An animal shelter in Ashland has been facing major difficulties but refuses to give up.
Clay County Animal Shelter (CCAS) is a nonprofit shelter supported entirely by donations and almost entirely by volunteers. The shelter manager is the only paid employee and is only paid part-time.
The shelter houses primarily dogs, but some cats and is a “no-kill” shelter, meaning they hold animals until they find a home for them or send them to another shelter.
Legal battle over tobacco tax funds
CCAS has been involved in a complicated legal battle with the Clay County Commission since 2017 over a percentage of the Clay County tobacco tax funds granted to the shelter by the Alabama legislature.
In 2017, the state passed Act #2017-65, which awarded the shelter 18% of the tobacco tax levied in Clay County. The state passed another law in 2018, which amended Act #2017-65, increasing the shelter’s share of the tax funds to 20%.
After a series of legal cases concerning the two laws, the Supreme Court of Alabama ruled in favor of CCAS in May 2021.
Throughout the legal proceedings, the money in question remained in escrow. According to Robyn Smith, the president of the CCAS Board, it remains there and has accrued to approximately $225,000.
Smith said they are working with the county commissioners to get the money.
“Right now, it looks like they are agreeing to it," said Smith. "It just needs a few details to finish up.”
The Clay County Commission declined to comment on the issue.
Trouble with landlords
On top of legal headaches, CCAS has received an ultimatum from their landlords, granting them the option to purchase the property or move out of their location by April 1. Smith said CCAS is working with an attorney to negotiate the possibility of staying longer.
In the meantime, CCAS leaders are looking into leasing land from the county in order to build another shelter.
Smith said this issue has caused rumors about the shelter closing but assures that those rumors are false. Still, the shelter needs to clear out all of the animals in order to move forward with relocation.
“We are trying to get [the animals] all homed so that we can continue with our process right now of working toward building a new shelter,” Smith said. “...We are not closing. We are not giving up.”
Working with rescues
Smith said CCAS has been working with animal rescues to find the pets homes in other states. So far the shelter has sent close to 150 dogs and cats to homes outside Alabama.
“I think this for here on out will probably be a main focus of the shelter just because there are so many strays here, and the people that want dogs or cats pretty much already have them,” Smith said.
Rescues work as a “middle man” to get dogs and cats to homes that the shelter otherwise couldn’t have reached.
“Rescues literally all over the country have been fantastic,” Smith said.
Most rescues who take animals from the shelter already have homes for them before they leave the facility.
Nevertheless, the shelter has to spend money on the animals before sending them to the rescues. Rescues require that animals are neutered or spayed before they will accept them. The pets must also have their shots up to date.
How to help
Smith said CCAS still has eight dogs who need homes. To find out more, you can visit the shelter’s Facebook page, which has photos of the dogs.
You can also call the shelter at (256) 354-1453 or visit between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday at their current location at 43 Ratley Road in Ashland. Smith said the office manager is available to answer questions about the animals.
Smith said the shelter could use any money people would be willing to donate.
"We’re passing the hat among the volunteers right now," said Smith.
Donors can send money by mail or use the PayPal button on the shelter’s website, where there is also a list of needed items that can be purchased for the shelter.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email will.blakely@1819News.com.