The past two weeks have brought out some the best and some of the worst of our community.
We witnessed dogs kept in unspeakable conditions. Jefferson Police Chief Gary Amburn said evidence at the animal shelter operated by Dixie Humane Society (now known as Humane Society of Marion County) off SH 49 indicated “grievous violations” of law. The criminal justice system must now determine who may pay for those alleged crimes.
Although the Humane Society board did remove the shelter’s operator, Caroline Wedding, following the social media posts of photos by Gayle Robinson, the board often seemed out of touch and behind the loop as the crisis moved past them. Missy DeLong and Bob Avery were two notable exceptions who were fully engaged in caring for the dogs even in demanding weather conditions and not just trying to find a positive spin.
The people of Marion County were the ones who stepped up in this crisis. People like Gayle, Connie, Jo, Melissa, Kim, Linda, and Christie and many more who preferred to only work behind the scenes walked dogs, moved dogs to new shelters, replenished food and water bowls, and got down on their hands and knees to clean dog feces and urine out of cages. It was the volunteers who saved the nearly 80 dogs and it was the volunteers who spoke truth to power when the time came to tell the board to take the Marshall Animal Hospital offer.
While many contributed time, money and prayers, a few deserve special recognition. Richard Jaynes allowed the use of his building on US 59 as a temporary shelter. Jefferson Mayor Bubba Haggard ordered city crews out on a cold rainy night to rescue many of the dogs. Both Haggard and District Attorney Angela Smoak personally assisted in the effort by moving dogs and putting together kennels in the dark during a winter rainstorm. Marshall Animal Hospital provided an immediate answer to a serious problem at a discounted price.
Going forward, the City of Jefferson must decide to seek a new animal control partner or bring the operation in-house? Perhaps a future that strongly resembles the present where animals picked up in Marion County are taken to the Marshall Animal Hospital or City of Marshall Animal Shelter will work best. Both Marion County and Jefferson have gotten animal control services on the cheap. For any solution to work, it must be properly funded.
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