Richard Fikes, a member of the WCHS board of directors, said a deficiency in funding is the primary reason for the decision to shut down the facility at 2302 Birmingham Ave. in Jasper.
In an effort to decrease the number of animals the shelter has in its possession at the end of June, Fikes said the facility will stop taking animals May 31.
“That will give us a month — approximately 30 days — to find an alternative means to place these animals,” said Fikes.
Recently, WCHS officials have been in contact with the Greater Birmingham Humane Society about accepting animals still at the shelter when it is closed, according to Fikes.
Each year the Walker County Commission contributes $40,000 to the local humane society, which also gets $40,000 from the City of Jasper. Money for the WCHS is also secured through fundraisers and donations. However, Fikes said the funding is inadequate for covering the animal shelter’s costs.
“We struggle from year to year,” he said.
Susie Vann, another member of the WCHS board of directors, said, “We have to raise a minimum of ($40,000) just to keep going.” In recent years, she said WCHS fundraisers have not been as successful as they were in the past.
Running the shelter costs about $120,000 per year, according to Carol Downs, a founder of the WCHS.
“That doesn’t include any building repairs,” added Downs, who described it as being in “terrible shape.”
Officials estimate the facility was built about 70 years ago.
Fikes said the bulk of the money contributed by Walker County and Jasper officials is exhausted by the salaries of the animal shelter’s four full-time employees.
“That’s your county and your city money right there,” he said. “That doesn’t include your food for the animals, your upkeep, your building, your insurance — all those things. The bare minimum is going to take a lot more money to keep that facility in operation and to keep the number of employees they need down there.”
The county, City of Jasper, and WCHS each have a one-third ownership of the property, according to Fikes who hopes the shelter will be taken over by Walker County, which has a legal obligation under state law to provide an animal pound.
“The best thing would be for the county to come in and take over and operate it as a county pound,” Fikes said. “Because truly if we’re operating as the county pound, so to speak, the people who work down there should be county employees.”
County Commission Chairman Bruce Hamrick and Jasper Mayor Sonny Posey could not be reached for comment Friday.
Fikes said, although he expects the animal shelter to be closed, the WCHS will go on. It’s function in the future will be more focused on community educational goals.
“We want to do those things we think we should be doing, which is something other than the operation of the county pound,” Fikes said.
The WCHS may continue to accept pets that are brought in for adoption. “That’s one thing we think we can do that is separate and apart from just operating as a county pound taking stray animals,” Fikes said.
Lane Reno, the executive director of the WCHS who may be put out of work as a result of the decision to close the animal shelter, agreed that it’s “time” that the pound and the humane society are separated.
“It’s past time,” she said.
Vann concurred with Fikes that the WCHS should focus its efforts on education.
“We’ve got to get in the school systems and target the third graders,” said Vann. “Then they can go home and talk to their moms and dads and say ‘You know, Prissy has had 17 litters. We don’t need to do that anymore.’”