(BROWNSTOWN) - Jackson County Board of Zoning Appeals placed Red Sky Rescue's plans to build a shelter to isolate incoming animals on hold because of complaints that animals are escaping.
Red Sky Rescue, located on a 14-acre site owned by Ruth Riley at 8305 W. 150N, Medora, is a private, non-profit organization formed in January 2007 to help distressed animals.
Riley told the board during its meeting at the courthouse annex she had already begun construction of the 24-by-30 building when she was told by county officials she needed a variance to do so. She said she was not aware she needed the variance and thought the original variance to allow for the animal shelter covered it.
Riley said she stopped construction and also was working to meet some requirements for the shelter from the county health department, including installing a septic system for both the new shelter and an existing shelter.
Aubrey Woods, reports the issue of animals getting loose was raised by Phil and Randy Cummings, who own property near or adjacent to the shelter. Randy Cummings who owns a campground near the shelter says the animals are aggressive and Phil says they have killed his livestock.
But shelter owner Ruth Riley disagrees and says a fence was recently installed around the perimeter of the facility and electrically charged lines were being added at the bottom to keep dogs from digging under the fence. The fence also has been built higher to keep dogs from climbing over.
Linda Jackson of Brownstown said she spends two days a week volunteering at the shelter and there are no vicious dogs kept there because they are dealt with when first brought into the shelter.
Riley says each dog taken into the shelter, which has a capacity of 60, is spayed or neutered, which reduces the population in the future. The shelter took in 327 dogs in 2011, and there are now 53 in the shelter.
Fifty-five percent of those animals were brought in by the county's animal control officer, and the county pays the shelter $20,000 a year for providing housing for them.
Cathi Eagan with CanINE Express Transport Project spoke in favor of the new shelter, and said that organization has taken 7,600 dogs from 15 shelters in Indiana, including Red Sky, to shelters in New England, where they are adopted.
Eagan, who lives in Brown County, said New England states have had spay and neuter programs for 20 years and no longer have problems with strays.
Retired veterinarian Bob Gillespie said he supported the request. He provides low-cost spaying and neutering services at Red Sky as well as at shelters in Brown and Bartholomew counties.
Board members eventually voted 4 to 1 to continue Riley's request for a variance until their April meeting to allow for additional testimony about the nature of the fence, health department issues and the number of dogs that are brought in by the animal control officer each year.
After the meeting, board attorney John Rothring told those in the audience that they were not to contact board members before that meeting.
He later said he based that admonishment on state statute.
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