| (Editor’s note: this story is the second in a series).
By Billy Davis
On Hendrix Road in the Mt. Olivet community, resident Susie Sullivan wants to know if Panola County will ever draft an ordinance that addresses the roaming dogs that invade her yard.
Sullivan said she has contacted the sheriff’s department about the numerous dogs, which she says belong to a neighbor, but was told no ordinance exists to address the problem.
"We need some kind of county enforcement desperately," she said.
Half a county and a river away, Lucius Taylor Road resident Kim Talley is saying much the same thing.
Earlier this week, Talley made a surprise visit to the "second Monday" meeting of the Panola County Board of Supervisors, asking supervisors to consider adopting a leash law to help prevent dogs from roaming near her home.
After the meeting, Talley told The Panolian that she appeared before the supervisors as a spokesman for the West Como Neighborhood Watch.
Panola County government has plans to tackle the overpopulation of stray dogs by partnering with the City of Batesville to help build and fund an animal shelter in Batesville.
Batesville Mayor Jerry Autrey has said in recent weeks that he hopes to break ground on the shelter in 2007.
The city will operate the shelter, Autrey also said, but city officials and supervisors must still work out details, namely the funding.
Still another detail to work out is how Panola County will benefit from contributing tax dollars to a city-operated animal shelter.
According to District 2 Supervisor Robert Avant, he envisions the sheriff’s department employing an animal control officer to pick up stray dogs.
Avant, who serves as board president, also suggested the county may clamp down on "loose dogs," which are dogs whose owners allow them to run free beyond their property.
"I think you have to keep a dog close to home and in a pen to maintain control of the animal," Avant told The Panolian. "I think the safety of the public is important."
District 4 Supervisor Jerry Perkins envisions a crackdown only on stray dogs, however, and suggested a "collar law" may be a possible compromise.
"A dog that doesn’t have a collar looks like a stray," he said.
Perkins said the board of supervisors "tossed around" the idea of a collar law in years past but, as best he could remember, encountered legal problems when the idea was researched.
"The problem I see out my way are stray dogs. It’s not dogs that people own," Perkins said. "We need to get the stray dogs under control first."
Perhaps no one in Panola County is more anxious to see an animal shelter in operation than the Panola County Humane Society. Though few in number with six active members, the organization has been a leading voice for the construction of a shelter.
The City of Batesville currently operates a pound located east of the city limits that consists of two fenced runs. The coming shelter will be a brick building with enclosed pens, an examination room and office space.
The design will allow the shelter’s dog pens to be expanded in the future.
Humane Society member Jana Burnham said she expected a "fun" time when she joined the organization two and a half years ago, but the romanticism faded away into a heart-hurting reality.
"It’s gratifying when an animal finds a home, but I see a lot of sadness and hardship," Burnham said. "I had no idea there were so many abused and neglected animals."
The Panola Humane Society maintains a help line, a cell phone that gets swapped among members at their monthly Tuesday night meeting.
Humane Society member Suzan Graves said she passed the phone last week after having "phone duty" during February and March. Asked about the frequency of calls, she reported receiving fewer than when she took phone calls last November.
The reason? She changed the voice message two weeks ago from simply "leave a message" to a more direct statement: the Humane Society is trying to help build a shelter but right now is not equipped to pick up stray dogs.
"Even after I changed the message I heard things like, ‘I’m going to shoot this dog unless you pick it up,’" Graves said. "When I hear that, I can’t sleep at night."