FAULKNER COUNTY, Ark. (KTHV) - Folks in Faulkner County have concerns that the tax money collected for an animal shelter in that area is instead being used by the sheriff's office.
For thirteen years, residents in Faulkner County have had the option to pay a volunteer tax to open an animal shelter. $500,000 was raised and a promise was made that a shelter would be opened.
Then, the building was converted into an office for the sheriff's department. Now, many people are asking: “Are we going to get an animal shelter?”
"Enough is enough. Rescues can no longer afford to keep up with the need that's out there,” said Danielle Maddox. She is Director of Arkanpaws Animal Rescue, a group that rescues dogs in Faulkner County, and sends them up north. Her organization has been pushing for a safe place for pets to go for years.
"People are under the impression there's an animal shelter in the works, but that's been put on hold because the sheriff's department is now leasing the building that was allocated as an animal shelter,” Maddox said. "It felt like a bait-and-switch. It felt like the building was bought with the intentions for the sheriff's office to move in.”
The sign proclaiming “future home of the animal shelter” is still on the building.
David Hogue, the Faulkner County Attorney, says it's about timing: a building was available and the animal control fund had enough money to purchase it but didn't have the money to operate a shelter.
"We bought it as an animal control building. We didn't want to commit waste, we didn't want to let it deteriorate, but we had to use it for something. Animal control wasn't ready to use it yet, so it gets rented to the sheriff's department for two years, so we are avoiding committing waste and we've still got our building,” Hogue said, adding the sheriff’s office will pay rent for the building, which will go into the shelter's budget.
"I have no problem understanding why some people would say, 'well, that looks illegal, because you bought it with animal control funds and it's not being used for animal control. Actually, at some level, it is because it's an investment."
Though Conway, a city in Faulkner County, has an animal shelter, there is not one for surrounding Faulkner County cities. The responsibilities fall on sheriff's deputies.
"It's really mind-boggling that this has gone on for as many years as it has. We should be more civilized as a community than what we are presenting,” said Maddox.
The County has not yet provided me a figure for how much money it will take to get the shelter opened. Maddox encourages residents to contact their justices of the peace and attend the quorum court meeting next Tuesday night.