Hancock County closes Pearlington animal rescue operation

PEARLINGTON, MS (WLOX) - After years of complaints, a Pearlington animal shelter that opened after Hurricane Katrina is out of business.

County leaders say they just recently discovery that the Ponchartrain Humane Society does not have proper permits. So the shelter is now closed by order of the Hancock County Planning and Zoning Department.

"We've issued a stop work order for running a business in an area without the proper permits," said Kevin Ladner, Director of the Hancock County Planning & Zoning Commission.

Lyn Bailey, Co-owner of the Animal Rescue disagrees.

"The county left a note on my gate accusing me of running a commercial kennel. A commercial kennel breeds, grooms, boards, or trains for money. I don't do any of that. I don't operate a business."

But zoning officials say housing more than seven dogs is considered a commercial business.

When asked how many animals she was housing at the facility, Bailey said, "It depends on the day of the week. They tie them to my gate. People know I care for abused, neglected or abandon animals, and they leave them in my driveway too, because they know I'll take care of them."

No one really knows exactly how many animals are housed on the property, which is fenced off and surrounded by woods and brush. The owner refused to allow our cameras inside.

"From what I could see from the road, from the outside of the gate, I could see 15 to 20 dogs in kennels," Ladner said.

Martha Frost lives about a thousand feet from the facility. She and her neighbors have complained about the foul odor and loud barking for years.

"It sounds like animals in distress," Frost said. "Loud enough for me to hear it well, here a thousand feet away. Loud enough to here it up at the Baptist church on Sunday morning."

She's also concerned about the conditions where the dogs are living. She said they are left outside in the scorching heat and in the freezing cold.

"To my knowledge, there are no runs where these dogs can get exercise. To my knowledge, people don't come and walk these dogs. There's no way these dogs are in a foster home... They're in dog jail."

A county animal control officer has been to Bailey's property to check on the animals. When asked if the animals are being cared for properly, Bailey said, "Yes, and I have provided a veterinary reference letter to the Sheriff's Department of Hancock County. I suggest they find it."

Bailey said there's no reason she should be shut down. So she now has an attorney to respond to the stop work order.

Zoning officials say the issue will likely end up settled in court. They say the county's definition of what a business is differs dramatically from the property owner's.

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