Members of the Joe Black Effort met with County Mayor Mike Foster and the County Commission Thursday night at the county complex to address the issue of abandoned and abused animals.
Rene Stufano asked the commissioners to help form a coalition to deal with the problem on a county-wide basis. "From our standpoint it isn't Smithville's problem. It's a county problem," said Stufano. "I think its important to come up with some kind of agreement with the county, with the city of Smithville, with the city of Alexandria, and with Dowelltown, and Liberty. The way I see it right now, everything is being dumped on the Smithville pound, which is a little closet, disgusting building with nothing good to say about it. I really feel like DeKalb County can do better than that. The animals go there. They're fed. They can keep them (animals) two days and wait for them to be claimed and then be euthanized. That is not acceptable for me or for a lot of other people," said Stufano.
(PLAY VIDEO BELOW OF RENE STUFANO)
The Joe Black Effort is offering a temporary solution, according to Stufano, to have their volunteers at the dog pound to care for the animals and keep the area clean and safe until they can be moved out or someone adopts them. Stufano said all volunteers will sign a disclaimer holding no one responsible for any injury that may occur. "In the few months that we've been running, we have more than 50 members. We have 30 foster homes right now with animals in them. We're accommodating 100 animals," said Stufano. "We've been taking care of their medical needs. Dr. Burke, Dr. Wheeler, and Dr. Little are all working with us. We charge a little bit of an adoption fee. We're doing fundraisers so that we can pay our medical bills. Our goal is to have our own rescue. We'd like to get a no kill shelter. I am aware that there are times animals have to be euthanized. But its not appropriate for every animal. I would like to see us create a DeKalb Coalition for the Humane Treatment of Animals. Members of the coalition need to be the mayors, the commissioners, aldermen, the people who run all the cities and the county, and the veterinarians. The Joe Black Effort volunteers would like to offer a temporary solution. We would like to sign a waiver. (City attorney) Vester Parsley would write that up so that the county is not responsible. The city is not responsible. If something happens to the pound we're (Joe Black Effort) not responsible and to allow our volunteers to temporarily assist in the treatment of the animals that come into the pound. We are willing to take care of their medical needs and take them out and put them in the Joe Black program. If they need to be euthanized then we can have that done. A permanent solution would be to have a building and a real rescue. I think to have a real shelter, something nice and clean, have an adoption center, having the animals taken care of, would really uplift our county. I think the less animals we see on the streets, the better," said Stufano.
The county commissioners made no commitment Thursday night, other than to suggest a meeting of the county's agriculture/animal control committee to explore the issue further. County Mayor Foster advised the Joe Black Effort to continue working on obtaining its 501(c) 3 non-profit status and to be patient with the county, saying that the problem is not one that could not be solved overnight.
In an email Friday morning, Stufano wrote. "Last nights meeting went well. We had good representation, all three veterinarians were there. Basically we introduced the idea of a new rescue and also the idea that this is a county wide issue. The poor solution that is in place now is antiquated, inadequate and needs to be torched. We talked about a coalition and doing something as a county. The county has really dumped this issue on the city and rationalized it by saying the city has more of a problem because it has a denser population. As we all know animals are dumped all over the county so that argument doesn't hold water," she wrote.
The Joe Black Effort will host a community meeting Tuesday, Oct. 23rd at 6:00 p.m. at the county complex auditorium to give the public an opportunity to discuss solutions for the animals and to present the idea of a DeKalb County Coalition for the Humane Treatment of Animals. Everyone is invited to attend.