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franklin county times

Russellville council hears appeal about violent dogs, animal welfare

“I don’t want any other families to be destroyed and torn apart. My whole world has changed,” shared Wesley Sheeks during the Nov. 7 meeting of the Russellville City Council.

Sheeks spoke of April 28, when his wife, Michelle Sheeks, decided to go out for a walk near their home in Red Bay. Unprovoked, she was attacked by a pack of “between five and eight dogs.”

“It was there our lives changed forever,” he continued. “I just don’t want anybody else to have to suffer like we have. She fought for her life that morning, and luckily she made it through that initial attack.” His wife did not, however, achieve ultimate recovery. The struggle to stabilize her and attempt recovery continued for the next two and half months. “It was a terrible thing,” he added. “I’m not going to go into all of the details, but on the 12th of July, she lost her life based on that dog attack. She never did get to see the outside of the hospital.”

Sheeks explained he is asking the Russellville City Council to take notice and take action – an appeal that’s part of a larger effort by Save Our Strays to enact lasting change across Franklin County.

“I’m just here to say I lost everything that was dear to me that day, and I just pray y’all do whatever it takes to make sure something like this doesn’t happen ever again,” he added.

In addition to Sheeks, others have been speaking out in Franklin County to share their concerns about violent dogs, particularly packs of dogs, as well as the general problem of an excessive number of strays, as well as incidents of abuse and neglect.

Chapel King, volunteer and vice president for Friends of the Florence-Lauderdale Animal Services and advocate for Franklin County’s Save Our Strays group, spoke during the Russellville City Council meeting Oct. 17 and the Red Bay City Council meeting Oct. 19 to share her concerns about the treatment of dogs in Franklin County.

Sandy Fortner, a volunteer with Save Our Strays, spoke at the Nov. 7 Russellville City Council meeting also, as well as the Nov. 1 Phil Campbell City Council meeting.

Fortner explained the work Save Our Strays does is all through donations, noting the group has paid more than $40,000 of vet bills in Franklin County this year. She said the situation is out of hand, and the group is desperate for help.

Fortner said it’s crucial for everyone to work together to bring about change.  “This is not going to get better,” she said. “This is going to get worse if some proactive ordinances are not put in place.

She also mentioned a problem with three groups of feral cats, noting Save Our Strays works to catch, spay and neuter and release in those situations.

“This is endless, and we cannot do it without your help,” Fortner explained. “So, I’m asking, what can y’all do to help the situation? What are you willing to do, and how soon can you do it? We are exhausted. This is (happening) every day.

Russellville Mayor David Grissom and Russellville City Councilman Darren Woodruff were not present at Russellville’s Nov. 7 meeting.

“We know it’s a problem,” said Russellville City Councilman David Palmer. “I’m certainly speaking as an individual and not on behalf of the city. I know that we’re going to have to do something to address this situation.

Fortner said there are only two county enforcement officers. “I know them both; they’re good people, but there’s 947 square miles in Franklin County. They can’t be everywhere at once, and this is endless every day,” she added.

Palmer asked additional questions to gather more details about the situation. “Obviously, there’s issues, and we’ve all got to get together and figure out how we can best handle them,” he added, noting the council will need time to consider the issue, when all members can be part of the discussion.

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