After close to a year of unanswered letters and phone calls, the Humane Societies of St. Thomas and St. Croix are finally getting a chance to be heard Friday by Lt. Gov. Luz James II.
The meeting will be in James' office in St. Croix, according to Claudia Laborde, St. Thomas Humane Society president.
This was not arrived at easily. Since the Turnbull-James administration took office last year, the societies have been trying to get a straight answer to their requests for funding.
They have been told by Agriculture Commissioner Henry Schuster that no money has been set aside for either shelter. The government still owes $75,000 to each group, and has renewed no contracts.
Mary Edwards, executive director of the St. Croix shelter, will attend the meeting along with St. Thomas representatives. Edwards put some pressure on the lieutenant governor's office, according to La Borde, to get this opportunity to voice their concerns.
"We aren't overly optimistic, considering the government's financial state, but at least we're being heard," she said.
Hubert Brummant, St. Thomas shelter manager, has a very dim view of the government's attitude.
"I even wrote to the governor himself in December, and still have heard nothing," he said.
Brummant said the shelter has eight employees who cut every corner they can, but still they hurt.
"We want to be able to pick up strays," he said, "but we don't have the manpower."
The shelter's fiscal situation became public last year when its officers had to announce changes in policy. Officially, they no longer pick up stray or injured animals. That is supposed to be referred to the Agriculture Department.
"However," Brummant said, "when people call Agriculture, they tell them they will put the animal to sleep, so we have to somehow go get them. We don't want any animal put to sleep unless it's necessary."
Brummant, who has been at the shelter for seven years, is studying to become a veterinarian. His dedication shows when he speaks about his job.
"The bottom line is we're here to stay," he said, a sentiment borne out by LaBorde.
"It's so frustrating, when you try to do a good thing." LaBorde said.
As if its financial difficulties weren't enough, the shelter is still suffering break-ins.
"I don't know why people would break into a flea market," she said, "but there have been at least 10 break-ins in the last year."
Asked about the police response, LaBorde said it has been minimal.
"How do you explain what's been taken from a flea market?" she said. "Do you look and say, 'Oh, there's a blouse missing from the third rack'?"
The shelter has been vandalized and the soda machines have been ransacked as well, and the police response has been the same, she said.
On a brighter note, both shelters have benefits coming up. St. Thomas has its annual Valentine Ball at Frenchman's Reef, and St. Croix has a first, a "Fur Ball" at Cormorant Beach Club. Both events are Saturday, Feb. 12.
"The ticket sales are going really well so far," LaBorde said. "I'm very encouraged."
These fund-raising events, plus the flea market and private donations, keep the shelter alive. That, and a dedicated staff.


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