Cause for Hope in the Gulf Coast

By on October 12, 2007 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Our first stop yesterday was Vicksburg-Warren Humane Society—whose namesake city was the site of the battle and siege that many historians believe was a turning point for the Union in the Civil War. The shelter president, Georgia Lynn, is a fabulously determined and well-connected humane advocate who has been doing her best to turn around a tough situation for the animals in her community.

The HSUS's Wayne Pacelle with reps of Vicksburg-Warren Humane Society and Maddie's Fund
© The HSUS/Petros
Presenting a check to Georgia Lynn of the Vicksburg-Warren
Humane Society with Lynne Fridley of Maddie’s Fund (right).

This small humane society takes in more than 2,000 animals a year. The stream of puppies, kittens and owner-surrendered animals funneling into the facility reveals that there is a segment of the local population that is either not aware of responsible pet care principles or perhaps just not heeding the message. A staffer said that one morning, he arrived to find more than 30 dogs left in the 6 feet by 8 feet after-hours "drop box."

But Georgia and her team are struggling mightily to turn the situation around. They have plans for a new shelter—at a cost of about $480,000, and she said the $15,000 donation will get them that much closer to their goal.

I have confidence in these fine people. For our visit, Georgia attracted the county sheriff, the district attorney and four of the five members of the board of supervisors (see a video of yesterday’s events). It was heartening for our entourage to be greeted by these officials—all of whom truly care and want to make a difference for the animals in their community. Today, Georgia is hosting an animal fighting workshop taught by our own Southeast Regional Director Laura Bevan, and she has 85 law enforcement officers registered for the presentation.

Black spaniel dog at Mississippi Animal Rescue League
© The HSUS/Petros
A dog at the Mississippi Animal Rescue League.

From Vicksburg, we went to the new shelter of the Mississippi Animal Rescue League in Jackson. The shelter was completed in June, and sits on more than 50 acres. Debra Boswell and Aileene Maldanodo have led the group for more than two decades, and the new refuge is the realization of their lifelong dreams.

Assembled at MARL’s shelter were the leaders of nearly every animal care and control agency in central and northern Mississippi and a couple of leaders from northern Louisiana. Folks drove from as far away as 400 miles to be there. We gave out 23 checks to these groups on Wednesday and Thursday, and the humane leaders who gathered yesterday had never assembled under one roof before.

Just as in Louisiana on Tuesday—when we had about 20 shelter leaders in one place—there was earnest enthusiasm and excitement about the grants disbursed by The HSUS and Maddie’s Fund—with the gifts providing as much as 10 percent, and in one case as much as 40 percent, of the annual budget of some of the groups.

So many shelter workers told me they feel like they are alone, overwhelmed by their circumstances. But yesterday, as they mingled with others from their state facing similar challenges, they felt hope—with an infusion of resources and the promise of our major $2 million marketing campaign to drive adoptions and promote spay and neuter. They were not alone, they were standing together, and they were also receiving an unprecedented injection of outside support.

As our tour of shelters in Louisiana and Mississippi came to a close, I felt personally buoyed by my experiences here. There are several impressive new shelters in the region, and plans in the works for others. There are fantastic humane leaders working to build strong support for their work in communities in both states. They face many obstacles and challenges, but they are making a difference every day. With our ongoing commitment, with support from Maddie’s Fund, and by working closely with each other and the people of their communities, these folks on the front line make it easy to imagine a new and better day for animals in the Gulf Coast region.

Animal Rescue and Care

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