Animal shelter deal reached

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com
Pawhuska Mayor Roger Taylor, left, and Police Chief Rex Wikel, back, congratulate animal-welfare volunteer Susie Owens on her receipt of keys to the city pound. Courtesy/City of Pawhuska

Pawhuska city officials and an animal-rescue volunteer reached an agreement in a meeting Friday afternoon that both sides hope will lead to improved care for homeless animals.

“It did go well,” animal-rescue volunteer Susie Owens said of the meeting, which took place Friday afternoon at city hall and involved Mayor Roger Taylor, Police Chief Rex Wikel, City Attorney John Heskett, Vice Mayor Rodger Milleson, City Manager Larry Eulert, local veterinarian Jan Johnston and Owens.

“I left there in good spirits,” Owens said, explaining the city offered her a formal volunteer agreement that will allow her access to the municipal animal pound. Owens said she anticipates there will be cooperation to raise money to help with the expense of eventually building a new shelter.

In June, efforts were made to improve the existing animal shelter, which City Manager Larry Eulert said had previously been in “deplorable” shape.

Since that time, Owens — who, with the help of a friend, has rescued hundreds of dogs in the Pawhuska area during the past three years at private expense and arranged for them to be transported out-of-state for adoption — had grown frustrated with the state of her relationship with city government. She was unsure if the relationship would improve.

It was in that context that the meeting Friday became the basis for a breakthrough.

“It went very well. Reasonable minds got together and I think everybody is pleased,” Heskett said. “I feel very good about it.”

Heskett said he also had a positive reaction to the approach taken to the animal-welfare issue by the new Pawhuska police chief, Rex Wikel.

“I’m impressed, very impressed,” Heskett said, explaining he felt Wikel seemed to be on top of the issue.

City Clerk Barbara Smith, when providing photos of the meeting group to the Journal-Capital in an email, said the meeting participants “hammered out a solution that satisfied everyone.”

The agreement will allow Owens to keep dogs in the Pawhuska pound beyond the normal 72-hour, ordinance-based holding period, to facilitate finding homes for them. The city also agreed to set up a system to provide Owens with data about and images of impounded animals. Under the terms of the agreement, Owens will continue to serve as a volunteer, and will not receive compensation for her animal-rescue efforts.