Animal rescue, shelter dominate county council meeting

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During their meeting Tuesday, Anderson County Council gave final approval to the new county travel policy, approval to an ordinance banning the designer drugs known as bath salts and synthetic cannabinoids and approved the redistricting plan for the coming elections. The issue of the animal shelter once again dominated the Council meeting.

Following a presentation by a representative of the Upstate Animal Rescue of South Carolina to address allegations made against her by some members of Council, the Council voted to give third reading approval to an ordinance abolishing the animal shelter advisory committee.

That ordinance, however, was amended at second reading in an effort to save the committee; so that the final vote actually didn’t abolish the committee but simply suspended it until January, while new guidelines and duties are established for the members.

While delaying the formal end of the controversial committee, the vote in fact leaves little doubt as to the fate of the committee. County ordinance requires that all ad hoc committees appointed by the Council be appointed at the first meeting in January. Unless a majority of Council approves that committee it will not be reestablished.

Councilman Tom Allen, who first proposed abolishing the committee, saw his proposed ordinance so fundamentally amended that he ended up voting against it. He added that if the committee is reinstated, it will be formulated in accordance with recent changes in the requirements for committee members.

Those changes would make it more difficult, if not impossible, to return some of the original committee’s more controversial members to the committee, making it very probable that if the committee is re-appointed, its membership will be materially different than it was.

During her defense of the animal rescue, Kelly Blair provided Council with a series of websites and links to sites where she said they could find the information that they needed to “go on a fact finding mission instead of dealing in half-truths. You have been lied to.”

Blair said in 2009 her organization was contacted by the county which had been ordered by the courts to hold approximately 200 dogs as evidence in an animal abuse case. The numbers overwhelmed the shelter and they sought help. Blair’s organization responded, accepting approximately a third of the animals.

They faced immediate medical and monetary challenges in caring for the animals and applied for an emergency grant, which they received. Allegations have been made that they received a grant of $67,000, which Blair denied, adding that the figures the Council had included the organizations’ entire revenues, from grants, donations and other sources.

Councilman Francis Crowder was questioning her about some figures which he said had “miraculously appeared” in front of him just minutes before, while the meeting was in session. Once Blair explained that the figures included total revenues, and that the figures Crowder had actually came from the year before the court ordered seizure of the animals, Crowder said he would withhold any further questions. He seemed genuinely perplexed about where the numbers he had came from.

Blair also responded to a question by Chairman Dunn by saying that her organization lost $40,000 in caring for the animals. “You have gotten a bum rap, Ms. Blair. Another animal rescue operation has on several occasions received funds from certain Council members from their recreation accounts. But you were given a bill.”

That bill was for supplies and materials received from the animal shelter while housing all the dogs. Instead of fighting the bill, Blair said her organization just decided to pay it. “I wouldn’t do it again after the way we have been lied about and dragged through the dirt in this county.”

Councilwoman Cindy Wilson, who has been pressing the issue of the animal shelter, asked if Blair’s group was still pulling animals from the shelter, adding that since the group still owed more than $500 they were prohibited from doing so. Blair responded that they had taken only animals needing medical foster care, to which Wilson responded that she didn’t think that was allowed either.