Our visit to Bibb County was proof once again, that you don’t have to live in the south to be saving animals in the south. And also, that one individual can make a real difference.
We learned about the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office Animal Services from Linda Taylor. Linda lives in Illinois yet works to help Alabama dogs, including Bibb County. Linda reached out and insisted that we visit Bibb County and shine a light on the situation there. She connected us with Blanche, the dedicated volunteer who, along with Joey, another volunteer, spends hours at the shelter helping Robby, the impound officer in charge of the shelter.
Bibb County is technically a dog pound only obligated to hold the dogs for the seven-day legal stray hold, before euthanizing them. But Robby told us, “If I have room, I won’t euthanize a dog.”
The shelter handles between 750-800 animals every year – dogs and cats. I asked about specific numbers and Robby told me that from May 2021 to June 2022, these were their stats:
828 animals taken in
477 left through rescue
242 were euthanized
42 were reclaimed by owners
29 were adopted
5 died in their care
(Many of the animals euthanized were cats. Like so many places, the cat numbers are out of control.)
Blanche works hard to get dogs out, even taking some home to foster when they run out of time. She evaluates the dogs, treats them for flea/ticks, vaccinates them (the shelter doesn’t vaccinate because technically they are a pound, not a shelter), addresses medical needs, and makes sure they are spayed and neutered.
Robby told us that no animals leave their facility for adoption or rescue unless they are spayed or neutered. Luckily, they have a local vet who works with them, doing the work at a reduced rate.
The shelter was originally built in 2005, but a year ago, a tornado hit the shelter doing serious damage, destroying one of their buildings, and leaving stunted trees behind. They’ve come back from that and made steady improvements to the facility and the kennels. Robby re-designed the inside kennels, making them roomier and easier to clean. All of the kennels have donated karunda beds. The dogs spend their daytime outside in a play yard or spacious kennels Robby and Joey built with plenty of shade and space.
While we were at the shelter, we also met Kirk, who used to run the shelter, and still has a vested interest. Now he is the Emergency Management Agency Director, and technically Robby’s boss. It was clear that he supports the work Robby is doing and appreciates the help that Blanche and Joey offer.
Blanche introduced us to some of the dogs and puppies in their care. She, Joey, and Robby are just the beginning of the network that works to save these dogs. Robby keeps thorough records of the animals and manages their time at the shelter, Blanche assesses the animals, Joey takes pictures (and drives the dogs and cats to vet appointments or to meet transports), and then Blanche passes on the information and pictures to Rebecca who acts as the rescue coordinator to find the dogs and cats safe passage to rescues out of state.
Heartworm is always a challenge in the south, and Bibb County is no exception, but Joey negotiated a great rate from their local vet to treat their heartworm-positive dogs. So, remarkably, not only do the dogs leave spayed and neutered but also they are treated for heartworm (and recover at Blanche’s house).
In many ways, Bibb County is a dog pound. They are open intake and so must take any animal that turns up at their facility for pretty much any reason. There are a limited number of kennels, so sometimes hard decisions have to be made. Pit bulls, sick dogs, aggressive dogs, and cats are the most likely to be destroyed. Robby has to make that call and also do the actual euthanasia, something that is not ever easy for him.
While the dogs don’t live in luxury accommodations, this crew does the most they can with what they have. Baby pools, industrial fans, and shade are utilized to cool the dogs in the unfathomably hot (to this northern girl) weather down here. The dogs live on cement or dirt, in pretty bare conditions, but they have karunda beds and well-designed spacious kennels indoors; they are safe.
Luckily, the animals in this small, relatively poor county, are blessed to have this team of dedicated people and a rescue network that fans northward working to make things better. Clearly, they are well fed and cared for, even loved. We listened to each of these devoted people talk with affection about the animals in their care. They are proud of the care they offer, and they should be.
I asked, as I always do, how do we fix this situation? How do we reduce these numbers that have only stayed the same or gone up in recent years despite their hard work. No one had a clear answer. Like most everyone I ask, they cast around for ideas, mentioned spay and neuter, but landed on the real issue – people need to care more.
And that’s just it. If Bibb County wants an animal shelter and not a dog pound, they will have to step up and work to make that happen. They will have to change their regulations AND fund that change.
I believe that will happen. I believe that this team is doing so much with what they have, and it is only a matter of time before the value of their work and the lives of these animals is recognized, and this community decides to offer them all they need to save every adoptable animal. I believe that one day this will no longer be a dog pound, but a shelter, in the truest sense of the word.
If you’d like to help Blanche, Joey, Robby, Kirk, and everyone working to help the animals in Bibb County, consider making a donation towards their veterinary bills. You can do that by contacting the Veterinary Hospital of Centerville at 205-926-4347 and making a payment on the account for Friends of Bibb County. It costs $108 to have an animal spayed or neutered, $300 to treat a dog for heartworm.
You can also look up @Friends of Bibb County ALabama Pound (a 501(c)(3) who buy many of their supplies and pay vet bills for the animals at the pound.
Until each one has a home,
Cara (co-founder and president)
The mission of Who Will Let the Dogs Out (we call it Waldo for short) is to raise awareness and resources for homeless dogs and the heroes who fight for them.
You can 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. A portion of the proceeds of every book sold go to help unwanted animals in the south.
Amber’s Halfway Home is our short documentary film produced in partnership with Farnival Films. It follows the work of a remarkable woman and one day of rescue in western Tennessee. Selected for sixteen film festivals (to date), it’s won eight awards (including Best Short Doc, Best Soundtrack, Best of Fest, and Audience Choice), and was nominated for an Emmy! It is a beautiful, heartbreaking, inspiring story we hope will compel viewers to work for change. Please watch it and share it far and wide.
For links to everything Waldo, click here.