Troubled Mississippi animal shelter closed; dogs were once kept in kennels too small to let them stand

Published 9:46 pm Monday, March 8, 2021

A troubled Mississippi animal shelter was shut down this week after a criminal investigation and efforts to clean up the facility.

During the monthly board meeting of Mississippi Critterz, City liaison and Oxford, Mississippi Alderman Janice Antonow announced future plans for the shelter were unclear.

“We’re going to take a break from being involved in shelter services for a while,” Antonow said. “We don’t have any specific plans for the shelter. We are going to close down, at least temporarily.”

The announcement comes after weeks of criminal investigation and clean-up efforts at the shelter, which is managed by Mississippi Critterz through a partnership with the City of Oxford and Lafayette County.

Since the investigation began, the City has halted all animal surrenders at the shelter, and several transports of animals have reportedly taken place.

However, shelter board members declined to provide some information regarding where the animals were taken or which organizations facilitated said transports. They did say a transport of 12 dogs took place on Monday, and that they were taken to the Humane Society of the Delta before being relocated in partnership with the Bissell Foundation.

The shelter was previously “inundated” with cats, according to Board President Aynslee Smith, but several cats have been recently transported by Kitty City, an organization out of Memphis.

“We cannot release the names of our rescue partners due to the relationship we have with them,” Smith said.

Eleven cats and 69 dogs remain at the shelter, according to Mississippi Critterz secretary Caitlan Covington.

Pertaining to the March 4 visit by veterinarian Dr. Philip Bushby and the lack of records he cited in a statement, board members did not respond to questions.

Smith did state that the issue of dogs being kept in cages so small that they could not fully stand had been resolved.

When questioned about now-former shelter Director Jenn Peterman’s absence during the veterinary inspection, Smith stated that Peterman was absent because she was taking animals to a clinic for surgery and other medical treatment. They also said she was picking up donated pet food.

When questioned about accusations of animals being inhumanely euthanized by Peterman, Smith said “I don’t euthanize animals,” and did not comment further.

Board Vice President Tamara Austin also resigned from her post during the meeting, citing “too many things going on.”

District 4 Supervisor Chad McLarty, the shelter liaison for Lafayette County, was not in attendance.

Moving forward, Antonow stated the next task is to empty the building.

“At this point that’s the best we can do, to get the animals out of there,” she said.

Antonow stated that the City had been reaching out to organizations outside of Lafayette County, to see if they would allow residents to surrender animals there. In exchange, she said, the City would pay for each animal brought in.

The remaining animals at the shelter are available for adoption, and shelter board members also encouraged fostering animals as an option for those who would like to help. Antonow also mentioned the possibility of volunteers coming by the shelter to help walk the dogs.

For now, the homeless animals of the Oxford community are without a shelter.

“We would love for someone to come in and open a world-class shelter,” Antonow said.

The meeting ended as the Mississippi Critterz board voted to enter executive session. To fill out an adoption or foster application, visit mscritterz.com.