Calhoun County, AL – During the July 28th Commission Meeting, resident Tom Madden, spoke during the public comments section. Mr. Madden was a co-founder of Encore Enrichment Center for Shelter Dogs and has been affiliated as a volunteer with many animal groups locally. In response to his comments Jane Cunningham, Board President of Cheaha Regional Humane Society, Oxford Mayor Alton Craft, Oxford Chief of Police, Bill Partridge, and Charles Turner, attorney for Cheaha Regional Humane Society responded.
Tom Madden’s Statement
“My name is Tom Madden, I’m from Jacksonville. I’ve been very quiet on a subject that’s near and dear to my heart, but I just can’t tolerate it anymore so I’m gonna say a few words about our animal situation here. I’m a retired senior executive member from the United States federal government I deal in facts, I don’t deal in rumors and things like that. I’ve come to the conclusion that enough is enough. So here’s a fact: The method of euthanasia used was reprehensible, but Calhoun County hired a state trained and licensed animal control officer and vested him with law enforcement authorities, yet he chose to violate that trust and teach others to violate that trust. The county has no reasonable expectation to suspect that he would perform outside legal parameters. There are people who are saying the commission personally approved this type of thing. I don’t believe that for a second. I’m looking at the agenda and I think you have some things that are quite frankly, more important.
Calhoun County also doesn’t operate an animal shelter, you’re running an animal control unit. It’s a very different thing. The number of kennels, which now there is an allegation that you removed the number of kennels so that you could park your trucks and therefore couldn’t hold as many animals; the number of kennels were reduced because the state environmental agency came in and ordered them dismantled because they’re directly discharging feces and urine into the environment and it was being washed down a ditch into the horse pasture. Installing proper waste retrieval was cost prohibitive, so the county chose to remove it.
The cities of Oxford and Aniston both cities over 5,000 population do not have their own animal control facility as they’re required to have by state law. They would not pay the pro rata share of the county shelter. That means if the shelter costs $100,000 to operate, and 30% of the animals that are held there from Anniston, Anniston has to pay $30,000, not $35 a dog, which does not even begin to cover it.
All the dogs, cats, and ferrets which have been impounded in accordance with the provisions of this chapter. And that’s chapter 3-7A-7 of the Alabama code may be held, humanely destroyed, and disposed of when not redeemed by the owner within seven days. So there’s an issue that the owners can’t redeem those animals, because they’re not allowed to go back and see them. I’m glad the sheriff’s here because the previous operator of that shelter had his inmates as workers to keep it clean or trying to keep it clean. They allowed everybody to go back and look at the dogs, and repeatedly the inmates came back with drugs in their system that someone had brought in, put in a toilet, put somewhere in the kennels where they retrieved it and took it. You eliminate that when you don’t allow anyone to go back there. So that’s what the county did. They have inmates to support them now. So that’s what happened there. It’s at it’s being made out to be like the commission decided, “we’re not going to give support.” It’s not the way it works.
In the county there’s a big argument that we need a spay neuter program when the county has subsidized spay neuter procedures since 2019. And I think over 4500 certificates issued. I know it was 4,400 in March. So I’m figuring we’ve had 100 since then, they’ve issued certificates at low cost. There was no such program before 2019. I know that because I’m one of the ones who came in and petitioned to the county to do that.
There are people who are going to hear what I have to say, they’re going to say I’m not an animal lover. I ran Encore Enrichment Center for four and a half years, I spent over $120,000 of my own money to run that and I offered my services for free. I also put $120,000 of my money into loans to keep it operating because for all the love of animals we have here in Calhoun County, guess what, no one gives money to support the wayward animals. We (Encore Enrichment Center) resulted in having somewhere around 350 animals adopted or rescued, because we corrected behavioral problems. If you’ve ever wondered what happens to dogs who stay in these shelters, for extended periods of time, they withdraw to a corner, they become very antisocial. A lot of people say they become aggressive, they become aggressive, because that’s the only little piece of the world they have. That’s it , that little kennel that’s full of crap and full of feces and full of urine. They’re not good places to be and they’re not intended to be there long term. I would really appreciate if people would say truthfully, what happened.
