Animal issues a problem we all created

Published 6:59 pm Saturday, September 16, 2017

About a year ago, Vicksburg’s Darlene Hughes, who is an active volunteer with Paws Rescue, went to pick up a dog Paws was pulling from the Vicksburg Animal Shelter to go into foster care. Darlene was appalled at the conditions there.

Very long story short, Darlene called much-needed attention to the problem, a small group of volunteers formed and, after much prodding by Darlene mainly, conditions at the shelter improved.

Fast forward to today. What was a group of six or so faithful volunteers, who regularly went to the shelter to walk, bathe and help socialize our city’s abused, neglected and unwanted dogs and cats, has dwindled to just Darlene.

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And, without public attention, like many things, conditions at the animal shelter have lapsed back into what seems to be a state of uncaring neglect.

The current issue at the animal shelter has folks riled, as well it should. But the angry messages being posted on social media aimed toward the city of Vicksburg don’t take into account the big picture.

The truth is, at least Vicksburg has an animal shelter.

Yes, we could do better there, no doubt. The city’s shelter is in desperate need of a professional animal shelter director — someone trained in best practices in operating such a facility. And city officials are in the beginning stages of recruiting such a professional.

Many cities our size don’t have a shelter. The poor Natchez Adams County Humane Society — the only shelter in that area — operates on a $25,000 per year payment from the city and the same amount from the county. It is forced to make up the remainder of the $300,000 it needs each year through donations and grant funds, when available. What that means it constantly struggles for funds and routinely closes the shelter to the intake of dogs and cats — turns them away to a fate I don’t want to even imagine.

I’m always surprised when I read comments on social media when people learn animals at our shelter have been euthanized. The Vicksburg Animal Shelter is a kill shelter. That’s a horrible thing, no doubt, but it’s reality. Dogs and cats are routinely euthanized for lack of space at the shelter. People who bemoan that fact on Facebook likely wouldn’t stand for the tax increase necessary to take in and care for all of our area’s unwanted animals. That figure would be astronomical. And, frankly, it’s better to humanely euthanize an unwanted animal than to leave them to starve to death or suffer some worse fate.

Want to make a difference in the lives of unwanted, abused and neglected pets here? That’s easy:

• Have your pets spayed and neutered. Each and every one. When it comes to cats and dogs, the miracle of birth is nothing more than a nightmare.

• Lobby city officials to require annual permits for all animals, which would include proof of up-to-date vaccinations.

• Lobby your state elected representatives — State Sen. Briggs Hopson and State Rep. Oscar Denton — to stand up to Farm Bureau and take a lead in enacting legislation to make first offense animal abuse and cruelty a felony in Mississippi.

• If you are in the market for a pet, please don’t buy one from a puppy mill. Adopt from the Vicksburg Animal Shelter, the Vicksburg Warren County Humane Society, Paws Rescue or one of the other groups that rescues unwanted animals.

If you sit back and post on social media how much you love animals, but you do nothing more, you’re part of the problem.

Despite the columns and editorials we have written about Darlene Hughes and her Passionate for Rescues group and the need for volunteers at the city’s animal shelters, it’s now just her.

In our entire city, we can’t find anyone else who is willing to volunteer time to help out at the animal shelter? Seriously?

Volunteers are very much needed there. Those animals need to be walked and socialized and spend time out of their kennels. Perhaps the most important task volunteers can fulfill is sharing information about available animals and helping to find them a forever home. In the last year, many of the animals that found themselves in our shelter are now in loving homes for no other reason than Darlene and others got the word out about their plight.

If you can’t volunteer at the animal shelter — and many of us can’t — please set aside money each week to donate to Paws Rescue or one of the people here, like Dianne Gargaro, who take in animals in need of rescue and help find them forever homes.

Anger directed toward city officials when it comes to this issue is misplaced. The city is working on improving conditions at the shelter, and you can bet if they let up on that, you will read about it in this newspaper. And Darlene Hughes will scream it from the rooftops.

The problem of the unbelievably large number of unwanted, abused and neglected dogs and cats here is one we created. And it’s going to take more than posts on social media to fix it. It’s going to take real work, money and commitment.
Jan Griffey is general manager of The Vicksburg Post. You may email her at