Committee Studies Animal Shelter Ideas

The committee to study the stray animal problem here in Cannon County met at the courthouse Thursday evening with County Executive Mike Gannon. Gannon appointed and looked for volunteers to study possible ways to aid with the stray animal problem in this county.

The committee consists of three commissioners and two concerned citizens. Mark Vanzant, a local realtor, and Anna Pittman, a local businesswoman who owns Fine Swine Barbeque on the square, joined Commissioner Clint Higgins of the 4th District and Jimmy Mingle of the 2nd  District and Bob Stoetzel of the 5th District in studying different ways to take care of the loose animal population that has plagued the county for many years.

Vanzant and Pittman are no strangers to Mike Gannon. For years they have brought this problem to him for help. Vanzant, who lives on B Tenpenny Road, has had hundreds of animals dropped off by people who evidently could not take care of these animals or they could not bring themselves in terminating their lives.

Vanzant asaid he has over 1600 signatures of people from around the county all saying they are in favor of a shelter for these animals, “I believe I could have gotten 5,000 signatures if I had not stopped taking the list around,” Vanzant said.

Mrs. Pittman, who lives in the Hopewell area off of Dickens Hill in the Indian Springs area, said they have  the same problem.

“It is disheartening,” she told the committee. “In Indian Springs we have a Home Owners Association that mandates that all animals are behind fence or on a leash.”

State Law controls animals running loose for which you can be fined in court; basically a leash law.

“It is not our neighbors who are breaking the law, it is people who carelessly come to our area of the county and maliciously drop off anything from a litter of kittens to Great Pyrenees on the unsuspecting residents,” Mrs. Pittman said.

The committee went through several different scenarios on how to be able to pay for a shelter. But almost all of them concerned having a building either built or using one of the facilities that the county already owns.

If a county building was used it would certainly have to be away from neighborhoods. The land that was set aside for the Humane Society over 20 years ago is still undeveloped. Money had been raised for the project by local incentives, but nothing ever materialized.

In fact, Gannon says that there has been nothing done on the matter at all; he says that it is a surety that taxes have not been paid on it. The most likely scenario is that after everything fell through on the original shelter. the interested parties left the area.

Basically the  county could still own  the property by default.  If there are taxes owed on it then the county could sue to get the property back. This parcel was located in the industrial park past the Convenient Center just above the circle drive.

It was also discussed whether to build a block facility or whether to make it a metal building which would be cheaper. Another idea for the time being would be to enter into a contract with a neighboring county that would keep them for us for a fee.

Mr. Vanzant has talked with Sheriff  Darrell Young and found that if the county had a Humane Officer, the officer would have to be able to arrest people (for animal cruelty or allowing animals to run at large), which means the officer would very likely be attached to the Sheriff Dept. That would be a good thing, but that also means there has to be money for it.

Commissioner Higgins feels that if the shelter was to be manned like it should be, salaries alone could cost up to $100,000 a year. In these tough economic times that will be the hard part. Vanzant says that every shelter he has inquired into has an enormous amount of volunteer help. These volunteers are animal lovers and they were glad to be a part of such an operation.

The committee would be very much appreciative of any help in trying to fix this situation and welcomes any constructive input. Letters can be sent to Mike Gannon in care of the Courthouse and he will put them on file and bring  them before the committee. “This is a very worthwhile project and we as a county need to find a way to make it happen,” says Commissioner Bob Stoetzel.