By BOB PALMER
As skies cleared Monday in Marion County, police officers discovered two freezers filled with dead dogs and storage buildings containing filthy cages at what has formerly been known as the Dixie Humane Society shelter.
An early winter rainstorm Friday caught the Humane Society in transition as the board removed founder and former president Caroline Wedding from office. Wedding operated the shelter until last week. The board has also decided to return to the organization’s corporate name, Humane Society of Marion County (HSMC), the actual name the 501c3 organization is registered under with the Texas Secretary of State.
Despite a cold, pounding rain Friday night and Saturday, volunteers relocated approximately 20 dogs to the former Jayne’s Farm & Feed Store building on US 59. Dogs left at the shelter were relocated out of standing water.
The scope of the Humane Society’s disaster began to emerge Monday.
Jefferson police officers were seen at the shelter off SH 49 taking notes. Police Chief Gary Amburn was not available for comment Monday.
The revelation of the freezers containing dead dogs at what had purported itself to be a “no kill” shelter was perhaps the most alarming.
Shelly Godwin with the Marshall Animal Shelter said Wedding has brought dogs to her facility to be euthanized at a cost of $20 per animal.
“She (Wedding) hasn’t brought anything to us in several years to be put down,” Godwin said. “Usually when she brought them there was something wrong with them.”
Bob Avery, HSMC legal advisor, said he was not aware of the freezers until this week and was not aware that animals were being euthanized. He is not aware of any medical or census records for the animals shelter.
Missy DeLong, HSMC vice president, now directs operations at the center. DeLong said she had not been aware of the dead dogs either.
Wedding did surrender the Society’s bank account Monday of which she was the only signatory. Wedding signed over $4,800 to Avery who says the group now had more than $8,000 of funds on hand.
The City of Jefferson paid Dixie Humane Society $13,000 for animal control services in October. Avery said he would not know where those funds went until he is able to examine the account.
“I suspect that most of the money went to operations,” Avery said.
Wedding is expected to vacate the property Tuesday. She told the Jimplecute that she only receives $300 a month from Social Security.
“I have no money,” Wedding said Monday.
Avery confirmed that she did not receive a salary from HSMC although she did live on the shelter property and had unlimited use of the humane society’s vehicle.
Both DeLong and Avery said they did not know how many board members visited the shelter during the months leading up to last week’s crisis.
Progress has been made in caring for the dogs, according to those on the scene. Dogs were observed Sunday evening in cleaner pens with dry blankets in their igloos in anticipation of the freezing temperatures Sunday night. Volunteers on-site reported all dogs had been walked, fed and given fresh water.
Gayle Robinson, whose social media posts alerted the community to conditions at the shelter, is helping at the Jayne’s Feed building. A criminal trespass order sought by Wedding bars Robinson from going to the shelter.
“The sadness is gone,” Robinson said of the dogs at the former feed store. “They are being fed twice a day, have water and are being walked.”
Robinson said the dogs sleep more now and bark less.
Conditions at the original site of the humane society have improved since Jefferson Mayor Bubba Haggard ordered city crews to assist in Friday’s crisis after checking with City Attorney Mike Martin. Haggard and District Attorney Angela Smoak were among the volunteers that responded Friday night.
“Something had to be done,” Haggard said Monday.
Haggard expects the Humane Society will reimburse the city for the expense.
The mayor admitted he had not been to the shelter recently and was doubtful if any members of the city council had.
Avery did not know when the HSMC board would meet again. Brooklynn Bradley-LaFleur is currently serving as president of the board while DeLong is vice president. Tammy Cornett and Mary Bird also serve on the board. David and Dusty Axe have been serving as board members but resigned last week.
The Humane Society of Marion County is not a state regulated animal shelter.
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