Brighter Days for Dogs in Grenada Mississippi

June 11, 2024

We spotted three stray dogs on our drive from our hotel in Alabama to Grenada Animal Shelter in Mississippi. We’d seen the challenges in the shelters we visited, but it was further evidence that times are tough for unwanted dogs in Mississippi, like everywhere else these days.

The aging municipal shelter is right next to the small airport. The place has definitely seen better times (and will hopefully soon see better times!). Many of the dogs are housed inside the dark metal building in dark kennels set up in a traditional pound style with low ceilings, concrete walls, and cramped space.

The building doesn’t have sufficient heat (and no AC), but large vent vans keep air circulating. About a third of the dogs live in large outdoor runs donated by BISSELL Pet Foundation. There were tarps providing shade, but the dogs and the weather had reduced them to obstacles in and around the pens (but not over them).

[UPDATE: Since our visit, donations of new covers for the outdoor pens have come in- thank you!]

ACO Michael is the sole employee in charge of care for the twenty-five dogs at the shelter when we visited. He gets some assistance from one amazing volunteer, Barbara, who helps with everything, including medical care and tirelessly networking the dogs to rescues. A history of conflict with volunteers and rescue groups has left city leadership hesitant to open the floodgates to more volunteers or groups offering hands-on help.

The shelter is blessed to have a local rescue, SHARE-Grenada, led by Charlene, who pulls dogs and fosters them before sending them to rescues. Charlene and other volunteers (like Tammy, who we also met) do all they can to assist the shelter and without them, the shelter would be faced with difficult decisions.

The small team works hard to give the dogs the best care they can, which is a challenge on the limited budget ($1000). Barbara explained that when they run out of food or another critical supply, they ask the chief of police (who oversees the shelter) and he usually helps out. All of that is to say, the dogs are fed and the kennels are cleaned (by Michael who works at the shelter seven days a week), but there is no money for vaccines, deworming, flea/tick treatment, spay/neuter, or any extras like treats, toys, beds, etc.

We met some really nice dogs. My favorite was Shana, a little 30-pound ball of energy and smartness who apparently can scale the fences of the outdoor kennels (and the indoor ones), so she has a doubly locked down inside kennel. While she often escapes, she never goes anywhere. Shana has been at the shelter for a year. I’d love to see this pup find a home. She was friendly and fun and lovely on a leash – so someone looking for a dog who DOESN’T have a fenced yard and wants a dog to go on adventures or pursue agility, would be the ideal candidate.

The shelter does not have any kind of social media presence, so the only way to see the dogs is to go to the shelter (head for the airport) or to contact Barbara or Michael for information (email address).

They do occasionally have local adoptions, but with no money for spay/neuter, the onus for that is on the adopter. Michael tries to stress its importance, but it’s up to individual adopters. Which means that dogs that leave the shelter locally might just send back lots more dogs.

Michael and Barbara try to work with individuals who are struggling to keep their pets by offering food, or temporary shelter if necessary. That said, they respond to any calls for help. We mentioned a chocolate lab puppy we’d seen wandering in Grenada on our way to the shelter and they knew where we were talking about and planned to check on it.

I really can’t say enough about the heroic work of Michael. He works far more hours than he is paid for, drives his personal vehicle to pick up dogs or take animals to the vet (the Animal Control truck does not run), and his genuine affection for the dogs and patience with the people around him is vast. Grenada is very lucky to have him, along with Barbara whose energy and determination is astounding.

Thankfully, the BISSELL Pet Foundation has been offering help. They’ve put a new roof on the leaking old building, donated vaccines (which were quickly used up) and besides the outside runs, they also put up a play yard (which is not utilized as much as it could be because dogs can escape it and there are not enough of Michael and Barbara (she has a real job also).

This might sound a bit bleak to you, but hope is on the horizon. The Bissell Pet Foundation has also offered to pay for a new shelter building on the grounds. Dave (husband of Charlene of SHARE) shared with me the building plans which are ready to go, contractors lined up, and could be put in place in 12 weeks. All they need is the money.

The shelter will have HVAC, sound-absorbing insulation, and new 4 x 8 kennels. They sent the plans to BPF and anxiously awaited the approval and money. They just received word this week that the new shelter is a go!

