The owner of a dog shelter that accepts most dogs collected by Jackson County’s animal control officer each year needs help.

Suffering from health issues, Ruth Riley, manager of Red Sky Rescue, said she’s struggling to take on the physically demanding tasks of the shelter in Medora.

“Now, it has become urgent that the county move forward with their plan,” said Riley, who has fibromyalgia and recently was diagnosed with the shingles virus.

The nonprofit organization has saved the lives of more than 1,500 stray dogs during the past six years, Riley said. Her health issues combined with too few committed volunteers, repairs needed on the facility and an average of 60 dogs housed there each day makes the need for a proposed shelter urgent, the 62-year-old said.

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Originally, the contract between Red Sky and the county started in 2008 was intended as a temporary solution until the county could put together a firm plan and come up with a permanent shelter of its own.

At this time, Riley has decided Red Sky will no longer accept any dogs that are surrendered by the owner or that are found on the roadside by private citizens. The shelter will only take ones picked up by the county animal control officer, who works through the sheriff’s department.

Last year, the county took 139 dogs to the shelter, but Riley took in 351 overall.

Riley said the worst symptoms from the shingles virus could last as long as six weeks, while underlying nerve pain could linger for months or even years.

This situation is something Debbie Hackman, a Brownstown resident who has been pushing for a new dog shelter for years, feared would happen, she said.

“This is something that was one of my biggest fears that she, as an individual, wouldn’t be able to care for the dogs due to health or other reasons,” Hackman said. “She’s just one person, and it’s a wake-up call for us.”

Donations sought

In February, Hackman received a variance from the county board of zoning appeals for a low-kill shelter to be built on county-owned property behind the Jackson County Jail in Brownstown. The OK was given on the condition that there be a building permit issued and construction would begin within two years.

Now, Hackman needs roughly $200,000 through donations so the sheriff’s department can build the 9,000-square-foot building.

Once built, the shelter would replace Red Sky Rescue. In turn, the yearly $29,700 the county is paying Riley to house dogs would be used to help operate the new building. Low-level offenders from the jail would maintain the shelter.

Riley said she would continue to help adoptable dogs held by the county at the proposed shelter find homes, as she has a 93 percent success rate with Red Sky Rescue.

The proposed shelter would have about 100 6-by-12-foot cages and could hold up to two dogs each. It would have an enclosed area the county’s full-time animal control officer could drive into to drop dogs off so there are no issues with them fleeing.

Isolated at first

The new dogs, which would be seen and vaccinated by a contracted veterinarian, would first be isolated for about five days. Aggressive dogs or those with severe health problems would be euthanized.

Besides the kennels, the shelter would have an indoor area for exercise but no outdoor runs. Animal waste would be hosed down a drain connected to Brownstown Wastewater Utility.

The inmates, who would be brought over to the shelter and assigned specific duties with supervision from jail staff, would have no interaction with people coming to adopt dogs. That’s because they would be separated, and the facility would not be open for families when inmates are there — only when volunteers are there to help with adoptions, said Sheriff Michael Carothers, who supports the project.

Carothers said there will be a benefit to inmates because they will have interaction with the dogs, and he can use the program as a reward system for those offenders who show good behavior.

Since the building project was approved, Hackman said a group of community members has been meeting and working to raise the $200,000 construction funds.

Online presence

Hackman and others working with her have created a Facebook page and a GoFundMe webpage. They also have divided into three committees to seek donations from residents and corporate companies and to write and apply for grants. They are working on setting up a website.

An account has been set up through the Community Foundation of Jackson County to allow individuals to make tax-deductible donations.

Pledge forms are available for those who want to pay at a later time, and bricks are being sold that can be bought in memory or recognition of a pet.

Hackman said they are looking for naming rights of the shelter or a major contributor.

“We would love to have someone’s name on that building,” she said.

Hackman said she needs volunteers to help with grant-writing or fundraising for the future dog shelter.

Volunteers needed

In the meantime, Riley said there’s an immediate need for volunteers who can give their time on a regular basis at Red Sky.

“Although Red Sky eagerly invites ‘now and then’ visitors, in this situation, we really need folks who can be here on a steady basis, say once a week,” she said. “That way, they have time to learn all the details that are necessary to provide the best care for the dogs and can establish a routine that streamlines the daily work.”

The shelter would benefit from seven volunteers who could commit three to four hours one day each week. They would work inside the main shelter building, letting dogs out for exercise, cleaning kennels and runs, feeding and watering dogs individually, doing laundry, washing dishes, and sweeping and mopping.

Riley said the chores usually are done daily between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Humane Society of Jackson County in Seymour also takes in dogs using a city canine officer but not from outside the city limits.

At a glance

To volunteer, call Ruth Riley at 812-216-6310 or email redskyresq@gmail.com.

Red Sky Rescue, 8305 W. County Road 150N, Medora, can be found on Facebook.

At a glance

For questions about helping fund the new county dog shelter, contact Debbie Hackman at 812-525-9367.

One also can “like” the Jackson County Dog Shelter Facebook page to follow updates.

To make a tax-deductible donation, contact the Community Foundation of Jackson County at 812-523-4483.

Donations also may be made online by visiting the GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/pfc6z8.