County official optimistic for completion of dog shelter

Jackson County’s building commissioner is “pretty optimistic” the 45-by-82-foot Jackson County Dog Shelter will be completed by the middle of March after the facility was approved for construction nearly seven years ago.

Conner Barnette said he was chosen to spearhead the completion of the long-delayed project in November of last year by the county’s three commissioners.

Many components of the dog shelter, located behind the sheriff’s department off State Road 250 just east of Brownstown, are completed, Barnette said, including the electrical and plumbing, concrete and flatwork and sidewalks.

Interior work for the shelter is the main priority to finish, he said. That includes the construction of kennels and adding drywall, fiberglass reinforced panels, doors and trim.

Barnette said he is currently taking bids from contractors to complete all of the interior work.

A lift station and sanitary sewer will be installed for the shelter’s sanitary sewage system, and Barnette said he’s waiting for approval from the town of Brownstown to have the plans for both approved.

Brownstown charges a sewer tap fee for newly installed lift stations within town limits. Last year, the town offered to waive that fee in exchange for the county taking in the town’s stray dogs.

Barnette said that conversation happened before he took charge of the project, but he was interested in speaking to the town about having that fee lifted.

In February 2015, the Jackson County Board of Zoning Appeals approved the dog shelter to be constructed behind the sheriff’s department at 150 E. State Road 250. At the time, a Jackson County Dog Shelter committee was overseeing the project, which had been in the works for several years.

Upon completion of the project, inmates from the Jackson County Jail will help with taking care of the dogs held at the shelter.

Plans to create the dog shelter were focused on alleviating the burden of taking care of the county’s dogs from Medora-based nonprofit animal shelter Red Sky Rescue, which was owned and operated by Ruth Riley since 2008.

Red Sky had a contract with the county to provide a home for stray and abandoned dogs. That contract expired at the end of 2021 when Red Sky Rescue ceased operations. The county currently does not have a contract with anyone to take the county’s stray dogs.

Under the contract the county had with Riley, Red Sky Rescue received $37,000 a year to take care of strays brought in by the county’s animal control officer. That money will be used to help fund operations of the shelter. In 2021, county dispatched received 218 calls about dogs and in the past has picked up as many as 20 dogs a month.

Construction on the dog shelter began in the fall of 2018 when the project was being overseen by the original Jackson County Dog Shelter committee.

In October 2020, the Jackson County Commissioners voted 2-1 to take ownership of the dog shelter from that committee.

Commissioners control, maintain and supervise county property, including courthouses, jails and public offices.

A condition of the commissioners taking ownership was making sure no public funds were used toward construction. Private donations have been exclusively used to fund the project.

Jackson County Sheriff Rick Meyer said in an April 2021 county council meeting that he will oversee operations of the shelter and a part-time manager will be employed to help.

The sheriff is a part of the current Jackson County Dog Shelter committee, which consists of Commissioner Matt Reedy, Animal Control Officer Mark Deaton and three Jackson County councilmen, John Nolting, Mark Hackman and Michael Davidson.

Donations may be mailed to P.O. Box 1231, Seymour, IN, 47274, dropped off at the Community Foundation of Jackson County’s office at 107 Community Drive in Seymour or made online via

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