Fur Ball advances county dog shelter project



A four-year-old fundraiser that has become the backbone of efforts to build a permanent dog shelter in Jackson County drew a near-capacity crowd to Pewter Hall on Saturday night.

This year’s Fur Ball raised about $16,000, said Debbie Hackman, one of the organizers of the event.

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While more than $209,000 has been raised to allow for construction of the shelter to begin, $66,000 is still needed to finish it, she said. Those funds will go toward interior work and landscaping.

Hackman said three volunteers, Heather Davis, Monica Rivera and Michelle Stephens, spearhead the organization of the Fur Ball each year. Other committee members are Mary Elisabeth Keller, Scott Kovener,

Cathy Kovener, Dan Berry, Tricia Berry, Gil Hoene, Connie Hoene, Shannon Neal, Whitney Wessel and Jamie Jones.

“There are a lot of other volunteers who help out,” Hackman said.

There also are a lot of businesses that donate items for the silent and live auctions that are a big part of the fundraising efforts.

She said the event is focused on providing fun while promoting a good cause for those in attendance each year.

Aaron Otte of Freetown said his mom has attended all four years of the Fur Ball and usually gets a table for the family, but Saturday was the first time he had attended.

Otte said, however, it is an event he will consider attending in the future.

“It’s going to a good cause, and it’s a good time,” he said. “We all have dogs.”

Shawn Miskell of Seymour also was attending for the first time, and he also said he plans to attend again in the future.

“It was just a great night out with good friends and for a good cause,” he said.

Rivera, a certified dog trainer, said she joined the committee three years ago in part because of her interest in dogs.

She also got her son, Landon, involved in this year’s Fur Ball as he paraded around auction items to those in attendance. It was something he said he enjoyed doing.

“I like dogs,” he said.

Hackman said construction of the shelter, which has begun, remains on track.

“It has walls, it has a floor and it has insulation,” she told those in attendance Saturday.

Hackman said Gil Hoene and Bob Gillaspy are the brains behind making sure the building gets completed and is done right.

“We still hope to be in by early summer, but it all depends on the weather,” she said.

The intention is to keep holding the Fur Ball each year to help with the shelter’s operating costs and spay and neuter programs, Hackman said.

The purpose of the shelter is to give abused, abandoned, neglected and homeless dogs a safe and warm place to stay until they find a permanent home.

The shelter’s beginnings can be traced to a canine control program started by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department in 2008. Red Sky Rescue, located in Owen Township, was contracted as a temporary solution to house dogs brought in by the program until they could be placed in homes.

Ruth Riley, who established Red Sky Rescue, and other volunteers will continue to care for and house dogs until the shelter can be completed and becomes operational.

The sheriff’s department will oversee operations of the dog shelter and implement a program allowing inmates from the jail to assist in caring for the shelter and the dogs. The use of inmate labor also will allow non-violent offenders the opportunity to take on responsibilities and avoids having to pay employees.

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