NEWPORT - A white bird squawks in the office of Dr. Sandra O'Connor. A veterinarian at the Cedarwood Veterinary Hospital, O'Connor has a passion for animals. The Vet rescued the white bird, Coco, from the Dr. Carol Hood Memorial Animal Shelter in Newport.
Now, that very same shelter is at risk of closing.
"I've lost a lot of sleep over this situation," said O'Connor.
Lease disagreements between city administrators and the owners of the building, Friends of the Animal Shelter Humane Society, have led to the eviction of the shelter from the property, leaving animals in limbo.
"We have been trying to see if we can place them with rescues, foster parents, basically get as many as we can out."
If no agreement can be reached soon, the shelter will close on July 1.
The relationship between the city and humane society has proven to be contentious. City administrator James Finchum said the city has tried to watch the amount of money spent on the shelter, giving more responsibility to the humane society, especially after fundraising contribution from the society dipped this past year.
"If you look, almost every shelter around is run by the humane societies of their respective regions," said Finchum, "we have absolutely encouraged the humane society here to take on that role here. They've chosen not to do that. When we asked them to do that last year, they said they would close it and walk away."
Anne Fontaine, with Friends of the Animal Shelter, said in a statement to WBIR that this switching of roles was not what the original contract and deal was all about.
"This lease stated that the City would provide salaries, maintenance, utilities, insurance etc for the Shelter," said Fontaine. "In addition, our group has spent years contributing to the welfare of our animals by donating money for comfort and care of the animals including veterinary care."
Lisa Layman is the director of the shelter, she has worked there for 14 years. The shelter is preparing for the worst: that early July closing. The goal is to find as many homes as possible for the 100 animals still there.
"If we can not get them placed out on rescue," said Layman, "get them adopted or fostered into homes, then they would have to be euthanized. We cant' leave them."
It's a sad realization, but there is reason for hope. On Wednesday, several rescue groups and foster organizations agreed to take in more than 40 cats and dogs.
If the shelter is forced to close, the human society says it plans to refurbish the property and open it back up as an independent shelter in the next few months.
Ultimately, Layman wants what is best for the animals.
"I'd love to see all agencies come together and work together and for everyone to get on the same page and do the best thing for these animals. That's what I want to see."
If you'd like to help these animals, the shelter and veterinary hospital ask that you contact them. Adoption or fostering can go a long way to helping save these animals' lives and find loving homes.
Cedarwood Veterinary Hospital:
Dr. Carol Hood Memorial
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