Shelter backers push for support

Fundraising and public involvement for a planned Jackson County dog shelter are not yet where they need to be to build the facility, supporters report.

Those involved with the project hope to turn that around in the coming weeks and months, however, as they continue to push their efforts forward.

A public meeting about the dog shelter is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Community Foundation of Jackson County office, 107 Community Drive in Seymour.

During that time, committee members will discuss fundraising events, including an upcoming dinner, dance and auction and a possible 5K run/walk. Volunteers to help plan and carry out such events and donations are needed, said Debbie Hackman, who has been leading the charge for the new shelter.

“We have started a public relations campaign and are really trying to get the word out there,” she said.

The shelter is estimated to cost around $200,000 and will be built on property behind the Jackson County Jail in Brownstown, if the money can be raised. It will be able to house up to 200 dogs.

A GoFundMe account set up for the shelter has netted $1,080, donated by 19 people in the six months it has been open, and a account has brought in $325. Also, a fund has been established with the community foundation to accept public donations. In all, around $14,000 has been raised so far. Donations made for the project are tax deductible, Hackman said.

The shelter committee has two years to raise the money needed and to begin construction or it will lose a variance for the county-owned property near the jail that was approved in February by the county board of zoning appeals.

“We would have liked to have had at least half by now, but I’m not worried that we won’t reach our goal,” Hackman said. “We’re hoping to get some more corporate donors.”

Once the shelter is built, Hackman said, the county will fund its operations with the money it currently pays Red Sky Rescue near Medora to house stray dogs. Red Sky Rescue is run by 63-year-old Ruth Riley along with volunteers.

The county has a contract with Riley to house dogs collected by the county’s animal control officer until she can find them a home. That contract was supposed to be a temporary solution until a shelter was built, Hackman said.

The county council set aside $29,700 for a contract for animal control services this year, and $14,850 had been spent through June 30. The budget for 2016 is the same.

Red Sky Rescue has around 60 dogs, and Riley has said she is overwhelmed, especially with the number of puppies.

“She does an amazing job, but it’s just too much for one woman to take care of that many dogs on her own and try to find them homes,” Hackman said.

Hackman said the new shelter will not put Red Sky Rescue out of business, and Riley will be a part of the new shelter’s operations.

“She wants to come in here and help place the dogs but have someone else take care of the daily needs of running the shelter,” Hackman said.

Jail inmates will operate the new shelter and interact with and care for the animals. That way, the committee doesn’t have to pay a staff, and the inmates have a way of working and giving back while they are incarcerated, Hackman said. The inmates won’t have any interaction with the public, however.

Sheriff Mike Carothers, who started the county animal control program eight years ago, stands behind the initiative. He said the shelter is needed to help find homes for the large population of abandoned, neglected and stray dogs in the county.

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

He also said the inmates involved in the program could benefit from the interaction with the dogs.

Besides Red Sky Rescue, there is a second animal shelter, the Humane Society of Jackson County, which is in Freeman Field in Seymour. Despite its name, the facility only takes dogs and cats collected in Seymour by the city’s animal control officer. It receives operating funds from the city and through fundraisers and donations. It does not receive funding from the county.

Hackman said many people ask why the county needs two animal shelters, when in reality, there is only Red Sky Rescue to serve the entire county.

“Seymour has most of the population, but geographically, it is a very small part of the county,” she said.

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What: Public meeting about the planned Jackson County dog shelter and future fundraisers for the project

Where: Community Foundation of Jackson County office, 107 Community Drive in Seymour

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Who should attend: Anyone interested in helping to get the shelter built to find homes for abandoned and stray dogs in the county