Editors Note:

The Greenwood Democrat will be counting down the four biggest news stories from 2016 over the next few weeks. On December 28 we will have a special edition of the paper that will highlight our favorite stories about our community and events from the last year.

Recent changes at the Sebastian County Humane Society in Fort Smith brought a halt to dog collection within the City of Greenwood when the nonprofit group began refusing animals from Greenwood due to a contract dispute.

According to the new Humane Society Executive Director, Joseph Sprague, Greenwood’s contract ran out in 2009 and they would no longer be accepting animals from the city or so Animal Control Officer Jerrod Ricketts was told by the shelter on the morning of Apr. 7.

In a phone interview later that day, Sprague stated that the shelter would accept animals from Greenwood because they are within the county and that the city would pay the same rate, $18 per dog, per day, as Fort Smith. “We take animals from Greenwood,” said Sprague. “As long as they are from the county we will accept them.” However when the animal control officer called to inform the shelter that he would be bringing a couple of dogs to them they once again refused to house the animals.

It was then that Greenwood Police Chief, Will Dawson, became involved and called Sprague to clear up the confusion. Sprague brought up the lack of contract to Dawson, who explained that he did not have the power to enter into a contract and how the sudden unexplained rejection of Greenwood dogs was placing a considerable strain on the city.

During the conversation Sprague also denied telling the Greenwood Democrat that the city would pay the same amount as Fort Smith stating that Greenwood will have to pay $18.50 per animal per day.

During a phone conversation that the Democrat was present for Dawson and Sprague came to an agreement that the shelter would temporarily accept dogs from the city until a contract could be drawn up. According to Ricketts, he attempted the next morning to take some strays to the Humane Society and once again told that he could not leave them due to a lack of contract.

Greenwood Mayor Doug Kinslow made contact with Sprague and was told that the shelter could not take any animals until the contract was renewed. The Mayor stated that he could sign an agreement that states that the city will pay its bill but that a formal contract would have to be brought before the city council. Sprague stated that an agreement would suffice for the time being and the dogs were finally dropped off by animal control.

Local Veterinarian Matthew Singer of the Greenwood Veterinary Clinic helps the city and the SCHS by boarding lost animals for a period of time before they are taken to the shelter. Singer assists pet owners by posting the lost dogs on his Facebook page. This gives the owners time to claim the dog before it is taken to the shelter in Fort Smith where it could be exposed to infectious diseases. “We do what we can,” said Singer. “It has been an ongoing situation that has worked fine. We are trying to handle things within the city limits as much as possible.”

The Humane Society had a shelter located on Hwy. 96 in Greenwood, which abruptly closed its doors in Apr. of 2007 due to a lack of funding.

Bekah Trotter, assistant director for the Humane Society, has stated that 66 percent of the shelter’s funding comes from donations. Contracts with cities comprises the rest.

According to Sprague the shelter needs to raise more than $300,000 for renovations and additions. Over the course of the next two years the SCHS will be transitioning to a no-kill shelter which will put more stress on the shelter and on outlying communities.

“Because of the amount of dogs we get in we have to cancel contracts that are out of county and from surrounding towns and villages that are currently bringing their animals into us. Or we will just wait until their contracts run out,” said Sprague. “Pretty much everyone around us brings their animals here because no one has their own shelter.”

Sprague stated that they will increase adoptions by doing more promotion of the shelter and transferring animals out of state.

Greenwood has been taking dogs and cats to the shelter since 2009 without a contract. The new temporary agreement states that the shelter will hold any stray animal brought to them at a cost of $18.50 per day not to exceed $55.50. Any animal reclaimed by an owner will be the financial responsibility of the person reclaiming the animal and will not be billed to the city including a $5 vaccination.

Any animal requiring ten day quarantine for rabies observation will be billed to the city at a fee of $185. If an owner can be located the fee shall become the owner’s responsibility and will not be billed to the city.

The Greenwood School District has assisted the shelter. Just last week the EAST LAB at the high school held an adoption day for the shelter at BancorpSouth. Also the seventh grade class at East Hills Middle School partnered with the Sebastian County Humane Society earlier this year. The school held an assembly encouraging students to get involved doing food, newspaper, stuffed animal and blanket drives for the shelter as well as a booth at the Greenwood Fall Festival in Bell Park where they sold one of kind art work and baked goods to raise money for the shelter. The School raised more than $400 in donations during the festival alone.