I have not been active and I know by saying what I’m saying it’s going to end up published. I’m probably going to become a target of those who are aiming at the commission and everything. Here’s a little piece of advice, in two weeks I graduate from law school, that’s where I went. I went to law school so I can be an animal advocate and a veteran advocate. That’s what I intend to do. I hate that we had this situation. The Commission, “tried to hide it.” Okay, if you work for somebody, and somebody sends a letter from out of state accusing me of doing something, I would hope my employer would investigate that before they immediately referred it to Matthew (Wade). Once they found out there was wrongdoing, they did refer it, but by then someone else had decided it needed to be referred. So it was, I don’t know, four days total. That’s not sweeping it under the rug and hiding it. I’m sorry.
I’m very disappointed. Enough is enough. The community needs to stop fighting and come up with a solution to our animal control problem. I know the commission has been working toward that, but guess what, they have a lot of other things to worry about in this county and when I talk to people, and I say, would you rather have them work on the animal control problem, or fix that pothole in front of your driveway every person says, fix that pothole. The animals are important, except they’re not. Otherwise, they wouldn’t all be running wild. When I look at the pages where they try to adopt them, this is what I get from all the people that are like, oh, we need to take care of the fur babies. Oh, I would take them myself, but… I would take them myself if…. There’s never I’ll take them. It’s always a reason that they can’t. So we need to stop this infighting that we have in this county and we need to work together to resolve the problem We’re not doing that very well on these issues and people who keep pulling band aids off old wounds, you know, old wounds heal, but they don’t if you keep pulling off these band aids. That’s what I wanted to come and get on the record and y’all know where I live, you come for me. As far as Lee Patterson is concerned, because he’s been singled out, he and Fred. Because it’s just, I don’t know, this is just me and I’m guessing here, this is not a fact, but they’re the two people on the commission who voted to remove the previous contractor. They’re not after JD (Hess). Danny (Shears) wasn’t here, and I’m sure if Eli (Henderson) was still sitting there he would be targeted as well. So the fact of the matter is, I’ve known Lee Patterson for a long time, he’s my Commissioner, you want to go after him you do it in the polls. You want to go after him? Maybe you should live in his district and the same thing is true of Fred (Wilson), the people who are asking for you to be removed they don’t live in your districts and quite frankly, if I’m you, I don’t give a damn what they think. You represent the people in your district. I think you have done a pretty good job of that. Lee (Patterson) will tell you that he and I’ve had some interesting arguments most of the time when he’s up at the football games and he comes in and tries to rip stuff off out of my suite, but I don’t want it to happen. So I think that kind of covers it.”
Responses to the Statement
Jane Cunningham, Board President of Cheaha Regional Humane Society, Inc, and previous contractor for the County Shelter, spoke to the Calhoun Journal and responded, “I stand behind everything that I have said and will be unveiling more in the near future. I take slurs against my integrity and my character very seriously and urge caution to anyone that tries to attack it.”
Charles Turner, attorney for Cheaha Regional Humane Society, Inc. spoke to the Calhoun Journal and stated, “All our members take issues with animal abuse personally and respond as any decent human being should. We deny any accusation of wrong doing during the time that Cheaha operated the shelter.”
Oxford Mayor, Alton Craft, spoke to the Calhoun Journal and said, “The County never came down and explained why Cheaha was removed. We never had a complaint with them. We thought it was run very well. We have heard the stories before and of course we have read what has happened since then. The council and I have made a concerted effort to not have a dog pound and kill shelter. We have given property to Jane (Cunningham) to run a shelter. That is one of the reasons we have not worked with the county. Also the commissioners were requested to meet with us and Cheaha and agreed, but then rescinded that offer. We had no understanding of what the county was doing. We are looking at modeling after the Birmingham or Huntsville Animal Shelters. We don’t want to jump into anything and have a kill shelter or animals abused. In Oxford we strive to do things right the first time. We all love animals and want to address the needs. We just want to do it the right way.”
Oxford Police Chief Bill Partridge spoke to the Calhoun Journal and respond, “We (the City of Oxford) have not participated since Cheaha Regional Humane Society left because that facility was an unmitigated disaster before and after Cheaha’s involvement as evidenced by the recent arrests over animal cruelty in the last few weeks.”
Anniston Public Information Officer, Jackson Hodges stated the City of Anniston had no comments on the statements made at the Commission Meeting.