City hopeful for new animal shelter, agreement with GBHS

Posted 8/26/18

The City of Jasper is hopeful a proposed agreement with the Greater Birmingham Humane Society (GBHS) will come to fruition.The city recently requested a bid for someone to manage operations of the …

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City hopeful for new animal shelter, agreement with GBHS


The City of Jasper is hopeful a proposed agreement with the Greater Birmingham Humane Society (GBHS) will come to fruition.

The city recently requested a bid for someone to manage operations of the City of Jasper Animal Shelter, and GBHS was the sole bidder. Now, it will be up to the Jasper City Council to approve the bid and a requested agreement between the city and GBHS.

Jasper City Clerk Kathy Chambless said conversations began in the winter of 2017 about the possibility of GBHS helping to revitalize city shelter operations.

"We were actually introduced to Greater Birmingham Humane by the Walker County Humane Society organization through the efforts of Dee O'Mary and Susie Vann and others in that group," Chambless said. "They introduced us to Allison [Black Cornelius, the CEO] and Ivana [Sullivan, the chief programs officer], and had a group come together for the initial conversation. It was really through their constant contact with Greater Birmingham that I think actually kept the two parties talking."

Jasper Mayor David O'Mary said the humane society stipulated, however, that there must be a new location for the Jasper animal shelter before they would consider formalizing an operational agreement.  

The current shelter building at 2302 Birmingham Ave. in Jasper reportedly originated in the 1950s and has had a variety of uses over the years. It is now in need of many aesthetic repairs, and the city simply needs more room to house animals waiting to be adopted.  

O'Mary has identified a property on Whitehouse Road in Jasper, across from the Yorozu automotive plant, that he would like to be used as the new location for the city shelter. It is a site that meets GBHS specifications, he said. There is a home on the property, with a basement, and a wide area of land that could be used by the shelter. It is also away from any homeowners who could be disturbed by dogs barking. 

The property belongs to the Jasper Industrial Development Board that is funded by the City of Jasper. 

"At the end of the day, it belongs to us," O'Mary said. "That's how we came to this place, and I think it's going to work out nice. It's a good structure, it's got a basement, and additions can be made on the back of it."

He continued, "If we had to go out and acquire a building and land, the capital outlay along with what we've got to do now might have put this out of our reach."

He said the contract with GBHS would cost the city over $200,000 a year, which Chambless said would not be much more than the city's current annual operational cost of the shelter.  

City animal shelter manager Jesika Pilgrim said she hopes the agreement with GBHS will be approved by the city council, and after seeing the proposed property where the animal shelter could be relocated, she believes they will have much more room to care for the animals.

O'Mary said he is thankful to have Pilgrim managing the shelter, but he believes help from GBHS will strengthen services that can be provided for animals in their care.  

"Everyday you had challenges that you shouldn't have and that took away from other things that you needed to do, and Jesika has righted that part of the ship," O'Mary said. "This is a step in the right direction to make it better for the humane treatment of animals, and locking arms with Greater Birmingham Humane will certainly ensure that happens."

Chambless said if the partnership with GBHS is approved, she believes GBHS would have some of their staff working at the new shelter. Jasper could also benefit from the GBHS Spay/Neuter and Critical Care Clinic.   

"Our animals would be carried daily to their facilities for medical treatment," Chambless said. "As animals come in, they're going to be checked out."

She said working with GBHS would provide a larger network and visibility for more of the city's shelter animals to be adopted.

The Daily Mountain Eagle  attempted to call Cornelius for comment about the potential agreement, but did not receive an answer. Her voice mailbox was full.

O'Mary said he also hopes this move will allow the public to distinguish the City of Jasper Animal Shelter from the Walker County Humane and Adoption Center, the latter of which is operated by the Walker County Commission. In fact, a Google search of Jasper's shelter returns contact information for the county animal shelter and not the city.   

The city council will vote in the coming weeks to either approve or disapprove of an operational agreement with GBHS. If approved, the new city animal shelter could possibly open by the end of 2018.      

"We are very optimistic that they will approve it," O'Mary said. "I really think [the agreement] would bring a quality to the animal shelter operation that we've never had in this city."