A new group is being formed to address the problem of abandoned and abused animals in DeKalb County.
"It's called the DeKalb Coalition for the Humane Treatment of Animals, and we are in the process of securing IRS 501 c 3 charitable status," said David McDowell, Fourth District County Commissioner, who is a member of the Coalition.
"The purpose is to provide for an adequate animal shelter and facilities; to provide a permanent & safe location for neglected, abandoned and abused animals; to provide an alternative low-kill policy so these animals receive medical attention, reduce overpopulation, and be cared for until they can be placed in permanent homes," said McDowell in a statement to WJLE.
"We want to work together with the mayors and city councils, and the DeKalb County Mayor & County Commission, to provide a more humane treatment of unwanted or neglected animals. After all, one measure of a society is how they treat their weakest members," said McDowell.
Other members of the Coalition are Sue Puckett Jernigan, Dr. Hugh Don Cripps, Marsha Darrah, Renee Ferguson, and Smithville Alderman Jason Murphy.
County Mayor Mike Foster told WJLE Saturday that he is confident this new coalition will offer a new and better approach to a growing problem. "This group has already formed their new charter and registered it. We feel they are a rock solid group of people that are in it for the long haul. They are applying for a 501 c 3, which takes a little bit of time, but by doing it with the city and county we can begin to move on. There are a lot of grants out there for a 501 c 3 that are not available to the governmental agencies. We feel like the timing is right to do this," he said.
Foster said the county and cities must work together to address the concerns. "Just this past week we had five or six people who were bitten (dog bites). We're continuously having vicious dogs in neighborhoods and as it currently stands we don't have any way to adopt animals out. We would like to come up with some type of program that does a much better job of that (adoption). A lot of dogs just get mistakenly picked up. They may break a chain or something. We need a way to hold them in a safe environment and let their owners come and check on them and make sure they don't get euthanized. We have to come up with a better program. We currently don't have ways to adopt those dogs out and we don't have the facility to hold them in safely. I just think it's a really good thing that we are beginning to talk along those lines of trying to come up with hopefully a combined animal shelter between the city and the county and maybe the other towns in the county and that we collectively solve this problem," he said. Literally, we have had several people who have been bitten and when they are we don't know if that dog has had rabies shots or not. We have to hold that dog for a minimum of ten days. It (animal) needs to be safely confined to where you don't run the risk of that patient of having to go take rabies shots or worse, getting rabies. I think Mayor (Jimmy) Poss is going to go back to the (Smithville) city (council) and talk to his board. I think we can begin moving along those lines and hopefully try to come up with one animal shelter rather than having to run two or three. It's much more economically feasible and we can do a lot better job," said County Mayor Foster.
The City of Smithville currently operates the animal shelter for the county just behind the DeKalb County Road Department headquarters off of Smith Road. Officials say that facility, owned by the county, is no longer sufficient to meet current needs.