A woman hoping to gain community support for a local animal shelter to rescue and adopt homeless dogs appeared before the Van Buren City Council Monday night.
Rebecca Kaszubowski, who recently met with Mayor Bob Freeman, said she and other volunteers would like to partner with the city to help find good homes for abandoned dogs.
“We can’t move forward without the city’s help,” Kaszubowski told the council at its monthly meeting. “People will come if it is promoted right. We can find volunteers who want to find dogs a good home.”
She proposed expanding the city’s current animal shelter which has eight pens and adding an exercise yard. Community participation would allow a shelter to be sustainable, she said.
Alderman Jim Petty, however, asked what would happen if the volunteer base goes away.
“What is the city’s responsibility?” Petty said. “What happens if a volunteer gets bitten?”
Kaszubowski told the council she has participated in animal rescue solutions for several years. She said she spent four years as a volunteer at the Charleston Animal Shelter, rescued animals after Hurricane Katrina with Arkansans for Animals, is one of the seven founding members of the River Valley Animal Welfare Coalition and helped bring about Kitties and Kanines spay and neuter clinic in Fort Smith.
Earlier, Kaszubowski said she was motivated to try to organize a shelter and rescue in Crawford County after several residents contacted her about the closure of Shana’s Last Chance Dog Rescue.
Shana Garner operated the rescue for about 25 years until it was closed last month after protection agencies seized 51 dogs on a voluntary basis. If Garner is able to get the rescue sanitized and free of parasites, she plans to reopen.
Van Buren police pick up stray dogs and hold them for at least five days to allow an owner to claim the animal, according to Officer Steve Gunter with Van Buren Police Department code enforcement.
In 2015, the city picked up 386 dogs of which 154 were returned to their owners, Gunter said. Through August, 287 had been picked up with 146 returned to owners.
In the past, some of the dogs have gone to Shana’s Last Chance Dog Rescue and, when it has space, others have gone to the Sebastian County Humane Society.
“We have a contract with the Sebastian County Humane Society, but right now they are not taking many dogs,” Gunter said in an earlier interview. “We will hold dogs until we are full and have no room.”
“That’s when we might have to euthanize a dog, and it’s awful,” Gunter said. “We do the best that we can to get dogs over to the humane society to find homes, but when they can’t take them either, that leaves us with nothing.”
For the city to expand its animal shelter, Freeman said two or three people would have to be hired at a cost of $50,000 a year for salary and benefits.
“This is more than the city can take on,” he said. “Is the city going to cut a patrolman? … that’s not going to happen. We need volunteers.”
Freeman suggested Kaszubowski form a non-profit organization and pull together all the facts.
“Proceed with your meetings, find the volunteer base and come back to the council,” he said.
Kaszubowski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.