Supervisors Say Taxpayers Stuck With Boarding Fees

In its contracts with Harrison County and its cities, the humane society agrees to hold animals in neglect and cruelty cases up to 40 days.

Two adult dogs and seven puppies are being held at the shelter now. The Biloxi owner is charged with cruelty for allegedly starving the dogs.

Last year, Harrison County paid nearly $6,800 in boarding fees in court cases to the shelter. The supervisors' president says the wrong people are paying the bill.

"Sometimes it adds up into the weeks and we feel like, speaking for myself, my humble opinion is that the person who treats these animals with cruelty should be paying this fine and not the taxpayer," says Bobby Eleuterius.

Julie Parks of the Humane Society South Mississippi agrees.

"We definitely support that position that the person who should be footing the bill is not the taxpayer but the person who's created the situation, which would be the owner in those cases."

Most animal cases are first heard in justice court. Eleuterius says the judges may not realize how many tax dollars are paying to keep the animals until the charges get to court.

"We need to have a meeting with the justice court judges and explain our position. Of course we can't tell a judge how to rule or what to fine in one, but again, we want to let them know the feeling of the Board of Supervisors - that the taxpayer shouldn't be burdened with this. It should be the person that's abusing the animal."

Eleuterius says that should be the rule, regardless of how a judge decides the case. But Parks says if the animal owner is cleared of the charges, they're also cleared of paying the housing fees.

"[If] by our court of law, someone has decided that it's not the owner's fault, then in those cases they would not be levied that fee."

Justice Court Judge Dianne Ladner says she and the other judges sometimes do require the owners of court case animals to pay the boarding fees. Ladner says each case is different and she makes that decision depending on the circumstances.

The supervisors will discuss the fee issue at their Monday meeting.