People throw them out to die, starve them or, easier yet, ignore them altogether. "I'm going to dump these puppies in a bag and drown them in a ditch if no one comes," one caller said.
Madison Ark Director Hart Koller takes time to respond to such calls on her cell phone in order to rescue several animals daily. Koller used to return these rescued animals to the Madison Ark facility, until the city of Madison failed to renew the lease of the Post Oak Road building.
"There's a misconception in the community that Madison Ark has changed its name to Webster shelter," said Miranda Jordan, a veteran Madison Ark volunteer and cancer survivor.
As a result, many of the donations and drop-offs that are meant for Madison Ark go to Webster shelter, which the city fully funds and only serves the city of Madison. "When people have dogs from outside of the city limits, they call us," Koller said. The city confiscated the building and changed its name.
Madison Ark serves the entire county because many areas--such as Camden and the outskirts of Canton--don't have animal control. "It's a completely unserved community, and the need just continues to grow," Jordan said. Because of the lack of facilities and the overcrowding at the few animal shelters in the area, shelter workers euthanize many animals despite their health condition.
The Maddie's Fund, a California-based pet rescue foundation, reports that Mississippi shelters took in over 91,000 cats and dogs in 2009, and shelter workers euthanized nearly 61,000. Koller estimates there are about 80 to 120 animals euthanized daily. "The need is obviously to raise money and build a shelter," Jordan said.
Madison Ark currently acts as a network of foster homes for animals. "We probably have about 20 (foster homes)," Koller said, who volunteered with the Mississippi Animal Rescue League before volunteering at Madison Ark. She vividly remembers her very first rescue in Meridian. "I had gotten an email that they were going to burn this trailer down with the mom and her puppies in it." She immediately left Madison and headed for Meridian. She said, "I just knew that was my calling."
Koller now spends her days driving around the Madison area rescuing dogs, vaccinating them and taking them to the vet or a foster home. Her work and the animals' expenses are all privately funded through donations. "This is out of the goodness of the hearts of people in the local area," Jordan said. Koller admits it was easier to have one central location to accommodate most of the animals and to have a place where volunteer veterinarians would provide care for their animals occasionally.
A new building would also allow Madison Ark to launch an educational program for the community about spaying and neutering. "Without the shelter (the educational program) becomes very difficult," Jordan said. The American Humane Society reports that approximately 3.7 million animals are euthanized at shelters each year, solely due to a lack of adopters. Having your pet spayed or neutered could lessen the overpopulation.
Miranda Jordan always loved and had a passion for animals but admits she can't stomach the many horrific scenes of rescuing. "That's the thing about volunteering though, you can use whatever skills you can in whatever capacity you can," Jordan said.
To help, she creates flyers and coordinates fundraisers, and she recently built the new Madison Ark website. The website is broadcasting its latest fundraiser, The Mississippi Craft Show, to benefit Madison Ark. The event will be Aug. 25 and 26 and is 100-percent Mississippi and 100-percent handcrafted.
"At this show, we are allowing first-time exhibitors and booth sharing," Jordan said, adding that she's looking for more exhibitors, sponsors and musicians. "(It's) community supporting community on every level," Jordan said. For other ways to assist Madison Ark shelter, please visit www.madisonark.org.