Maggie Mae got adopted.


The friendly and energetic 51-pound, tan-and-white canine, who appeared to be a border collie and retriever mix, left the Corinne T. Smith Animal Center Wednesday with her new owner.


Maggie Mae was named Daisy when her previous owner brought her to the shelter just a few days earlier in a case of owner-surrender.


“She’s a sweet, sweet dog,” Leona Cleveland, who was named director of the animal center about a week ago, said as Maggie Mae’s new owner prepared to leave with the canine.


“Have a good life,” Cleveland told Maggie Mae. “I’m happy you found a sweet mama.”


Former animal center director Freda Day, who now volunteers for the center, was present as Maggie Mae’s adoption concluded.


“Isn’t it looking great?” Day said. “It really is. It’s amazing.”


Then and now


What a difference three months can make.


At a packed meeting of the Brownwood City Council in late February, Mayor Stephen Haynes addressed the controversy that had swallowed up the animal center since mid-December.


The center at that time was governed by a bitterly divided board, and severe overcrowding was among numerous issues at the center. Council members that day authorized City Attorney Pat Chesser to send a letter to then-board president Debra Dixon and the rest of the board. Based on what the City Council heard that day, it appeared the center was not being operated in accordance with industry standards, Chesser wrote in the letter.


The letter gave the board 60 days to address issues. If the board ignored the letter, the council would have the option of withholding city funding and/or terminating the city’s lease with the center, the letter stated.


Since then, Dixon and several other board members have left and been replaced, and a reorganized board went on to name Cleveland as the center’s director.


At this past Tuesday’s council meeting, Cleveland and the center’s rescue coordinator, Tinya Thomas, addressed council members. An agenda item authorized council members to “discuss and take action” regarding the animal center’s progress since the city’s demand letter of March 2.


Cleveland recalled councilman H.D. Jones’ visit to the center after the February council meeting. “There were 145 dogs and 40 cats,” Cleveland said. “It was not a pleasant sight or smell. A lot’s changed. Our population now is down to approximately 35 dogs and we have 11 kittens now.


“We’ve only had one euthanasia. That is a medical euthanasia. I spent a lot of time with a lot of soap and water and a lot of paint cleaning that place up. All the tarps and tent cities have come down.”


The staff has had the time to work with the dogs and let them play and have social time, Cleveland said.


“Due to COVID we started managing our intakes, and we’re continuing to manage intake to the best of our ability, hopefully,” Cleveland said. “That will slow down some of the owner surrenders, hopefully. Our financials have almost sorted out. Minessa Mesic has been working with our treasurer to get that sorted out.”


Cleveland encouraged council members to “come out and visit, come out and see, come out and smell. I’m really, really really proud of it. I’m proud of the work my staff has done.”


Cleveland also said she’s proud of what Thomas has accomplished.


By the numbers


Since Chesser’s letter was drafted on March 2, a total of 253 dogs and cats have entered the center, Thomas said. There have been 81 adoptions during that time and 261 dogs and cats have gone to rescue organizations, she said.


In cases of owner-surrender, Thomas said, the center’s staff is asking the owners if they can keep the animals while the staff tries to find a rescue organization to take them.


“We have quite a few that have agreed to do that,” Thomas said. “Of course it doesn’t happen all the time.”


She said the center is averaging about an adoption a day, and the hope is to move up to two a day.


Haynes addressed Cleveland and Thomas, saying “first of all, kudos. The numbers speak for themselves. It’s pretty amazing. Great work all the way around.”


Rescue organizations


Haynes asked if the rescue organizations’ willingness to work with the center is only a temporary case of “picking up the slack.”


Thomas said that is not the case. She repeated what she’d said at the February council meeting: many of the rescues stopped working with the center because the the center’s earlier issues.


Thomas said she’s been able to rebuild relationships with rescue groups.


Cleveland concluded the presentation saying “everything’s improved. I feel the public support coming back.”


Cleveland said she looks forward to “getting the shelter back to its respected status.”


No action from council


Council members took no action after hearing from Cleveland and Thomas. After the council meeting, Brownwood City Manager Emily Crawford said via email, “I interpret the council’s response that they are satisfied with what they heard from the shelter and did not wish to take further action. Now that we have a councilman on the board, he will continue to monitor the activities of the shelter on behalf of the city.”


Crawford was referring to councilman Ed McMillian, who was recently appointed to the animal center’s board of directors.


Jeff Smith comments


In February, Jeff Smith, the son of animal center founder Corinne T. Smith, wrote a letter to the editor in February. The letter was critical of how the center was being operated at that time.


Smith claimed in the letter that some of the board at that time had “hijacked the (animal center) from you, the citizens of Brown County.”


Smith emailed a statement Thursday morning:


“On behalf of the family of Brayton and Corinne T. Smith, I would like to thank all the people that came to the aid of the CTSAC in its time of need. A very special appreciation goes to Stephen and Veronica Finch, Anna Day and Pat Chesser for a job well done under very difficult circumstances.


“I think the (animal center) is moving in the right direction with a strong, dedicated board of directors. Please continue to give your support to Leona Clevand and her staff as they help make the (animal center) a better place.”


Fundraisers


Smith also said he hopes there will be a new version of Canines, Cats and Cabernet, the fundraiser for the center that has taken place in March.


The event was not held this year and had been canceled before the COVID outbreak.


Cleveland said she’d like to see Canine Cats and Cabernet come back with a different name and “maybe a different twist.”


Cleveland also said she hopes the Spay-ghetti fundraiser that takes place in the fall will come back as a larger event.


A fundraiser May 9 at Trees Forever Nursery raised more than $4,000 for the center, Cleveland said.