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No shelter in sight

By Staff | May 13, 2009

A GROWING PROBLEM — Stray animals have been a problem throughout the county for years, and with no animal shelter the stray population continues to grow.

It’s now been six months since the Tyler County Commission made a public effort to acquire property for the purpose of the county’s first animal shelter, only to be turned down by the same public which has asked for such a shelter.

Over 55 people attended a public meeting Dec. 11, 2008, to comment on the proposed piece of property out on Dry Run with the purpose of using it to shelter stray and endangered cats, dogs, and other animals.

Since then, the commission has been working quietly to create a shelter for strays.

Commission President Charles “Pork” Smith said the commission received one offer since December 2008, but that offer also fell flat. Now the commission is in talks for another piece of property.

“Since then we had the offer of a donation of an acre or two of land,” explained Smith. “We were in the process of getting ready to make the inspection and that party withdrew the offer. We have another plot of land we’re going to look at that may be possibly at no cost to the county.”

In both deals, the property owners have asked the commission to not release any information about the property or the owners. Smith says that nearby property owners could put negative pressure on the project.

“We’ve had two offers and both have been withdrawn…because of pressure from neighbors,” said Smith. “We are looking for a location and even though it’s a contradiction, we need to find a place that’s convenient and isolated. As it stands right now, we are looking for a location, but it’s very difficult. When something comes up and the neighbors find out about it, they just don’t want an animal shelter in their neighborhood. And they don’t want a levy.”

While the commissioners take their time, the Town of Middlebourne and the City of Sistersville are drowning in stray cats and loose dogs.

“It’s just like a weekly thing, somebody is complaining about the cats and dogs around,” stated Sistersville Mayor Dave Fox. “Like I tell them, we have no shelter, we have no place to take them. If we pick them up we can’t do anything with them. If you pick them up you’re now responsible for them. You’re going to have to feed them, then you’re going to have to end up giving them their shots. Then you’ve got to have a place to keep them. We’re pretty much in a bind.”

“You have cats that people drop off or dogs,” said Middlebourne Mayor Gayla Fisher. “You have animals that are stray that have babies of course. You’ve got stray animals that will bite that you have to contend with. A lot of animals get hit by cars. My big beef is, if you’re going to have an animal, then when you have that animal there is a lot of responsibility that goes with it. If you’re not going to take responsibility, then you’re wasting your money and your time.”

Fox is upset at the commissioners for seemingly not moving at all on the project since last year.

“Don’t tell us you did something once and that’s it and now it’s a dead issue,” said Fox. “One of (the commissioners) needs to be on it. You can’t tell me there’s not plenty of land in Tyler County, because half of it is empty anyway, whether it be up on a hill, back in a ridge, or wherever. There are bound to be more options.”

In order to move the process along, Fox believes the commission needs to focus less on trying to please everyone and put forth the commitment to build a shelter.

“I know what they’re looking for – they’re looking for somebody just to hand them a piece of land so they don’t have to pay for it,” exclaimed Fox. “But we may not be able to go that route and this thing is getting way out of hand. I can stand here in the City Building and look out the window and count cats anytime I want.”

“For over three years I’ve been in office and for over three years I’ve sat in many meetings with the Tyler County Commissioners on this animal issue, and they were doing this way before I got in office,” added Fox. “I’ve pursued it quite a bit. It seems to me like they’re not interested in doing it.”

Fisher is more sympathetic to the issues involved in creating a shelter, but feels that something needs to be done soon.

“I realize there are a lot of pros and cons to it because people don’t want it near their homes and I respect that, but I think eventually we’re going to have to do something,” said Fisher. “What the answer will be I don’t know at this point. It’s not a cheap proposition by any means.”

Despite two failed levies, Fox says a special levy would be far more successful and draw out voters who want the project to succeed.

“We’ve proposed they do another levy,” said Fox. “Yes, they’ve done two levies and they didn’t pass. But when they do a levy now, they put it on when it’s time to elect people, so that brings everybody into it. If you have a separate levy and it’s just for the animal shelter, the people that come in and vote on that are the people who want it, and it will pass.

Until then, Tyler County’s animals will roam free.