of the end of each fiscal year, then provide a version reviewed by a certified public accounting firm as soon as each year’s audit is complete.

The contract also requires, along with other financial records, twice-a-year summaries of Cheaha's “activity log,” to document every animal admitted to the center and its ultimate fate.

The Star requested those records from the county, but county administrator Mark Tyner said the only available documents were financial reports from fiscal years 2013 to 2017, which the county provided. The activity logs and other financial documents required every six months were unavailable.

“We have no record of receiving this information to date,” Tyner said by email Monday.

Cheaha Board Chairwoman Jane Cunningham declined comment Monday, and directed inquiry to Charles Turner, an attorney for Cheaha Regional.

“We’ve complied with the contract and provided the county with all the information they’ve requested,” Turner said by phone Monday. “Anything else they want, all they need to do is ask.”

The contract says all the records it requires “shall be subject to inspection and review” by county officials “upon its request.” In other places, the contract describes the specific documents and says Cheaha must “provide” them to the county at certain times.

Asked by The Star for the records, Cunningham said she would make them available in about a week. She cited work to prepare the facility for transfer to the county and adopt out remaining pets as her immediate focus.

The county managed its animal control center on Morrisville Road until 2013, when it contracted with Cheaha Regional. Soon after taking office, the new commission voted in November to terminate the contract with a 90-day notice, sparking a community discussion about the county’s intentions for the facility. County residents filled the commission’s chambers during its next meeting to air concerns that the facility would become a “slaughterhouse” under the county’s control.

The contention about public information highlights communication problems between the two camps, problems which make clarifying and understanding their arguments more difficult, especially for residents who want to make their own record requests.

Commissioner Eli Henderson said the documentation issues have been consistent throughout the relationship between Cheaha and the county.  

“It’s been a problem for us all along,” he said. “They never would provide us the information we initially required in the contract.”

Commission Chairman Fred Wilson declined comment on the document issue on Monday, but said that the county still plans to resume control of the facility March 1. He offered to meet with members of the public individually to answer questions.

“If they want to talk about it, they can put in appointments and come talk one-on-one,” he said. “I’ll be available.”

The financial statements the county provided The Star show Cheaha’s growth from its establishment, spending approximately $200,000 each fiscal year in funding provided by the county, plus more money raised from donors, grants and its own operations.

After its founding in 2013, Cheaha's total assets grew from $84,555 to $369,835 at the end of 2017, according to the provided financial documents. Much of the jump came from the growth of the nonprofit's reserve cash fund by about $130,000 from 2015 to 2016.

Cunningham said the increased funding came from donors and fundraisers, including one in 2015 that raised upward of $27,000. She said Cheaha’s costs have gone up as the nonprofit has taken on more tasks such as treating sick animals, having them microchipped and getting them heartworm tests, which helps market the animals to rescue groups.

“We do a lot more than we used to,” she said.

She noted that county funding hasn’t increased over the years. According to the financial statements,, the county’s annual contribution decreased from $204,000 to $193,800 in 2016.

Assistant Metro Editor Ben Nunnally: 256-235-3560.