Humane society’s future threatened by funding

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 15, 2000

A dog at the Warren County Humane Society sticks his nose out of his cage as Von Winters, right, fixes a kennel’s fence. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

Pets are still paying the price for a 1997 dispute, leaving the Vicksburg Warren Humane Society in dire straits and facing closure of its shelter on U.S. 61 South.

“Right now, we are in financial trouble,” said Barbara Hughes, a member of the society’s board of directors.

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Since December, she said, the private group has drawn its savings account down to $2,300 in order to keep the doors open.

“And with our checking account, we are working from week to week,” Hughes said.

In better times five years ago, the society built its shelter near the Vicksburg Municipal Airport. It replaced an inadequate one off Mount Alban Road near the Warren County 4-H Building.

People can go to the shelter to leave unwanted animals or to adopt pets, usually cats or dogs.

But a rift involving rival factions of board members and other members came to a head in 1997 when the situation boiled down to a battle for control of the society. One group was made up of people who claimed to be the board of directors and the other called itself the Guardian Angels of Humane Society Animals.

Hughes serves on the resulting board as vice president. Other members are Taffi Mills as president, and board members Danette Henry, Shelia Nixon, Leigh Wilson, Star McDonald and Robert Kapp.

“I think it all dates back” to the controversy, Hughes said.

“We are a new board and we want to do right by the animals,” Mills said.

The City of Vicksburg formerly supported humane society operations, but no longer does so. The city has an impoundment on U.S. 61 North and uses the services of a Jackson agency to euthanize animals the city trucks to Jackson.

Mills and Hughes said it would take between $5,000 and $6,000 a month to operate the shelter the way it should be.

With the financial straits the organization is in now, the shelter must now operate with one full-time staffer and a part-time person.

The society gets $1,000 a month from Warren County under the provisions of a local and private bill the Mississippi Legislature passed at the request of the Warren County Board of Supervisors. The society also gets about $9,000 a year from the Combined Federal Campaign. Otherwise, the only income is donations and, quite often, checks sent as memorials to family pets who have died.

That amount of income leaves the society between $39,000 and $51,000 short of what it needs to operate properly, officers said.

“What we really need is money,” Mills said. “We also need reliable, dedicated volunteers.”

Those volunteers should be able to wash feeding dishes, wash towels, help feed animals, answer the phone and know a little about basic veterinary medicine so they could help administer shots and recognize common diseases in animals.

Hughes also said the society needs additional people to serve on the board of directors.

If the society does not get the help it needs soon, Mills said the board is looking at a Nov. 1 date to shut down operations.

The board of supervisors cannot raise the amount it gives the society on its own. It would have to get the local legislative delegation to introduce an amendment to the local and private legislation to increase the amount. But that can’t be done until January 2001.

“We can’t wait that long,” Mills said.