New dog shelter expected to ease overcrowding at Red Sky



When the temperature drops in the fall of each year, the number of dogs finding their way to Red Sky Rescue tends to do the same.

This year, that’s not been the case for the nonprofit dog rescue organization located in the western part of Jackson County.

Red Sky has seen an upsurge in its canine population and with the Jackson County Dog Shelter still short $40,000 of being complete, the nonprofit could face its toughest challenge yet this winter.

[sc:text-divider text-divider-title=”Story continues below gallery” ]Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

Rescue manager Ruth Riley, 68, said the number of dogs at her 501c3 shelter at 8305 Dryden Road in Medora, has climbed to almost double its 45-dog capacity in recent weeks.

"We’re usually starting to slow down toward the start of winter. This year has just been unusual," Riley said. "I think it could be a combination of things. I think more people are aware of the shelter and what we do. I think it’s community awareness. Unfortunately, that has caused more drop-offs."

Those drop-offs are often unannounced, with owners dumping dogs at the gates of the rescue.

While there’s an ordinance in place that can fine or jail offenders, many people who abandon animals aren’t caught.

"I recently went out to do my evening feed and there was a dog that had been dumped in the road," Riley said. "It was hanging around our fence wanting to get in and see the other dogs. People unfortunately think they can just drop off a dog and we will take care of it."

Riley said that the rescue averages three to six adoptions per month, but the number of dogs coming in has been too much.

"When you’re taking in 18 per month, you can’t get caught up," Riley said. "A lot of these dogs — because their previous owners weren’t knowledgeable — they weren’t taught proper manners or they have health problems. When a dog comes in like that, they have to stay here until they are able to enter a home."

Riley has four volunteers who help her on a consistent basis each week, but Riley says it’s hardly enough.

"Our girls work hard and need a day off. Nobody is getting any days off right now," Riley said. "This is really physical work. Most of my volunteers are older people, like grandmas that have health issues, that prevent them from doing more. We need more hands-on help."

Since Riley is helping with more of the day-to-day operations, she hasn’t been able to focus on other important areas of her job.

Those duties include coordinating adoptions and transporting dogs to other shelters across the Midwest and Northeast. Red Sky works with Canine Express Transport Project, a network of shelters who have been working together to save dogs’ lives since 2009.

"When it gets (overcrowded), I end up doing kennel work to help the volunteers instead of doing computer work," Riley said. "I end up losing adoptions because I can’t get to my emails."

Red Sky has rescued, rehabilitated and re-homed homeless dogs in the area since 2006. In 2017, the number of dogs passing through the shelter topped 5,000.

Since 2008, the county has contracted with Riley to house dogs collected by Animal Control Officer Mark Deaton until she can find them a home. That contract was supposed to be a temporary solution until a shelter was built.

The biggest help for Red Sky would be the opening of the Jackson County Dog Shelter, which has been under construction for 18 months.

That project has been in the works for more than a decade but didn’t really take off until about three years ago.

In 2016, Debbie Hackman of Brownstown received a variance from the county board of zoning appeals for a low-kill shelter to be built on county-owned property behind the jail. The permit was approved in 2017 and construction began in August 2018.

Once open, Sheriff Rick Meyer will oversee the shelter. Meyer plans to have offenders from the jail help at the shelter, including keeping it clean and interacting with the dogs.

Riley said that she, as well as her volunteers, have discussed helping train those that will run the facility.

"I want this to be something our county is proud of," Riley said. "It’s the right way to do things."

Overall, more than $240,000 has been raised for the construction of the shelter, Hackman said.

But that’s still $40,000 short of finishing the shelter, she said.

The completion date has changed twice this year, being pushed back from the summer to Jan. 1, 2020. 

Now, it’s uncertain when the facility will open its doors.

While Riley waits for the shelter to reach completion, her structures are beginning to fall apart.

"It’s going to be so much better. It’s going to be so much user-friendly," she said of the shelter. "This facility (at Red Sky) was never intended to be what it is. It’s rotting from the foundations. The wiring and structure itself is starting to fall. It’s in bad shape since we’ve run 5,000 dogs through here over the past 10 years. It wasn’t meant for that. Everything takes longer because you’re working with improper tools."

Hackman, who has spearheaded the fundraising effort for the shelter for three years, said the community needs to make one final push to finish the shelter. 

Riley said drywall, heating and cooling are being installed at the new shelter at this time.

Last night, members of the Brownstown council discussed waving a $7,500 sewer tap fee to help lower the cost of construction during their meeting.

Hackman said the shelter needs to be finished to help Riley and the dogs at Red Sky.

"Ruth had agreed to take the county dogs temporarily until the shelter was built, and that was in 2008," Hackman said. "It needs to be done. It’s a really big burden for one person to organize all that. It’s not meant for one person to carry that load."

Fundraising will continue even when the shelter reaches completion, as it will continue to ensure construction is finished and the shelter is operational.

The biggest fundraiser, the fifth annual Fur Ball, will be held on April 4 for the shelter.

Hackman said she anticipates the shelter will reach its monetary goal that night if not sooner.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”How to help” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

The Jackson County Dog Shelter and Red Sky Rescue both need help with donations. 

Fundraising will continue even when the shelter reaches completion, as it will continue to ensure construction is finished and the shelter is operational.

All donations for the shelter are tax-deductible and may be made at the Community Foundation of Jackson County in Seymour.

Red Sky Rescue also relies on donations and volunteers to stay in operation.

Call 812-216-6310 or email [email protected] to find out how you can help. The rescue also posts its needs on its Facebook page.


No posts to display