Dear Editor,

This is an open letter to Marshall County Commission Chairman James Hutcheson,

On 28 Jan 21, three of the four Marsahll County animal control shelter volunteers received a letter terminating our services without providing any reason. Given the number of hours, services, and dedication we have provided, this is obviously not a decision based on our ability to treat animals humanely and promote a positive image of the shelter. Our track record, which we can show, speaks for itself. No, we believe the reason for our termination is purely political and based on the fact that we have been gathering public county records and questioning practices as they relate to the animal control department you lead.

Maybe you did not like us pointing out the large number of animals being euthanized at an alternate facility even though you have been claiming the county to be no-kill for years. Some of those deaths appear to have occurred without the legal 7-day stray hold and the census did not reflect any of them because you claim they do not count against the shelter itself. Do you really think people are that gullible? We think not, and you have been intentionally deceitful. Maybe you did not like us asking why adoption fees and grant money were are not reflected in the budget. Where does that money go, we asked, we could use it for the dogs. You refused to answer. Maybe you did not like us asking why your dog catcher refuses to perform basic shelter duties like feed, clean, maintain the premises, repair kennels, vaccinate, or order necessary supplies even though he is paid ~50k/year of our tax dollars plus a full benefit package. Maybe you did not like someone submitting the last census request as it remains unfulfilled after ~4 months. Even though your County Attorney is saying there are no consequences for not creating a census, there are consequences for not providing public records per the Alabama’s Open Records Act. Regardless, we were terminated for demanding transparency and improvements of county official operations.

Well, you may not have thought this through. Complaining about inhumane conditions, abuses, or violations of law at shelters is a constitutionally protected right. So is demanding the government corrects the wrongs that are identified. Your attempt at silencing our free speech through retaliation is a violation of civil rights, and that is in addition of everything that was already wrong and must be addressed. Did you really think we would just go away silently? You have a duty to be accountable, honest, and transparent to the community you serve. Obviously, this is to be continued.

Delphine dal Cengio

Natalie Burwick

Stephanie Taymon

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