MOULTON — Celebration and frustration both could be found in the crowd gathered outside the Lawrence County Commission building after county officials terminated an $80,000 animal control contract during an emergency meeting Friday.
The termination of Bobbie Taylor’s contract passed with a 3-2 vote, with commissioners Mose Jones Jr. and Bradley Cross supporting her keeping the contract.
Taylor, of Moulton, who has been sheltering animals on her property on Lawrence County 170 since 2013, was awarded the contract in February.
The heated debate came after former volunteer Kaleb Scott revealed pictures of ill dogs sleeping in small, messy kennels to the Moulton Police Department. Scott also showed officers video of Taylor hitting a dog.
Taylor said Scott was an employee who was fired because of poor job performance. She said she hit the dog because she was breaking up a pit bull fight, and she accused Scott of editing the video.
As soon as the termination was approved, a chorus of “Amen,” “Hallelujah” and applause roared from the crowd of about 40 animal advocates who crowded into the commission chambers.
They moved the celebration outside, holding up the same signs they displayed Thursday during a protest on Alabama 157.
The cardboard was distorted and the colors were watered down from Thursday’s brief spell of rain, but Scott and his supporters received a few honks from drivers.
“I feel relieved,” Scott, 27, said. “I believe the voices of the animals in Lawrence County were heard today. They needed to be free and that’s what they wanted.”
As advocates cheered, shelter volunteer Jackie Posey cried over Taylor’s more than 70-year legacy of protecting animals.
One Taylor supporter used profanity as he debated with Scott and made an obscene gesture as he drove out of the parking lot.
“It makes me sick,” Posey said. “It breaks my heart that people who are supposed to care for the animals would stop a person who devoted her life to rescue so many.”
During the meeting, Jones said he didn’t agree with the termination because Taylor was not charged with the allegations.
Moulton police are investigating the animal cruelty accusations.
“You can’t base your opinion off Facebook and video and all that,” Jones said. “If the person has been arrested, then it is the time for us to terminate the contract. … I don’t believe that Taylor would abuse any animals. I believe there are people who don’t want her to have this contract and some of you (commissioners) don’t want her to have it.”
Cross, who proposed the contract in February, said in past meetings that the county could be in deeper trouble if it didn’t have a shelter.
According to the Alabama Code, “Each county in the state shall provide a suitable county pound and impounding officer for the impoundment of dogs, cats and ferrets.”
Cross supported Jones and said the claims were part of a setup to take the contract from Taylor.
“A biscuit has two sides, a top and a bottom,” Cross said. “All we got going on right here is the top side. We haven’t heard the other side of it. She hadn’t been charged with anything. You can’t charge someone with something they haven’t been charged with.”
Commissioner Bobby Burch said he understood the commissioners’ concerns, but didn’t think it was right to wait to see if charges will be filed.
“We are elected by the people to exercise good judgment. Whether or not charges are pressed, this is not good judgment,” Burch said. “I believe the county deserves better. Not pointing fingers at Miss Taylor. I have admired her compassion … but the video evidence and the statements coming from different people show this is simply poor judgment.”
Taylor frowned as Commission Chairman Joey Hargrove read the terms of the termination.
All animals must be removed from Taylor’s property by July 1. Taylor said Thursday she had about 80 animal on the property.
Taylor declined comment after the meeting.
Hargrove said numerous animal rescue agencies have agreed to come get some of the animals.
Hargrove stressed animals will not be taken off the property until Moulton Police Chief Lyndon McWhorter is finished with the investigation.
“I feel like we did what was right,” Hargrove said. “I didn’t agree with it at the beginning. There were too many animals for her to take care of. ... I have nothing against Miss Taylor, but I knew she would be overburdened when she got the contract.”
As soon as the advocates started celebrating their victory, Cross yelled over the praises by saying the commission could get sued.
Taylor had until August to move the animals off her property and into a new facility.
“They canceled a contract based on hearsay,” Cross said. “There’s no proof that she violated laws or abused animals.”
Hargrove stood by his decision.
“If I am in trouble for doing something based on what I’ve seen, then I’ll just be in trouble,” Hargrove said.