Whose Shelter is It?

June 4, 2024

Down an endless single lane highway, through the ‘city’ of Monroeville, and just past the water treatment plant, tucked up in the woods, is the Monroe County Alabama Animal Shelter.

The shelter serves both Monroeville City and Monroe County. The county gives the shelter $5500/month, and the city gives the shelter $3700/month. Trisha, the only fulltime employee is paid 22K/year and seven ‘part-time’ employees (only three are there daily) make the minimum wage – $7.25/hour. The staff is paid by the county, so the shelter pays much of the money they get back to the county, who then pay the staff.

There is very little left to feed or provide medical care or anything extra for the 1300 animals that come to the open intake shelter each year.

When we visited in April 2024, there were 104 dogs at the shelter (plus at least 16 more in foster care, many with the staff). The outside kennels were originally erected as a place for the dogs to enjoy some outside time, but those kennels and the small play areas are now being utilized to house dogs, many with more than one dog.

There are so many dogs that for the first time, beginning in late 2023, the shelter has had to euthanize for space – about three dogs each week (on Tuesdays).

The week before our visit, Trisha took three dogs to be euthanized, but once she got to the vet’s office, she couldn’t do it, so she took the dogs to her house (she used to run a boarding kennel and has eight kennels which are all now full of ‘foster’ dogs from the shelter).

Trisha has been in her current position at the shelter for seven years. She turned down better money at a shelter in another county to take this job, just six miles from her home, because she knew the animals here needed her more.

The shelter used to have rescue partners they could depend on, but recently that has not been the case. Monroe County Shelter often can’t provide spayed/neutered animals and 90% of their dogs are heartworm positive, so many of their rescue partners opt to pull from shelters that have adoption-ready dogs instead, which leaves Trisha with hard decisions to make every week.

The local Humane Society pays for spay/neuter for the shelter and the community animals (charging the community $10/dog), but Trisha and/or other staff members must drive the transport van two hours each way to the vet.

There is a local vet who will treat their heartworm positive dogs for the cost of the medicine, so when a rescue offers to pull one of those dogs, Trisha takes the dog for treatment and then brings the dog to her house for recovery.

Trisha (and Lala, Bonnie, and Monica we also met) work far more hours than they are paid for. Trisha works seven days a week, although she admitted she did have two days off in March.

Despite the rough situation and living outside 24/7, the dogs we met were friendly and looked good. They are all on heartworm preventatives and vaccinated on intake.

Like every shelter we visited on that tour, they had puppies. Multiple litters filled their inside kennels, and some older puppies in the outside ones.

Nancy took tons of pictures, and I gave out my entire bag of treats before we unloaded supplies for the shelter. I wished we had more to give –they need everything. They have so little in their budget for anything beyond food, vaccines, and preventatives. I checked in with Trisha this week and she said they are in desparate need of dog food.

If you’d like to help, consider shopping the shelter’s Amazon wishlist: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/1PYMDO4C83C2N

Or donating through their paypal: https://www.paypal.com/paypalme/monroeshelter

If you are a rescue who can help, even just to pull three dogs to keep Trisha from having to make another heartbreaking decision this week, please reach out to monroecountyshelter@gmail.com.

We drove through Monroeville and passed a downtown that showed signs of resurgence. It’s a cute, historic town. There was a large group of volunteers planting flowers outside the library. It seems like the kind of community that would want better for its animals, but perhaps they simply aren’t aware of the situation.

The shelter staff shouldn’t be left to shoulder the burden of so many unwanted and neglected animals for Monroe County and Monroeville. Surely, there are people there who would step up to help. If nothing else, the staff should be paid a living wage to do the enormous job they are doing. If neither the county, nor the city, will take responsibility for the shelter, perhaps the people will.

Which brings me to the point I make so often –this shelter belongs to this community. Their tax dollars pay for it, which means they have a say in how those dollars are spent. That money can be used to save animals or to kill them. It’s really up to the people footing the bill.

Until each one has a home,


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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.

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