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Grassroots Efforts Saving Fannin County ‘Critters’

By Bud Gillett, CBS 11 News

BONHAM (CBSDFW.COM) – Some animal lovers in Fannin County worry the clock is ticking on their hopes for a modern animal shelter.

“Dogs love you unconditionally;  cats love you from a distance that makes you want to love them even more,” says Gilda Spiller, laughingly.

Spiller is among a group of Fannin County women who regularly meet to save pets.   Calling themselves the “Friends of Fannin County Criters” they have gathered nearly 500 signatures and raised thousands of dollars toward a new shelter.

Among the ‘Friends’ is Angela Barnes, who runs a no-kill shelter called The Rescue Barn.  “I could probably retire if I didn’t have all the animals, but I’ve just always loved animals.”

Pat Ward is a columnist who runs an informal e-mail network that alerts folks of adoptable animals that are available.  “There needs to be a way for people to have a choice in what to do with an animal that they’ve found.”

Unlike neighboring counties, the aging animal control shelter in Bonham is the only such shelter in Fannin County.

“We need an animal shelter, we really do,” says Bonham Police chief Mike Bankston.   His department is in charge of animal control.  “This building has been here for 30-years, it’s by far outlived its service but its the best we have but its certified by the state veterinarian and health department.”

Somewhat amazingly, the animal groups have commitments of $210,000 towards a new shelter.  But they’re worried the donors may lose interest if city and county officials don’t build a new one. Among those major donors is Thoa Allen,who claims her Rainbow Bridge Sanctuary has placed some 800-animals in the last decade.

Allen has 47 dogs here; she says she created the no kill shelter when she visited the Bonham shelter and decided that facility was lacking.   She even hired an architect to create a new shelter, with 30-plus dog runs, theoretically to be operated jointly by the city and county.

Fannin County is willing to donate property at a now-closed jail just west of Bonham.   But the $210,00 in donations doesn’t come close to matching the lowest construction bid of nearly $400,000 the city has received for the proposed shelter.  And cash-strapped governments appear reluctant to pitch in further.

Allen has some advice: “I think all big parties—the mayor, the judge—all should just sit down in one room and say, Hey, look, the tax (paying) people are just fed up.”

The animal groups have started a petition drive to collect 2,000 signatures to give to city and county officials before Christmas.  Spiller agrees.  “Public pressure; that’s the only thing that’s going to make them move on this is when they finally see the people that vote me in do want this.”

There’s some indication the message is getting through.   Bonham city manager Corey Alexander told CBS 11 News, “They’re not nearly as far apart as they were when we started, but they are still pretty far apart.   And if we are still going to get there we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to get there.”   Still he says it is all still possible.  “I think the will is there, it’s just taken quite a bit of time to bring it into fruition.”

Fannin County Commissioner Dwayne Strickland tells CBS 11 News there is also a possibility of a joint operation between Fannin County and Grayson County.   He will have more to report in the next two weeks.

For information on the Friends of Fannin County Critters, check out the Rainbow Bridge website, or The Rescue Barn.

  • prissy stephens

    i think thay should build a no kill sheiter for the animals to have for ever homes.

  • Joe in Fort Worth

    In the story on the 10 o’clock news, it was stated that all but two dogs had been adopted. I wonder whether that means that all the cats and all but two dogs are adopted, or that the cats are still languishing there. Those two little gray tabbies broke my heart.

    • Judith

      Angela Barnes of the Rescue Barn sent me this note:
      Hey Judy, more good news is I took 12 cats. Sad news is I think he already has at least 8 more brought in by the end of yesterday. We are going to continue to do what we can to save these babies. It is so sad there and the animals are so scared. They were loving all the attention they were getting though.


  • Sandra

    Thank you for keeping us informed Bud. I think we need to keep an eye on these “children” too.

  • Tom

    In a perfect worl, there would be no unwanted animals, but NEWSFLASH, none of us live in a prefect world Ithat’s right. Not even residents of Colleyville, Southlake and Keller!
    The fact is that a lot of animals are not adopable and there is no reasonable alternative to euthenasia. These folks rasied a few thousand dollars, which falls only about half-a-million short of solving the problem (at least to some extent, because the above still applies!
    We should treat unwanted animals properly; that is try to adopt them out and treat them humanely, but most will wtill have to be euthenized in the end. The real answer it for each of us to be responsible pet owners and to spay and neuther our animals, then, to keep them contained in or on our peoperty!
    We’re not ever going to solve this problems otherwise.
    On the other hand, shelters, like jails should meet certain minimal standards or not be allowed to operate. This includes the poor excuse for a shelter in Fannin County.

  • Rosie

    I know this is an old article, but I feel the need to comment on the “rescue” that Thoa Allen, who is quoted in your article, is running, because she herself does not seem to be responding to any of the questions that we, as those who adopted a dog from her, have to ask:

    A few months ago, a close family member adopted a dog from Rainbow Bridge. It was clear that her previous owners had severely abused her, but it is also clear that Rainbow Bridge never got her the proper care she needed. When we went to pick her up, she was completely emaciated, weighing in at about 20 pounds when her breed normal was about 45. When she came home, she would not stop throwing up and defecating all over the house, and pretty soon it turned bloody. We called the rescue’s vet where Ms. Thoa Allen herself had left the dog and they told us she had been checked over, nothing was wrong, she just needed to eat. What was strange is that, we had picked up the dog, but Allen said that she would send us papers later, and we would pay for her then. We tried and tried to get a hold of her, but she ignored every phone call and e-mail. It was as if she knew what was really wrong.

    She was soon taken to a different vet, by a DIFFERENT rescue organization that had decided to help this poor dog. This poor little dog had a severe hookworm AND heartworm infestation- the hookworms caused her to be anemic. Further, because she was so starved, she had eaten a TRASH CAN.. yes, that is right, a plastic trash can, that was not found for MONTHS because she was too sick for an operation. She couldn’t put on weight because it had been forming a blockage in her stomach. She had numerous trips to the emergency vet due to severe dehydration… the list of problems never ended. Months later, she still hasn’t been able to gain enough weight to fix her heartworms.

    I appreciate that these people want to rescue dogs, and I am sure much of what was wrong with her occurred when they took her. But, they clearly did not take proper care of her, due to the obscene amount of problems with her. The mere fact that the Rainbow Bridge owner/director IGNORED us when we tried to figure out what was wrong, and tried to just PAY for the dog, demonstrates their lack of care for the animal. If you want to help an animal, get them out of this wretched place. Now, Ms. Allen, please learn how to properly take care of dogs. I don’t care if this one dog was the only one, this should never have happened. The “rescue” should have taken care of this near-fatal problems before adopting her out and SAYING THAT ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WAS WRONG WITH HER. This is just despicable. I hope Fannin County can get a shelter soon, I fully intend to help, because I do not think a single dog should be going to that wretched rescue if this is what is going to happen.

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