A new building might be just what this community needs to start a new era of helping the dogs (and owners) in their community. My personal hope is that the new shelter will also be incentive for the city government to allow volunteers back into the shelter. A building is great, but without the people, it will remain a holding area for dogs and not a true shelter. The dogs need human contact just as much as they need HVAC and real kennels. They need the opportunity to run and play in the large play yard as dogs, and the human interaction to build their confidence, mental health, and adoptability. Without a large pool of volunteers, there is only so much Michael and Barbara can do.

Bringing volunteers into the shelter is a leap of faith for some, but when you consider that the shelter (and technically the dogs it houses) belong to this community, then it only makes sense that that community be invited in to assist in their care. The benefits FAR outweigh the risks. A vibrant shelter setting busy with volunteers who are invested in its success is the key to turning the tide and changing the story at any shelter. I’m hopeful this is just the start of the rewrite for Grenada Animal Shelter.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to help Michael, Barbara, and the shelter dogs, please consider shopping their Amazon wishlist: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/1YQCAVQT62LO6 (they are desperately in need of vaccines and flea/tick treatment and prevention)

And if you’d like more information on any of the dogs pictured contact grenadaanimalshelter.ms@gmail.com.

We often have no idea what happens at a shelter after we leave. This week we got a thank you from Barbara at Grenada and here is a little of what she said:

“I am so thankful to y’all for taking time to include us in your shelter tour and to your followers on social media. All of the items we received were from people that saw your post and opened their hearts to help a shelter that they will probably never even visit.  People that saw the need and understood that our sweet shelter animals deserve so much better! I am so excited for the day we can open up our doors to the new building and I’m so thankful for all the help your visit brought to us when we needed it in the worst possible way.”  

So thank YOU for following us and for responding to the stories that we share!

Until each one has a home,

Cara

If you want to learn more, be sure to subscribe to our email list to get the latest stories and solutions delivered to your inbox. And help us spread the word by sharing this post with others. Visit our website to learn more.

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To see our Emmy-nominated, award-winning short documentary, Amber’s Halfway Home, click here. If you’d like to see it on the big screen (along with other short dog films), check out the tour schedule of The Dog Film Festival, currently in art movie houses all over the country.

Learn more about what is happening in our southern shelters and rescues in the book, One Hundred Dogs & Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and a Journey Into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues (Pegasus Books, 2020). It’s the story of a challenging foster dog who inspired me to travel south to find out where all the dogs were coming from. It tells the story of how Who Will Let the Dogs Out began. Find it anywhere books are sold.

For more information on any of our projects, to talk about rescue in your neck of the woods, or partner with us, please email cara@WWLDO.org.

And for links to everything WWLDO, including volunteer application, wishlists, and donation options, check out our Linktree.

9 Comments

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Charlene Kyle
8 Days Ago

Thank you for this positive exposure. Just a quick update on the little Shepard/ mountain cur mix puppy (in an outside run in the video). She was placed in an awesome foster home and is now on her next adventure!! She has traveled to another (awesome) rescue who will place her in a great home!! Life just jerks getting better for sweet SANDY 🩷🩷

Charlene Kyle
7 Days Ago

Correction. Life just KEEPS getting better for sweet Sandy

Cara Achterberg
7 Days Ago

So happy to hear that Sandy found rescue! Thanks for the update

Cindy Ojczyk
6 Days Ago

Great job elevating the often-unrecognized hard work of a few people caring for a lot of dogs!

Cara Achterberg
5 Days Ago

Thanks!

Cheryl
4 Days Ago

I think someone should also mention the very hard working volunteer who ran the shelter by herself with absolutely no help from the Aco or Share..it was actually thanks to myself and her that Bissell is even involved at this shelter..ppl really need to stop taking credit and give credit where it is due..Jenni Satchfield Busby needs to be mentioned in this article..

Cara Achterberg
18 Hours Ago

It’s good to know that there are lots of people, beyond the ones we met at our visit, who are invested in the success of the shelter. Thank for connecting the Bissell Pet Foundation with the shelter – it will make a huge difference for the entire community.

Mary
2 Days Ago

What about cats??? Cats are never a priority? Why???? They need help and care too!! Why are cats always an after thought or not thought of at all???

Cara Achterberg
18 Hours Ago

You’re right. Cats do need help and care. Many of the municipal shelters in parts of the south are still considered dog pounds, so they often do not take in cats.