The dogs of Helena | Arkansas Blog

Monday, June 23, 2008

The dogs of Helena

Posted By on Mon, Jun 23, 2008 at 6:18 AM

I've received a blast e-mail from Helena-West Helena Mayor James Valley defending his decision to loose stray dogs (he's broken no law, he says), but also pledging to work to establish a humane animal shelter in the city. It's a long ramble, on the jump.

An Open Letter to and Request for Help From Animal Loving Community

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Let me begin by apologizing to the good wholesome reasonable and sound
minded people of this community who have been dragged into this mess
about our animal shelter. I am sincerely sorry that a decision made by
me, in the run of the hundreds of decisions I make every day, has
brought the wrath of the animal loving world to your front door.
Please accept my sincere apology to my friends and neighbors for that.
I am sorry.

This saga has lasted too long and is a distraction to the good work
that has been and is being done in Helena-West Helena, Arkansas. We
are a community that has made a major turn-around. We are resilient
people. We consolidated two (2) cities about two and one-half years
ago and that effort has been marvelous. Few places around the globe
can claim to have accomplished such a feat. We have gone from perhaps
dim aspirations and dark days to glimmering hopes and glowing dreams.

We are on the cusp of an economic jolt in the arm. We have several
opportunities being developed which will have a very positive economic
impact locally and regionally.

We have a strategic plan that has been working quite well. We are
putting the finishing touches on a masterplan for downtown development
that also considers the entire city's development prospects and needs.

Soon, we can expect to build a brand new twenty-one million dollar
high school. A new state-of-the-art greenhouse nursing home is on the
way. New housing developments are being planned as we speak. The
phoenix is here.

However, on our animal control issue, we have a failure to
communicate. I accept responsibility for that. Our modest shelter was
closed, UNLAWFULLY and without proper cause, by a renegade humane
society from the southeastern portion of our state.

The American Veterinary Medical Association has said this: Ensuring
animal welfare is a human responsibility that includes consideration
for all aspects of animal well-being, including proper housing,
management, nutrition, disease prevention and treatment, responsible
care, humane handling, and, when necessary, humane euthanasia.

For five (5) months we, as a community, have forced our sanitation
workers to live with dogs in the middle of their work space. The
shelter was closed and a set of holding pens was placed in the midst
of the work area at the sanitation shop. The conditions were not
pretty for the dogs; no doubt. The conditions were deplorable for the
men and the women who worked there and had no connection with dogs
whatsoever other than smelling their feces and other waste daily.

The sanitation workers already have not so good working conditions.
The placement of the pens in the middle of that work area did not
improve those conditions.

I have broken no law. I was faced with two (2) bad choices; the choice
of evils. Let the dogs go or kill the dogs. I am an animal lover
myself. I am no murderer. The bad dogs were killed by the vet. The
other dogs were released. The released dogs were neither sick nor
harmful.

Robert Frost, author of "The Road Not Taken," might have handled this
decision better than I did. Sometimes, choosing the road "less
traveled by" makes all the difference in ways unexpected.

I wish I had said nothing about the St. Francis National Forest. That
is what has really caused a fuss. The dogs were set free on Storm
Creek Road near the St. Francis National Forest.

Our community, unlike many of the suburban sprawl areas, is surrounded
by woods; the St. Francis National Forest at the north and the White
River Refuge at the south and plenty of thickets and hunting ground in
between. Our stray animals deal with forest like conditions daily. It
is not unusual for us to see coyotes or wolves in our yards in the
late evening and early mornings. During the appropriate season, we see
deer, rabbits, squirrels and other wildlife in our yards too.

I have received calls, faxes, emails and other communications from
Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas,
Washington, D.C.; West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming to name a few.
Many, if not most, of these people have no real connection to this
area. They have not visited for one of our great festivals. We have
the Wild Hog Music Fest and Biker Rally each April. We have the
Arkansas Delta Family Gospel Festival and Fireworks Show each Memorial
Day Weekend. We have the Blues Festival in October of each year on the
weekend preceding Columbus Day. We have the Mother's Best Festival and
the Jazz Festival as well. They have failed or refused to contribute
to the animal shelter drive, which is now underway and has raised
$700.00. They do not pay any taxes or fees that support our community.
These people do not help build roads, parks or community centers in
our hometown. They do not help us with our education issues or crime
problems. But they were free with their insults. I have been called an
idiot, a dumb a**, a stupid a**, a cruel f***er, a good ole' boy, a
coon; a disgrace to my race; Michael Vick; stupid; backwards;
inhumane; an a**hole; asinine and unfit for office just to name a few
things. (I guess it is hard to imagine being a good ole' boy and a
coon at the same time. I have really arrived; big time).

