Group discusses funding for animal shelter

All of the elements for the construction of a shelter that could house up to 200 dogs are in place except for one thing — $200,000.

That’s the amount needed to build the shelter on county-owned property behind the sheriff’s department in Brownstown.

The blueprints are complete, the operating staff is available, and the location in central Jackson County is set.

On Wednesday, Debbie Hackman of Brownstown conducted a public meeting at the Community Foundation of Jackson County to obtain input from the public about how to fund the project.

Hackman, director of the county’s solid waste management district, is a member of a committee that has been working on the county’s animal control issues for several years.

The committee, made up of mostly local government officials, has worked to create a dog control ordinance and has hired an animal control officer for enforcement. It hasn’t met in more than a year, after lobbying the city and county for a dog shelter to help deal with the issue of strays. Those efforts were unsuccessful but led to the completion of blueprints and the selection of a location for the shelter.

Hackman said Wednesday’s meeting was about trying to come up with ways to finance construction of the 5,922-square-foot building.

About 15 people attended the meeting, including Sheriff Michael Carothers, who has supported the project in the past and offered the use of jail inmates to run the animal shelter.

Carothers said inmates would have specific duties as part of a reward system that would allow them to bond with the animals and might help address some of the behavioral problems seen in inmates.

The block building could house up to 200 dogs, and there would be an area where inmates would clean and feed them and a separate area where families could see and adopt dogs.

Hackman said money has always been the issue when it comes to building the shelter and is why the idea remains in limbo.

“I want to see it out to the end,” she said.

Hackman said the time to act is now because the responsibilities continue to pile up for Ruth Riley at her dog rescue shelter in Medora.

In 2008, Riley went to the Jackson County Commissioners to offer her services through the nonprofit animal shelter Red Sky Rescue. She received a contract from the county to house stray dogs and has worked with the county’s animal control officer.

Over the years, she’s worked with canine programs around the country to see that local stray dogs are adopted.

Hackman said Red Sky has a 93 percent success rate in placing stray dogs in permanent homes. But the program was supposed to be temporary, she added.

Hackman said she doesn’t know what the future holds for the dogs if something would happen to Red Sky.

Not to mention, Red Sky continually gains new dogs — often including multiple litters of puppies — each week. Since Jan. 1, the county animal control officer has dropped off 157 dogs.

Though Riley has some volunteer help, Hackman said, it’s only a matter of time before she can’t accept any more dogs.

“Last winter was extremely difficult on her (Riley),” Hackman said. “You can imagine every day getting out and having 60, 70, 80 dogs depending on you.”

If the new shelter were built, Hackman said, Riley would be more than happy to continue to be involved in helping the dogs get adopted.

Also, the money paid to Riley from the county to house strays — about $29,700 — could go toward annual operations of the new facility.

The group discussed ideas about working with corporate sponsors or selling personalized engraved blocks for the building to raise funds for construction.

Hackman suggested registering the shelter as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and setting up a fund at the Community Foundation of Jackson County to accept donations.

Whatever the decision, Klent Brown, a veterinarian in Jackson County, said there needs to be a thorough plan in place before asking for funds. That way, when the idea is pitched to possible donors, there are no questions left unanswered, and people understand what their money is going toward.

“Here’s how the animals are going to be taken in; here’s the isolation program; here’s what we’re going to do if they’re adoptable. … Have all that written out … to be able to show what happens when the dog is taken in,” Brown said.

Kelly Bishop, an animal rescuer, said stray and abandoned dogs should be an important issue for the whole community, not just for animal lovers. It’s a concern to have homeless dogs roaming the county, putting children at risk and possibly spreading diseases like rabies, she added.

Hackman said she will work to put a plan in writing and then set another meeting.

In the dog house

Proposal for dog shelter in Brownstown:

  • Located next to the Jackson County Jail
  • 5,922-square-foot block building
  • Capacity of 200 dogs
  • Staffed by inmates/separate from the adoption side of the building
  • Cost to build, $200,000