Open letter to county from Dennis Hill
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This week Dennis Hill; operations manager of the Coosa County Animal Shelter and chair of the board, who spearheaded the efforts to get the county shelter for the last year-plus; would like to share an open letter to the residents of Coosa County and those who have supported the animal shelter. See next week’s edition for an article with more details on this situation, as well.
“This is Dennis Hill. By now you have read on Facebook by our post or have heard of our search for a new management team to run the Coosa County Animal Shelter. This is being done solely due to mental and physical health concerns on my part due to the pressures of the job. I am so sorry and apologize to all the supporters for this shelter. My apologies also to those of my team that trusted me and worked so hard for the shelter. My deepest apologies to any embarrassment caused outside of my own.
“As with all of you reading this letter that gave of your time, your money and your donated items, my heart and compassion for the neglected dogs and cats within Coosa County directed me to fight for the completion of this shelter. My intention and the intention of my staffers was to show that a shelter in Coosa County could be a reality and then at some point turn that responsibility over to the county. It was also my intention to do this with 100% volunteers, including my time and abilities volunteered. I got everything I asked for in the way of volunteers and funding…make no mistake! What I did not realize was the pressure of running a 24/7 100% volunteer job with some parameters over which there was absolutely no control.
“Animals must be fed, watered and cared for daily and facility must be sanitized daily; there is no skipping one day and doubling up the next. Plus, the time-consuming jobs have physical requirements and time constraints that make covering with volunteer help impossible, regardless of volunteer base. The life of a hired and paid manager of a shelter in strenuous enough as he or she loses sleep wondering, ‘Who will they have to hire to replace me if I cannot show up tomorrow?’ But for the volunteer manager the question is, ‘Will they be able to find someone to manage this shelter if I fail?’
“The past two years and the past four weeks have given answers. To the question ‘Do the people of Coosa County want to help these animals, and will they support an animal shelter?’ Answer is a resounding ‘YES, ABSOLUTELY!’ Support has come from within and outside the county and has come from businesses, private individuals and county and city officials. All of us share compassion for these animals.
“To the question ‘Can a shelter be run solely with volunteers?’ Answer is a resounding ‘NO, ABSOLUTELY NOT!’ in my uneducated opinion. There are functions that require daily presence, physical requirements and reliable backup. These requirements necessitate ‘properly paid labor.’ Volunteers are great, but it was realized the daily commitment and physical requirements ruled out many for the daily labor-intensive jobs.
“Where do we stand? The shelter with the current 501(c)3 team is in shutdown mode. Effective immediately, no more animals or donations are being accepted. The facility will physically remain open until the current population of dogs find rescue or homes by adoption; I expect this to be towards the end of March. At that time, our 501(c)3 will be officially dissolved.
“Be it understood, this closure is in no way a reflection on any volunteer, staffer, or director associated with the shelter. This closure is solely a failure on my part and mine alone. We all worked hard to make this work due to our love for these animals and love for Coosa County.
“In the meantime, the facility is turn key for a shelter. All monies raised to date with the exception of the $30,000 ARPA money provided by the county went into the building and the assets within the building (approximately $48,000). There are no outstanding debts. Any group wishing to run the shelter need only get with county officials [to] interview and work out lease with the Stewartville Volunteer Fire Department.
“Available monies in [the] checking account totaling approximately $30,000 will be turned over to the county in March, and it is my hope that the townships of Kellyton, Goodwater and Rockford can be reimbursed their $5,000 each at that point. If the county was to decide to operate a shelter, it would be about a $100,000 commitment annually for operating plus hired staff. It was not and is not my intention to lay that commitment and burden on the county so soon and in such hurried fashion.
“As for the eight mature dogs and the 28 puppies currently at the shelter, they are being well cared for and are for adopting without the standard shelter adoption rates. As soon as puppies are ready for adoption, they, too, will be made available if not rescued. Best we can be assured, we will attempt to make sure these animals are adopted to good homes. Perishable assets like food, etc. will be donated to individuals on an as-needed basis; just come to the shelter and ask.
“We pray God has a plan for this facility in the near future. Although full closure of the facility appears imminent next month, donations and work to date may not be [a] total loss. The facility would be a very good location for a county-based vet. It would also be a fantastic facility and location for a pet boarding business with grooming setup. God’s will be done.
“What about the abandoned animals of Coosa County? Unfortunately, there will always be negligent people who will have pets and not get them spayed and neutered and will have no heart for the animal and no respect for fellow humans and dump these animals on our roads. These animals will continue to have to depend on the compassion of the good people of Coosa County as they have in the past to stop and take them in and give them food and care and perhaps a home. So sad.
“This was our hope with the shelter: To try [to] relieve some of the pressure in an organized fashion. Fully supported, but not well thought out on my part and my part alone. Again, my apology is insufficient, but it is all I can give at this point. No excuses. So sorry.”