New K-9 control center now open in Brownstown

BROWNSTOWN — Fred is a short, stocky, 70-pound pit bull.

Earlier this month, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department received a call about the stray dog, and new Animal Control Officer Andy Wayman went to pick him up.

On Sept. 12, he took the dog to Brownstown Veterinary Clinic to get neutered. Two days later, Mandy Michaels, office manager of the new Jackson County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Control Center in Brownstown, posted a picture and information about Fred on Facebook.

On Sept. 16, Fred was adopted, the first dog to find a new home since the center officially opened Sept. 7.

“He was very famous and had a lot of people interested in him,” Michaels said, noting the post about Fred reached 9,000 people with either a like, a comment or a share.

Wayman and Michaels aren’t sure if all of the dogs at the center will be adopted that fast, but they are doing everything they can to let people know the facility is up and running and dogs are available for adoption.

“Everybody I see, I encourage them to go to our Facebook page and then share it with all of your friends and let’s flood it out there so they know we’re here doing adoptions,” Wayman said.

The center has been several years in the making after a committee was formed to open a dog shelter behind the Jackson County Jail.

In February 2015, the Jackson County Board of Zoning Appeals approved the shelter to be constructed. Plans 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 until that expired at the end of 2021.

Construction on the 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, and a new committee was formed to finish the project.

Wayman, who retired a couple of years ago after 23 years with the sheriff’s department but then worked court security at the Jackson County Judicial Center, was hired as animal control officer Aug. 15.

For a majority of his career, Wayman said there wasn’t an animal control officer, so the officers played that role. Under Sheriff Marc Lahrman in 2010, a part-time animal control officer was hired. Then when Mike Carothers took office, he made it a full-time position, and it has remained so ever since.

When he discovered earlier this summer there was an opening for the position, Wayman pursued it.

“What interested me in it is getting back out into the public,” he said. “I dealt with the public up at the courthouse, but it was pretty confining, so this gets me back out in the community and dealing with people.”

He was tasked with finding an office manager and talked to Kristin Tormoehlen with Brownstown Veterinary Clinic. She reached out to Michaels, who had been one of her veterinary technicians until the end of 2020.

“I quit over there because I wanted to do something different after six years, and I’m going to school for a business degree,” Michaels said. “I should be done in December, so she thought of me, and she’s like, ‘Hey, he’s getting ready to hire for this job.’ I didn’t even know they were getting ready to open.”

Michaels first worked at Tormoehlen’s office her senior year at Brownstown Central High School through the school-to-work program, and after graduating, she completed the 18-month veterinary technician program at International Business College in Indianapolis.

“Ever since I was little, I always wanted to work with animals,” she said. “That was the most appealing to me, and I really liked it doing the school-to-work thing in high school.”

She returned to Tormoehlen’s office as a vet tech and was there for five and a half years before deciding to enroll at Western Governors University to pursue a business degree.

When Tormoehlen mentioned the office manager job to Michaels, she said it sounded interesting.

“I called in that day and asked about it, and (Wayman) was like, ‘Just bring your résumé and stuff by,’ and it was the next week that I interviewed for it, and he offered me the job at the interview,” Michaels said.

She started Sept. 1, but the center didn’t officially open until six days later.

Between Aug. 15 and Sept. 1, Wayman said he took in four stray dogs. He knew the owners and was able to contact them.

In the first week and a half of the new center opening, however, he picked up 10 dogs. The facility has 16 individual kennels that are each separated by a wall.

Wayman said he only takes in stray dogs that come in as complaint calls from the sheriff’s department. He does not patrol looking for stray dogs, and the center is not a dog shelter and doesn’t take surrendered animals.

If he knows the owner of the dog, Wayman said he gives them one verbal warning. If he picks the dog up a second time, it’s a $50 citation.

“That’s spelled out very clear in the ordinance,” he said, referring to the ordinance that has been in place since 2010. “The first one is $50. If it happens again, even if it’s the next day, it goes up by $50, so $100, $150. I’ll write tickets. I’ve written tickets. Make sure your dog is secure. If I have to come out and pick it up, there will be consequences. I am a law enforcement officer.”

If he doesn’t know the owner of a dog he picks up, he immediately takes it to the veterinarian to be checked for a microchip and receive vaccinations before taking it to the center.

Information is shared publicly about the dog, and a $10 per day boarding fee is charged until the owner claims the dog. The cost of the vaccinations is on them to pay, too.

After five days of being unclaimed, the dog becomes property of the sheriff’s department, and Michaels can post information on Facebook to get it adopted.

“It becomes ours and we can get it spayed or neutered and finish up its vaccines,” she said.

Wayman said the goal is a quick turnaround to find each dog a home. If it remains there for a couple of weeks, it’s time to start looking into transport companies.

“I know some of the other shelters use transports because there are some states, like on the East Coast, they really don’t have as many dogs running around as we do, and they need animals over there, so we can transport them to other states, and they’ll get adopted over there a little bit quicker than here,” Michaels said.

If someone sees a dog on the Facebook page they would like to adopt, they can call 812-358-2141 to set up a time to visit, send a message via the Facebook page or stop by during business hours, which are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

The center has a $75 adoption fee.

“They just come take a look, and if they decide they want to adopt it that day, they just fill out the paperwork and go up to the main office (in the sheriff’s department) and pay and come back and take them home,” Michaels said.

Finding a dog a new home is rewarding to Wayman and Michaels because they spend time providing it with food and water, walking it and keeping the kennel clean while it’s at the center.

“They are a member of the family,” Wayman said. “You’re providing them with a member of their family.”

Wayman and Michaels are the center’s only employees. There was talk at one point of having inmates from the nearby jail help with caring for the dogs.

“It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s probably something down the road we’ll have to do,” Wayman said. “I do that (taking care of the dogs) every day, and I even come in on the weekends and do it.”

At some point, he said the center may start accepting volunteers to help out.

Donations, however, are being accepted now. Monetary donations may be dropped off at the Community Foundation of Jackson County in Seymour or mailed there, while items like dog food and treats may be dropped off at the center during business hours.

“I go through dog treats quick. I kind of baby them a little bit,” Wayman said, smiling. “I want to take them all home with me.”

Michaels said the new facility takes the load off of local shelters, and Wayman said it’s just another service the sheriff’s department provides. He noted Jackson County is the only one in the state where the sheriff is over dog control, as others use private contractors and businesses.

“Throughout the years, we’ve always struggled with ‘Can we help with the strays?’ and when we got to the point we could, ‘What are we going to do with it?’ This just streamlines it,” he said. “It’s a public service, just like patrol and everything else we do.”

At a glance 

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department K-9 Control Center is behind the Jackson County Jail at 150 E. State Road 250, Brownstown.

Hours are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

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 Donations are tax-deductible and can made anonymously.

People may drop off items like dog food and dog treats during the center’s business hours.

For information, call 812-358-2141 or search for Jackson County Sheriff’s Department K9 Control on Facebook.