By BOB PALMER
Jimplecute News Editor
The sickening odor of large amounts of dog feces hung heavy in the air behind what had once been the Island View Landing store as April Ratcliff described the dramatic rescue last week of more than 80 abandoned dogs.
The lack of animal control and an animal shelter in Marion County led to the large number of dogs roaming the community of mobile homes and small homes on the south shore of Lake O’ The Pines, Ratcliff said.
“What do they want me to do,” Sheriff David McKnight said Wednesday, admitting his office received calls about the problem.
“We have no place to take the dogs.”
A businessman identified as Todd Winn has purchased property around the Landing, hoping to redevelop the area. When the former owners left, squatters, in some cases, moved in.
Winn has evicted those living on his property. The Jimplecute attempted to contact Winn for comment but calls were not returned prior to presstime. Ratcliff stood in front of one mobile home where squatters stayed. She described it as a “meth house.”
When tenants, both legal and illegal, left, the dogs remained. Winn, according to Ratciff and others, said he would have no choice but to shoot the strays. A Facebook post about the problem quickly involved Ratcliff, who has participated in animal rescues in Henderson and Longview.
With the Marion County rescue, Ratcliff has now placed over 300 dogs in either adoptive or foster homes. “When I saw the picture, it made my heart sick,” Ratciff said. Ratcliff and her husband and a volunteer, Jack Harlin, arrived on the scene April 3.
“I was thinking we will just pick up dogs,” Ratcliff said, “Jack handed me a flashlight. There were more dogs inside this trailer.” Ratcliff estimated the dogs had been locked inside without food or water for more than two days.
Ratcliff carried 25 dogs away that Wednesday. She had to work on Thursday, but more volunteers arrived and more dogs were picked up. Ratcliff came back on Sunday with a larger team.
Most of the dogs, including 28 puppies, were taken to Dallas DogRRR, a shelter for street dogs. “A total of 84 animals have been taken in as of now from that property,” Patti Dawson, president of Dallas DogRRR, said.
Dawson was also critical of the lack of resources in Marion County to deal with the problem. “Animal control should be out there,” Dawson said. “Having your animal shelter closed down is definitely a huge issue.”
Ratcliff reported residents of the area were helpful as volunteers rounded up the dogs. She also noted how many residents would leave food out for the dogs, who continued to breed and produce more dogs. Dawson found the dogs rescued from Marion County surprisingly tame.
“These are pretty socialized dogs,” Dawson said. “They are dogs that had human contact. They are wagging their tails when you came in. Overall they were well socialized dogs.” Ratcliff said involving herself in the plight of these dogs seemed natural.
“To me it is normal to help,” Ratcliff said. “Yes, it took my time. Yes, it took my Sunday. We did it all.” Ratcliff is under no illusions about what would happen if everyone did nothing. “All these dogs would keep multiplying,” Ratcliff said.
“They would keep breeding.” She did not want to consider what the property owner would be forced to do. “He doesn’t want the dogs out there, either,” Ratcliff said. The dogs now have a future. Dawson said a shelter in Alaska has already contacted her about the puppies.
Ratcliff threw out an idea that seems to be working in some places. “Here is something to get your mind rolling,” Ratcliff said. “Instead of paying for animal control, Alaskan communities use their funds to pay for a vet to provide free spay and neuter services.”
Ratcliff hopes to capture a few of the dogs still roaming Island View. It seems, however, the stench from dog owners and community failing to act in a responsible manner will linger for a while longer.
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