Effort being made to find funds for South Baldwin animal shelter
Ideally the shelter would partner with Auburn Veterinary Referral Center and its students
By John Mullen
A trap, neuter, return program for feral cats in Orange Beach has blossomed into a regional effort to find funding for a new South Baldwin animal shelter, with representatives from Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Foley are meeting to come up with ideas about how to make that happen.
“There is a serious initiative underway for an all-inclusive animal campus to serve the tri-city area of Foley, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach,” read a post in the The Orange Beach Animal Care & Control Facebook page urging followers to contact their local government officials in support of the plan.
Tom Conerly, Orange Beach’s animal control officer and volunteer for the OBACCP, said the group is seeking a top-notch shelter and hopes to work with staff and students at Auburn’s new educational building on the Foley Beach Express and Gateway Boulevard, formerly County Rd. 8.
“The proposed multi-phase, state-of-the-art campus would be centrally located in close proximity to the new Auburn Veterinary Referral Center,” Conerly said. “It would include a true open-admit animal shelter, a centralized stray-hold facility for the three municipalities, overflow stray-hold and sheltering for the South Baldwin County area, a pre-constructed and designated pet evacuation center, an animal clinic and surgery suite to support the campus and the community cat TNR programs in the area, and other companion animal related support facilities.”
Gayle McMillan, a volunteer with the Gulf Shores Animal Care and Control Program, said ideally the shelter would partner with the Auburn facility and its students.
“We have been in touch with Auburn to work in conjunction with us so that their techs and those in training can actually have a hands-on opportunity at the shelter,” McMillan said. “There’ some places where tech students actually live on campus so there might be an opportunity there with dormitory space for the Auburn students to come live with the animals.”
Another part of the shelter program would take in animals whose owners die or are no longer able to take care of them.
“To keep old people from having to have their pets euthanized we’d like to offer them a retirement type of attitude for pets,” McMillan said. “So, it’s really kind of a modern concept that we’d like to build on gradually. We’ll start small but have the physical space to expand as this idea gets fully developed.
“We’re meeting on the 16th of January to try to determine where the money for the project will come from,” McMillan added. “That seems to be the only obstacle. Everybody that Tom and I have contacted, everybody’s on board, everyone has a humane attitude toward animals and they realize that this impacts the quality of life if we have dead or roaming animals. We haven’t encountered any opposition.”
Gulf Shores City Administrator Steve Griffin said the shelter recently taken over by the county in Summerdale is overflowing and another facility is needed.
“The animal shelter the county operates now is often at capacity and needs more room for animals,” Griffin said. “As we’re growing down here we’re seeing more local regional needs in South Baldwin County. That’s what’s been talked about. We just met yesterday and looked at a shelter in Escambia County.”
GSACCP President Tobi Waters said the Gulf Shores program got a boost and advice from Orange Beach when it wanted to start its own program in August. Both city councils provided seed money to buy traps and other supplies. Both groups are donation driven and staffed by volunteers.
Since September of 2017, Orange Beach has captured and released about 150 cats. Since starting in October Gulf Shores has neutered 32 cats, two dogs and adopted out 13 cats.