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Elgin Mayor Speaks on Animal Shelter Procedures

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ELGIN, Okla_ Elgin's mayor spoke regarding the alleged abuse at the town's animal shelter, admitting there needs to be more oversight there, while still denying some of those claims.

You may remember our 7News report last week about a former volunteer who had worked there for a year before quitting in December. She claimed the shelter was neglecting animals and ignoring city ordinances. At the time, the mayor said they were looking into those claims. Tuesday, 7News called to find out what they had discovered and learned some big changes are being made in the way its run.

Mayor Thoma said there are several changes the city is making, including keeping all of the shelter's records at City Hall instead of at the shelter and paying for more of the shelter's expenses. Currently, the city only pays for water and electricity. The rest of the operating costs are paid for through donations.

The animal control officer is a contract position, which pays $50 per pickup of an animal but not much else. Thoma said the city will have to restructure its finances to cover more of the shelter's costs, which is currently running on a shoe-string budget.

Mayor Larry Thoma said those shocking allegations, which he said are false, brought a necessary question to the table: how can the city monitor its shelter better? He said one of the best ways is to use city finances to fund it.

"Now, that money will come from other places in the budget," Thoma said. "It can come from public safety. It can come from parks. It can come from other places. There's only so much of the pie you can cut, but we've been forced to think about those expenditures."

He said all shelter records will come to City Hall including donations, which has been another subject of controversy. He said Elgin police are investigating some fake donation buckets.

They claim to benefit the city's shelter, but neither the shelter nor the city has received any of the money.

"Some of those buckets were not being accounted for, and they were not authorized by animal control or the City of Elgin," Thoma said. "So, we had no control of were they went. We're not accusing anybody. We just had no control. So, we're taking that away."

Elgin police say it's still early in the investigation, but they plan on finding out who's been placing the bogus donation buckets in Elgin and in Lawton. They say once they found out whose responsible, they plan on pressing charges.

Thoma said the shelter is still a work in progress but said the city takes these types of accusations seriously. That's why they're working to keep shelter operations more transparent.

"We're a small community with limited funds, so this is a challenge to us," Thoma said. "All the suggestions that have been made, there's no way we can do them all, but we will do the best we can to take care of the animals."

Thoma said the city is also making ordinance changes as to which rescue shelters can take animals from the city shelter. He said it would have to be a shelter that is also City Council-approved. He said the city plans on finalizing these changes next month.

Mayor Thoma said the city ordinance states that the shelter is a "kill shelter", but said the animal control officer has volunteered to make it a "no kill" shelter. He said due to the recent controversy surrounding the care of the animals, they may have to return to being a "kill shelter", something he said the city does not want to do.

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