County pet advocate speaks on dog welfare concerns

“I have been working for several years in Franklin County helping save animals.”

Chapel King, volunteer and vice president for Friends of the Florence-Lauderdale Animal Services and advocate for Franklin County’s Save Our Strays group, stepped up during the Russellville City Council meeting Oct. 17 and the Red Bay City Council meeting Oct. 19 to share her concerns about the treatment of dogs in Franklin County.

“Several years ago in Florence, we had an animal shelter full of dogs and a director who would go in a couple of times a week and euthanize those dogs,” began King during Russellville’s meeting Monday evening.

“We had dogs inside and outside, and after going to our city council and mayor, we got things changed,” she said. “We got budgets increased, and we got a new director. We are now one of the only shelters in the state not euthanizing for space.”

King said it took volunteers and the community working together to accomplish all of that. She spoke about specific dogs from Franklin County, how they were found and where they are now, like:

  • Sam, who was found “a couple of weeks ago” in Russellville. Sam had apparently been left outside for about a week. King said people called law enforcement, and “it took a lot of pressure” to finally get him seen to. After “a lot of social media presence and people pushing law enforcement” they were “finally able to get him to the emergency vet,” King noted. King said he is now in a foster home and is “doing wonderful.”
  • Angel, who King explained was found in the county over the summer, having been shot, mouth bound with tape, left to starve. Now in a wheelchair, her bladder has to be expressed every time she has to go, but she’s “happy and living with a couple of television producers in Wisconsin.” King said Angel goes “everywhere” in in her wheelchair, noting: “She’s a very happy dog and loves cats and other dogs … It cost us a lot of money to save this dog, but I’m going to tell you, she was so worth it. This is the most loving animal that I have ever met.”
  • Franklin, who was found several months ago, starved and with a belly “full of rocks,” King said. He is now living in “a wonderful home,” she added. With plenty of verterinary care, he was able to pass the rocks and didn’t have to have surgery.

“We paid for all of these dogs to go to the emergency vet with city care,” explained King

She cited the state’s animal cruelty and neglect law, which lays out crimes and punishments for a wide range of types of animal cruelty, and called for those responsible to be charged accordingly.

“It’s hard, I understand, to find these people sometimes,” noted King, who then spoke about the City of Russellville ordinance which notes, “It shall be unlawful for the owner or keeper of a dog to keep such a dog on any leash or other restraint or in any enclosure wherein they fail to have available at all times sufficient water, shade and proper shelter.”

“That is your own ordinance,” she added. “The reason we are here tonight is because it is going to take everybody working together to correct this and prevent these things from continuing to happen.”

King presented a specific call to action.

“We want you to help educate the community as to what the laws are, what they can do to help and how to prevent this. We want education for law enforcement.

“It takes a community effort, law enforcement and politicians to fix these things,” she added. “We’re going to continue to come and meet with you and go to all the cities and county commissions, and we’re going to talk to everybody because we want to see change.”

During the Red Bay City Council meeting, King emphasized the work being done by Save Our Strays.

“Save Our Strays is a group working in Franklin County to help dogs,” said King. “What we do is take those dogs in, get them veterinary assistance, which costs money, foster them and get them up north.

“We don’t have enough people in this community, in any of these communities, to adopt and foster as many animals as we have, so we are here asking for your help,” said King. “We want to educate the community and let them know there are resources out there.”

Mayor Charlene Fancher countered that the situation is “a little different in Red Bay.”

“We’re very blessed with volunteers, and we do not send our dogs that come to our animal shelter to the county to be euthanized,” Fancher said.

“The dogs that come to our animal shelters are very healthy,” she added. “I have six right now that are ready to be gone, and they’re very happy. As far as situations that are brought to my attention, we get very few of cruelty to dogs or other animals, but people bring it to my attention if there is such a case.”

Fancher said the City of Red Bay takes such situations seriously.

“I can tell you that we respond. We address these issues,” she added. “It’s about responding, and it’s about caring. This council will tell you, we all love animals.”

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