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Grassroots Efforts Saving Fannin County ‘Critters’

By Bud Gillett, CBS 11 News
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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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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.

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