Organized last year but still working toward a permanent facility, the Pontotoc County Animal Rescue and Shelter hopes to open its doors by next spring. In the meantime, its members already have started fostering homeless pets and matching them with new owners.
Twenty-five dogs have been adopted through the program since Christmas, said Chairwoman and founder Katie Jackson, whose agency operates as a nonprofit under the umbrella of the Tupelo-based CREATE Foundation.
“There’s such a need here,” Jackson said Wednesday. “I see dogs on the loose, people just dump them. Every weekend I get a litter of puppies left by my house.”
One day, Jackson said, someone tossed what appeared to be a bag of trash from a moving vehicle. When the object hit her windshield, she realized it was a kitten. It survived and is now one of Jackson’s beloved pets. She named him Bug.
Other board members recounted similar incidents they’ve personally witnessed, all of which convinced them it’s time the community had its own animal shelter.
Currently, the closest facilities are located in Oxford and Tupelo. And though some people clearly would rather dump pets on the road than drive them 20-30 miles to a shelter, both agencies have received cats and dogs from Pontotoc.
In the past year alone, the Tupelo-Lee Humane Society took in roughly 300 animals from Pontotoc County – about half were abandoned by their owners; the other half were found there as strays.
TLHS Director Debbie Hood lauded the rescue group’s effort, saying it will reduce the number of animals at the cramped Tupelo facility and thereby lower its euthanasia rate.
“It’s appreciated by me,” Hood said, “and it’s appreciated by the animals.”
The Pontotoc County Animal Rescue and Shelter – or PCARS – already found a building and is working with the owner to convert it into a kennel. Currently vacant, the West Highway 6 building used to house Quality Air.
Jackson and other board members gathered at the site this week to talk about their plans.
“We’re desperate for help,” said Stacey Irvin, a board member and owner of Classy Canine Academy, which trains dogs.
It will take an estimated $300,000 to open and operate the shelter. So fundraising this year will be key. The group tentatively has planned a series of events geared to promote its cause and bring in revenue, but no dates yet have been set.
“I’m surprised we have so many people here who don’t even know we exist,” said board member Conna Montgomery. “We need to get the word out that we’re here.”
Two 15-week-old puppies presently in the foster program will head north today, thanks to Happy Pets of New England, which will place the pups with their new families, Jackson said.
Their departure will be bittersweet. Jackson has grown to love the dogs she and another family nursed from weak, mange-infected babies to healthy, furry juveniles. She’ll miss them but knows they’ll go to loving homes.
“I’ve spent time with every dog we’ve adopted out,” she said. “And I plan to do that even when we get big.”