Dalhart shelter must find new home
By Jennifer Wilson
DALHART - Dalhart's award-winning no-kill dog shelter is being forced to find a new home.
City officials have given the Dalhart Animal Wellness Group and Sanctuary six months to vacate its current location on two acres of city-owned land near the city cemetery.City officials say the barking dogs - about 500 of them - disturb nearby residents and disrupt funeral services at the cemetery.Operators of DAWGS must find a new place to house their hounds."We hold out for the best that maybe someday somebody will step up and say, 'Hey I've got a piece of property over here that I'm not using,'" said Mark Trull, who runs the nonprofit shelter with his wife, Diane.
In 2003 DAWGS received the Guardian Award from In Defense of Animals, a California-based animal rights group. Since the shelter opened almost 2 years ago it has taken in about 3,000 dogs and adopted out about 2,400 of them, Mark Trull said."Very, very seldom do we adopt out locally. What we're trying to do is move the animals out of the community, not just recycle them in the community," he said.Before the no-kill shelter opened, the city of Dalhart euthanized 600 to 700 dogs a year, Trull said. That number has dropped to about 70 per year, he said.
The shelter started out on a small scale, City Manager Greg Duggan said."When it started out, we were expecting 30 or 40 dogs, a very small amount," he said.Today, with almost 500 dogs, the barking has become bothersome, Duggan said."Certain times of day, particularly when they feed, they all begin to bark at once, and it's very disruptive when you have funerals and people going to visit graves," he said.Officials considered letting the shelter move to some city-owned land near the airport, but they decided against it for safety reasons, Mayor Kevin Caddell said. Dogs might run out onto the runway, he said."We have looked at some other areas and have at this time determined that as far as property that the city owns, that we just don't have anything suitable for their project," Caddell said.
Mark Trull said DAWGS volunteers have known their current location by the cemetery wouldn't be permanent.But the land by the airport would work for the shelter, he said. DAWGS could built a facility that fences in animals and prevents them from escaping."The chances of a dog being on the runway are remote," he said.
Mark Trull said the shelter has been approached by a private foundation willing to fund the construction of a new building, but that foundation wants the city to be a part of the shelter too."Cities usually will say, 'OK here's 10 acres, here's 20 acres. That's our commitment,'" Mark Trull said. The shelter operates with donations, he said."When we first started this, we were very conscious of not trying to put any financial burden on the city," Mark Trull said.Because the six-month deadline will be up in the middle of winter, city officials have said they'll be flexible with their deadline.
"If we had a terrible winter and they couldn't work outside or that type of thing, I'm sure we would have some flexibility," Duggan said.Duggan said the shelter has benefited Dalhart."They've been a great service to the city, accommodating our dogs and trying to adopt them out," Duggan said. "It's just, in my opinion, got somewhat out of hand as far as numbers are concerned."