Community steps forward to help Pearl River Co. Animal Shelter

PICAYUNE, MS (WLOX) - Budget cuts at the Pearl River County Animal Shelter have forced the organization to make some major changes in the way it does business. The Board of Supervisors cut the shelter's budget by $11,000 this year, but community support is helping to make up for some of the budget shortfall.

The bulk of the shelter's operating budget comes from just two sources: The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors and the City of Picayune. The city's contract brings in about $48,000 a year. The county's contract, after the $11,000 cut, comes to about $40,000 annually.

"It was pretty devastating," said Judy Wheaton, Director of the Pearl River County Animal Shelter. "It was $11,000 out of what had been a $51,000 budget, so that was about 20 percent."

Operating with less money has meant changing the way the shelter conducts business.

"First of all, we're not doing any medical care, other than spay neuter, for the animals. If they need any additional medical care, we have to pay for it out of our own pockets," said Maria Diamond, President of the Pearl River County SPCA.

"Secondly, our employees volunteered to reduce their hours of employment because they knew we were in trouble. We're closing one hour early, which cuts each employee about 20 hours a week, and that's not easy for them."

Perhaps the biggest change is for residents who live outside of the city limits of Picayune. They're now required to pay to drop off animals at the shelter. It's $10 for a single dog or cat, $15 for a litter.

"It really did hurt. We struggled for days trying to figure out what to do. How we were going to still run the shelter on the less amount, and that's what we came up with finally, to charge county residents," said Diamond.

As word of the budget cuts began to spread individuals, business owners, and members of St. Paul Lutheran Church stepped forward to help the shelter.

"We had a silent auction and a dinner and we raised $3,000," said Sharon Feiliu, from St. Paul Lutheran Church. "They tell me they went along way with that $3,000."

A business owner has donated dog houses to the shelter, and several others have offered to hold fundraisers for them.

"We would love to have both the City Council and the Board of Supervisors be able to spend some time with us to understand where our money goes. We all have the feeling that especially the Board of Supervisors think we're just a bunch of bleeding heart old ladies. And if they think that, they ought to be here on euthanasia day," Wheaton said.

Supervisor Anthony Hale told WLOX News that in order to balance the county's budget, cuts had to be made in many areas, and that the animal shelter was not singled out.

Anyone who would like to donate supplies or money to the shelter can contact them at (601) 798-8000.

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