Many do not understand that we have labored for five (5) months since
that terrible day in January when the renegade humane society (Ruby
Burton) slammed the doors on our shelter. Five (5) months of talk and
babble about the "love" of animals and how they would be taken care of
and nurtured. All of the dialogue, babble and talk left us in worse
condition five (5) months later than we were in January.

In January, and prior to that fateful shelter closing day, the animals
were housed in a shelter with ventilation and protection from the
weather and elements. At our sanitation shop, the animals were kept in
pens and kennels outside on the hot asphalt. The animals had no
exercise area and no real way of being separated between and among
sizes, breeds and conditions. In other words, these animals were
inhumanely piled into a cage as directed by Ms. Ruby Burton and her
humane society. These animals were taken from not-so perfect
conditions to horrible conditions all at the behest of Ruby Burton and
her humane society. This same society that wants me arrested for
conditions caused, fostered and developed by them!

I plan to work with any group of people who are serious about making
sure that our animal population receives proper treatment. I hope to
soon see a plan for control and management of our animal population.
The plan should include spaying and neutering, education of animal
control officers, building a shelter that meets national standards,
ample volunteer and community support, a good fostering and adoption
program; medicines, food and other supplies at the shelter; a serious
public awareness campaign and partnering with others to leverage our
collective power to make a positive impact.

If you have such a plan, please forward it to me at
mayorjfvalley@gmail.com or Mayor James F. Valley, CITY OF HELENA-WEST
HELENA, P O Box 248, Helena-West Helena, AR 72342; (866)-786-9885
(Personal Assistant and Fax). Your constructive input is requested and
encouraged.

I have already, working in conjunction with PETA (People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals) and the national humane society,
enrolled two of our employees in the Animal Control Academy to receive
proper training and certification in animal control. This is the first
step in transitioning from "dog catching" and killing to a full animal
control and management program. By the way, we have never had an
animal control officer that has received such training.

We are transitioning, I hope, from the days of operating a "Dog Pound"
to the management of an Animal Shelter and the full program that
brings to bear upon our animal population. No longer will it be
acceptable to merely "catch" dogs, hold them for a period of time and
kill them. We can, we must, we shall do better!

If we are serious about management of the animal population in accord
with national standards, we are going to need some funding. It is my
hope that some will donate to the cause by sending money in any amount
to our City Clerk, Mrs. Sandra Ramsey, P O Box 248, Helena-West
Helena, AR 72342 attn: Animal Control Fund. I hope that you are one of
those persons. Please, do let this opportunity to do good pass you by.

I will inject myself into a fundraising effort to assure that the
shelter drive collects at least $50,000 by the end of this year. I
have met, on a number of occassions, with Ms. Gloria Higginbotham with
the Delta Chapter of the Humane Society. She has been nothing but
civil and civic-minded. I applaud her and the Delta Chapter (not to be
confused with the Ruby Burton outfit). Because of our meetings and the
good will of certain people in the business community, we are off to a
good start with our fund raising effort for the shelter.

Furthermore, my wife and I hereby pledge $1,000.00 of our money
contingent upon 10 other families doing the same thing and paying that
pledged amount by November 15, 2008 to the Animal Control Fund. In
addition, I pledge to volunteer 50 hours per year for animal shelter
work or related causes once the shelter is viable. These things, we
hope, will cause others to focus on animal welfare in a realistic way.

Gloria Higginbotham and I met with County Judge Don Gentry. He has
pledged his support and we hope to make the animal shelter county wide
such that the smaller cities and communities within Phillips County
are served as well. I saw Mayor Sonny Foster, Mayor of Marvell,
Arkansas at the Arkansas Municipal League conference in Hot Springs.
He, too, has pledged his support of the effort to better manage our
animal population.

It's a new day for animal control in Phillips County, Arkansas; a new
day in the "Delta." It is our hope, belief and aspiration that you
will step up and lend a helping hand in this effort.

Sincerely,


James F. Valley

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