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Project Hope Comes to Clarksdale

January 26th, 2010 by Doll Stanley

Getting out of the van, the smell of the shelter was overpowering and sickening. I’d asked the City Attorney, Curtis Boschert, for a tour of the shelter with Sherri Norquist, an experienced shelter director, and Sherri’s daughter, who also has shelter experience. It had been a couple of months since renewed complaints of overcrowding, aggression, and emotional and physical distress were reported to Project Hope and we were just following up to ensure improvements had been made.

Today’s tour was very disheartening. The entire facility had gotten much worse since the last time we toured. Clearly the jail inmates who were tasked with cleaning the facility had not been doing so. I actually left unable to speak with my nose running, eyes burning, and throat swelling and irritated. The stench, thick with ammonia, permeated the entire shelter and irritated my sinuses and throat.

Overcrowded, dilapidated cages lined the walls of the rooms. Sick animals were intermingled with healthy animals. Pens held too many juveniles and puppies together. Nearly every cage held dogs with hot spots, mange or a myriad of other untreated illnesses or wounds. The cattery shared this small room and the deafening sound of dogs barking bounced off every wall.

Outside, loose dogs chewed on paws, legs, hips, and backs dotted with hot spots. Dogs were haphazardly placed in runs with many cowering in fear of their cage-mates. The uncovered runs held too many dogs and not enough shelters, leaving the most terrified dogs standing or lying in the mud, muck and feces of the run floor.

During the tour the Director plead her case for the sacrifice of her time, energy, and money for the thirteen years she’d been there. So many own the responsibility for this failed “no kill” shelter. Complaints to the city had fallen on deaf ears and community members had fostered the situation with lack of interest and support. The Director clearly gave everything of herself, as did her husband for what they believed was a noble effort, but warehousing animals with no hope of a better life is simply unacceptable.

The Director, burdened beneath the weight of a tough, thankless mission and now with public scrutiny bearing down on her, surrendered her position to the City Attorney.

We turned our attention to trying to help the animals who were languishing in the shelter. We met in the mayor’s office and hatched a plan. We contacted the Mississippi Animal Response Team and several local vets to come in and help. New volunteers from the community came in as well.

When animal loving people come together, share their resources, and give unselfishly we can move mountains. Sadly it sometimes takes a crisis for caring folks to realize their potential.

5 Responses to “Project Hope Comes to Clarksdale”

  1. September 15, 2010 at 8:17 am, Another Day – Another 70 Animals SAVED! said:

    Hope Animal Sanctuary, but we were also able to help out another couple of shelters in the region. We pulled animals from the Clarksdale Shelter, the Bolivar County Humane Society (BCHS) in Cleveland, Ms. and from the Mississippi Animal Rescue

  2. January 29, 2010 at 1:33 pm, Christine said:

    ‘Tough’ mission? Sounds like an ‘impossible’ mission. I hope the city gets more scrutiny than the people and pets they screwed over.

  3. January 29, 2010 at 1:28 pm, Lori Rutledge said:

    my heart goes out to both the animals and Director of the shelter on this story. Clearly, she was trying to save these animals.

  4. January 29, 2010 at 1:24 pm, antony said:

    What a shame the system has let these animals down.I volunteer at animal care here in the uk and it is only by finding the community and working with it has got to high level of care for the animals.A charity shop, adverts in the local papers volunteer adverts shop boxes for people to donate into are only a few of the things that help it run successfully.

  5. January 29, 2010 at 11:30 am, C MacDonald said:

    The facts are what they are. It’s a no-kill shelter, the powers that be apparently weren’t listening to the shelter Director, who was simply WAAAY overburdened. So much so that both she and her husband threw their own hard-earned dollars in for the animals. I find it very sad that she surrendered her position, for it seems to me that she did everything she could. I could certainly have been that woman. A noble effort? Most certainly! What I wonder is why she apparently didn’t contact other groups such as yours for assistance? It seems that the web of animal rescuers is certainly willing to help in situations as dire as these. And, even more sad, is that some of these animals, had they had adequate housing and provisions, would not have contracted the illnesses of the others. I feel bad for both her and the animals as it is obvious the city let them all down.