Monday, January 25, 2010

Clarksdale, MS Shelter

Getting out of the van, the smell of the shelter was overpowering and sickening. I’d asked the City Attorney, Curtis Boschert, for a tour of the shelter with Sherri Norquist, an experienced shelter director, and Sherri’s daughter, who also has shelter experience. It had been a couple of months since renewed complaints of overcrowding, aggression, and emotional and physical distress were reported to Project Hope and we were just following up to ensure improvements had been made.

Today’s tour was very disheartening. The entire facility had gotten much worse since the last time we toured. Clearly the jail inmates who were tasked with cleaning the facility had not been doing so. I actually left unable to speak with my nose running, eyes burning, and throat swelling and irritated. The stench, thick with ammonia, permeated the entire shelter and irritated my sinuses and throat.

Overcrowded, dilapidated cages lined the walls of the rooms. Sick animals were intermingled with healthy animals. Pens held too many juveniles and puppies together. Nearly every cage held dogs with hot spots, mange or a myriad of other untreated illnesses or wounds. The cattery shared this small room and the deafening sound of dogs barking bounced off every wall.

Outside, loose dogs chewed on paws, legs, hips, and backs dotted with hot spots. Dogs were haphazardly placed in runs with many cowering in fear of their cage-mates. The uncovered runs held too many dogs and not enough shelters, leaving the most terrified dogs standing or lying in the mud, muck and feces of the run floor.

During the tour the Director pled her case for the sacrifice of her time, energy, and money for the thirteen years she'd been there. So many own the responsibility for this failed “no kill” shelter. Complaints to the city had fallen on deaf ears and community members had fostered the situation with lack of interest and support. The Director clearly gave everything of herself, as did her husband for what they believed was a noble effort, but warehousing animals with no hope of a better life is simply unacceptable.

The Director, burdened beneath the weight of a tough, thankless mission and now with public scrutiny bearing down on her, she surrendered her position to the City Attorney.

We turned our attention to trying to help the animals who were languishing in the shelter. We met in the mayor's office and hatched a plan. We contacted several local vets to come in and help. New volunteers from the community came in as well.

When animal loving people come together, share their resources, and give unselfishly we can move mountains. Sadly it sometimes takes a crisis for caring folks to realize their potential.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rest in Peace

It’s never easy to lose someone dear to you. Loss is an unfortunate part of sanctuary life and we cope with it far too often, but our loss January 3, 2010 has really hit us hard. BJ, our precious, endearing Russian Boar came to us nearly 9 years ago. He was orphaned by a hunter, but rescued by someone who couldn’t leave him behind.

A Memphis woman embraced the orphaned and bottle fed him along with pups she was caring for. Because the woman lived in the city she was unable to keep BJ. A couple of calls around and she learned of our sanctuary.

When BJ arrived he was just a couple of months old. We already had several pigs so we knew he’d fit in.

As he grew he endeared himself more and more to us. His bright amber eyes were captivating. He loved belly rubs and wallowing in the mud. He received bananas and apples regularly, but adored watermelon and watching him eat watermelon was like watching a child dismantle wrapping from a present.

BJ shared his space with Mary Grace. He loved her, but she annoy him at times with her high pitched and prolonged demands for food. Sometimes he’d butt her with a strong, ”shut the heck up!” What he didn’t realize was Mary Grace’s disturbances got them fed first every time.

BJ determined which house was his and how it would be kept. As winter approached BJ would begin gathering dried grasses for bedding. Season after season it was me who’d have to clear BJ’s abode of packed hay as he stood by vigorously protesting.

BJ was amazingly gentle with children. Our dear friend, Debbie Young, brought her grandson, Austin, whenever her rescue and adoption efforts allowed free time. Austin and BJ were real pals. BJ willingly cooperated with Austin’s inspections of his ears. Austin and his brother, Ackerly, visited us just a few weekends ago and BJ really enjoyed their visit.

BJ’s appetite started to decline and Dr. Abernathy was called. BJ was now lying down, apparently in discomfort. Doc wasn’t able to determine what was wrong. He planned to come back out, but let us know he didn’t have the equipment to x-ray BJ. BJ began eating again so we believed he might have ingested something he’d expelled. Two nights later BJ died. BJ appeared to have gone peacefully in his sleep. He was in his house, blanketed in his hay, and there were no signs of distress.

We miss him dearly.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Breaking Mississippi Animal Cruelty Case

Canton, Mississippi Animal Control Officer, Alonzo Esco, has been fired for allegedly shooting to death over a hundred dogs that were in his care. It's speculated that Esco had also been selling dogs he picked up for bait in dogfighting. What is clear is that after an investigation by the Canton Police Department was that Esco had shot and illegally dumped over 100 dogs in a Canton waterway.

Because the crimes were not a felony, the case would have to be taken up in a lower court. And the Mayor of Canton said that because it was a misdemeanor, the city would not take up the case.

“We will not let go of this,” said Doll Stanley, director of IDA’s Project Hope. “It is absolutely appalling and disgusting that an animal control officer working for any municipality would take it upon himself to violate city policy by shooting animals entrusted to his care. We know this goes on in different communities in Mississippi, and we’re hoping that when these same communities see that Mr. Esco is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law that they will wake up and smell the coffee.”

Esco is facing at least 100 counts of animal cruelty for shooting the dogs. IDA is also looking into the fact that he used city property to act illegally.

Sources revealed that Esco was let go from the Canton Fire Department for stealing gasoline and “demoted” to animal control.

“What is very disconcerting is that a city employee would be demoted to animal control. It is really disturbing is that an animal control position is not considered respectable. Sadly, here in the Mississippi, animal control is often viewed as a gateway to the police or fire department. As an auxiliary policeman, Esco did have a police weapon and this is the weapon he used to kill these animals.”

Check out the news reports from WLBT-TV and WAPT-TV in Jackson, Mississippi for more information on this breaking case.


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