Board of Zoning Appeals gives OK to new dog shelter



An effort to build a dog shelter with private funding on county-owned property recently moved a little closer to reality after months of discussion.

The shelter would be built behind the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department on State Road 250 east of Brownstown and mainly would be staffed by inmates from the jail.

The proposed shelter could hold up to 200 dogs but still lacks funding, Debbie Hackman told the Jackson County Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday night.

Hackman, director of the Jackson County Solid Waste Management District, is leading the effort to build the shelter using private funding.

The board approved a variance for the 9,000-square-foot concrete block building during its meeting Tuesday. The low-kill shelter could hold 100, 6-by-12-foot cages, which would house two dogs each.

The unanimous vote came despite some concerns raised by people living near the proposed shelter.

Resident Mike Chastain asked the board to table the request until more information could be provided.

“We’re all very concerned about the property value depreciation that will happen in our neighborhood as well as the noise,” Chastain said.

He also brought up concerns with taxpayer costs, county liability issues, veterinarian bills, building security, waste disposal and dogs that aren’t adopted.

Bob Williams, who also lives in the area, said he isn’t opposed to the idea of a dog shelter but doesn’t like the proposed location.

The variance was approved under the condition that a building permit be acquired within two years. Construction would have to begin within 18 months after the two-year period ends.

Hackman said there is currently no funding available to build the $200,000 shelter. A local committee of animal advocates and residents plans to raise the money through private donations, she said.

The next step will be to discuss the issue with Jackson County Commissioners and try to open a fund through the Community Foundation of Jackson County. That fund would accept tax-deductible donations for the project.

Hackman said the county’s full-time animal control officer would bring dogs to the shelter by driving into an enclosed area, so there’s no chance of dogs escaping. Dogs brought to the shelter would be isolated for five days.

The dog would receive vaccinations through a contracted veterinarian, who also could take care of sick or injured dogs and provide spay/neuter services.

The shelter would have an indoor area for exercise but no outdoor runs. Animal waste would be eliminated by hosing it down a drain connected to the Brownstown Wastewater Utility.

Aggressive dogs or those with severe health problems would be euthanized by a veterinarian, Hackman said.

Only prisoners incarcerated on misdemeanor charges or those with convictions of operating a vehicle while intoxicated would be given the opportunity to take care of the dogs, with supervision from jail staff. Inmates would have no interaction with people coming to adopt dogs, Sheriff Michael Carothers said.

Each inmate would be assigned specific duties as part of a reward system, allowing them to bond with the dogs, he added.

Currently, homeless dogs are taken to Red Sky Rescue, a nonprofit dog shelter in the Medora area. That shelter is run by 62-year-old Ruth Riley, who works with the county animal control officer to find homes for the dogs.

Riley offered her services to the county in 2008 on a temporary basis. Now, six years later, she’s struggling to house the number of dogs that are being dropped off, including litters of puppies. She currently has 55 dogs at her facility with 22 in foster homes.

Carothers estimated the county picks up 16 to 20 dogs a month.

At Tuesday’s meeting Riley spoke in favor of the proposed shelter, saying her facility is “not adequate” and “overloaded.”

If the shelter were built, Riley said, she would continue to help with adoptions. Red Sky has a 93 percent success rate with placing dogs in permanent homes, she said.

In addition, the $29,700 that Riley receives annually from the county could be used to operate the proposed shelter. Adoption fees and donations also would be used for operating costs.

Riley told the board the new shelter could have a positive effect, freeing up volunteers to raise money and promote adoptions. It also would give inmates a sense of responsibility and achievement by working with the dogs, she added.

Board member Bill Burnside said he doesn’t think $200,000 is enough to pay for construction of the building.

“The cost is greatly underestimated,” he said.

Board member Sherry Bridges agreed.

“A good (shelter) is not $200,000,” she said.

Board member Ralph Collins proposed the two-year time limit for obtaining a building permit. He said waiting isn’t an option, however, with the problem the county now has with stray dogs.

“Red Sky won’t be around forever,” Collins said.

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