By Stephanie Rebman
BOONEVILLE – Aelisha McDonald’s mission began when she met a dog riddled with mange, starving and being eaten alive in a soybean field.
Now, McDonald is committed to helping the hurt, abandoned and neglected pets of Prentiss County and has saved roughly 35 dogs and 12 cats since October, when a neighbor introduced her to Lucky in that field roughly a quarter mile from her home.
Some of the cases the 30-year-old Booneville native has taken on include at least one dog left behind when its owners moved, one so matted it could barely function, one attacked by another dog, one that had been run over and a cat that was dyed red and dumped.
Her mission goes above and beyond just helping a couple here and there. She wants to start a movement for a no-kill shelter and is in the process of starting a nonprofit, Prentiss Booneville Animal Shelter.
“We don’t have anything here except the city shelter,” she said. “Dogs have seven days, and the adoption fee is $15, and they don’t get shots or get spayed or neutered. That’s something we want to change. It’s a revolving door and somebody’s got to step up and help these poor babies out. We’ve been like this for years in our county.”
She has a petition that will be delivered to the mayor that is currently circulating at eight businesses in town, and signatures are quickly filling up the pages.
It states, “We the undersigned concerned citizens, of Prentiss County/Booneville. Recognize the abundant need for an animal shelter, to assist with the care and control of the sick, needy and stray animals of our county.”
Until enough support isgarnered for a building and the nonprofit forms, McDonald keeps the animals at her home and works with Booneville Veterinary Medical Center as well as two loyal volunteers, Sheila Luff and Charlotte Adkins.
They work together to get the animals adopted, with some winding up on transports headed north. Lucky was one who went on transport after his 31⁄2 month recovery process. A vet in South Carolina was going to foster him, so he wound up on transport, and a man running the transport immediately fell in love with him and adopted him.
“It was so easy to find him a home when he was better,” McDonald said. “He was something special to me. I told my husband, ‘the change had to be here. If I could do this for one dog, why can’t I help the rest of them?’”
Right now, she and the other volunteers have seven dogs up for adoption, and they are hitting the pavement, soliciting donations and having yard sales to generate funds for vet bills. Sunshine Mills already has gotten on board, donating food, and people regularly call the vet to donate directly to them for animal care.
McDonald’s husband, Geoffrey, is on board with the effort, and “has always had a passion for animals,” she said. And, she is excited to teach her three sons, who are 5, 8 and 10, about animals and the importance of spaying and neutering. McDonald is committed to sparking the change in Prentiss County, and said, “I don’t give up.”
“The out-of-sight, out-of-mind with people has got to end,” she said. “A lot of people find it hard to look at Lucky. But when they see it, they understand why I do what I do.”