One woman plans to present a petition to the East Ridge City Council at its Dec. 10 meeting asking that the city move its Animal Services Department away from Yale Street.
Rhonda Benton Haskew, who volunteers several days a week at the city’s animal shelter, said she has collected 600 names of citizens who want the small, aging facility updated and moved to a site with more visibility. A Facebook group called Friends of East Ridge Animal Services has been started, and an online petition can be seen there.
She said Monday that she expects to collect more than 1,000 signature to present to council by next week.
“I’ve had one negative comment from the people that I’ve asked to sign,” Haskew said. “Everyone I’ve talked to says ‘yeah, how can I help.'”
East Ridge Animal Services Department is housed in a 1,200 square-foot building on Yale Street behind Parkridge East Hospital. The area, Haskew said, is prone to flooding. Last March, during anticipated flooding, the dogs and cats at the facility had to be taken to staff and volunteers’ homes to ensure their safety, she said.
“It’s not so much a space problem,” Haskew said, “it’s a flooding problem.”
She said the shelter’s location, hidden away as it is, doesn’t provide the kind of visibility needed to make citizens aware that it even exists. Haskew said that she has spoken with many people who were unaware that the city even had an animal shelter.
For years, officials said, East Ridge had a “dog pound.” The pound was a facility where dogs were rounded up and if not claimed after a brief period were destroyed. In the early 2000s, the city contracted with the Hamilton County Humane Society to provide animal services. That agreement ended in 2008 when the city once again established its own Animal Services Department.
Andrea Dillard, the department’s supervisor, said that as of the end of October, almost 700 cats and dogs have come through the “no kill” shelter. Many of the animals picked up by the staff of three are returned to there owners or are adopted out through adoption fairs at area pet stores. On Monday, there were seven dogs and four cats (along with some kittens) at the facility.
Dillard said that she leans heavily on a group of volunteers who help care for the animals. Many of those volunteers don’t even live in East Ridge.
Dillard’s tiny work space in the front of the facility is big enough for a desk, a chair and a filing cabinet. The mini-refrigerator in the area does double duty as a repository for vaccines and the lunch that staff and volunteers bring.
“We are asking for an adequate facility,” Haskew said as she looked over some of the signatures on the petition. “We re going to ask for some place on Ringgold Road. I’m not sure we are going to get it.”
Haskew said that she has heard talk of possibly using the former McBrien School property as a new home for East Ridge Animal Services. She said there would be plenty of space there for the dogs to be able to go outside in a fenced area and run off a little energy.
“The staff does a great job down here with what they’ve got,” Haskew said. “It’s a location thing.”
Haskew said she is optimistic that the Council will take action in finding a newer, higher visibility site for animal services. She said that she has spoken with a number of elected officials and they all have told her that a new animal shelter is needed.
“It’s a matter of getting them to do it,” she said. “I’m not going to shut up until they do something,” Haskew said.
Petitions are available for signing at the following locations around the city: East Ridge Animal Hospital, The Book Company, Kingwood Pharmacy, Shampoodles, Corner Cafe, Broome’s Wrecker, Hot Dawg, Armandos and Total Health Chiropractic.