Volunteers takes charge, bring major improvements at Vicksburg city shelter

Published 8:02 pm Saturday, October 29, 2016

Things are improving at the Vicksburg animal shelter, thanks to the work of 11 city residents who are donating their time and own money to help improve what was once one of the city’s worst properties.

The kennels are cleaner and in better shape than they were in July, and the kennels holding cats and kittens have been moved to a separate room away from the dogs and puppies.

“We’ve come in and cleaned the kennels, bought food and pallets for the dogs to lie on instead of that hard plastic in the kennels, and bought food for the animals,” said Darlene Hughes, one of the 11 volunteers who since Oct. 4 has been working shifts between 8 to 11 a.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. to assist at the shelter, located at the end of Old Mill Road near the Vicksburg Fire Department training center.

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As important, the volunteers are working to get the animals out of the shelter situation an into loving, permanent homes.

“We’ve adopted 40 animals so far,” Hughes said. “People are coming here to the shelter to see the animals. Before, they wouldn’t come over here. It scared them. We are putting out a web page as the group Passionate for Animals, and we’ll update it to let the people see what’s going on.

“We’re walking the dogs in this area and getting them out of the kennels for exercise, and they enjoy it,” she said.

Hughes pointed to several large pens near the property entrance. “Someone donated those pens to us,” she said. “We put the puppies in them and let them run around, or we’ll also put the large dogs in there and them spend time outdoors. They love it; it’s a change for them to be out of the kennels and the runs.”

Shelter supervisor Robert May said the volunteers have provided necessary assistance for the kennel.

“They help us a lot,” he said. “I like it that they take to dogs out and walk them. The animals seem a lot happier because they’re able to get out of the runs. They do a lot of work around here; it’s made things better.”

The volunteer program was the result of a Sept. 9 meeting between Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and city officials, Hughes and several other residents about conditions at the animal shelter and their effect on the animals, and the need for more help at the shelter.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Oct. 2 approved a volunteer agreement/release form and policies to allow volunteers to assist city workers at the shelter, and amended the city’s policies at the shelter, requiring all adopted animals to be spayed or neutered. Under the policy, shelter employees will take the animals to the veterinarian for shots and to be spayed and neutered, and the new owners will pick up the animals at the vet.

Shelter hours were also extended from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and employees put on staggered shifts to ensure someone would be at the shelter.

Hughes and other volunteers, however, said some problems remain.

“We need people working here who have experience with animals,” said Stephanie Brewer.

“Sometimes there’s no one here. I came here and there was a cat with six kittens just dropped off.”

Hughes said one Friday a small dog was brought in with the mange and left over the weekend without any care. She said she bought dip to treat the animal, but when she returned Monday, the animal had died.

More recently, she said, five 3-week-old kittens were brought to the shelter.

“Their eyes were matted shut and covered I took them to the vet,” she said. “I took them home with me. They were going to feed them solid food. They were still on milk.”

Hughes said she plans to meet Flaggs again to discuss the problems the volunteers are still seeing at the shelter.

“I want the mayor to come here and volunteer his time to come work with the animals and see what’s going at one of his buildings in Vicksburg.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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