In the Dog House 

Fayette County Animal Rescue is ordered to suspend operations.

Almost all the dogs held at Fayette County Animal Rescue's five-acre facility in Rossville have touching stories. Tiffany, a sweet-natured black pit bull, was shot in the hip. Another pit bull named Derrin is missing all the hair on his back after his former owner poured acid on him.

Tiffany, Derrin, and about 40 other dogs live comfortably at Fayette County Animal Rescue, the area's only nonprofit no-kill shelter. But if a handful of the facility's neighbors have it their way, the dogs will soon have to go.

In late May, the Fayette County Board of Zoning Appeals ruled that the animal rescue operation was operating in violation of residential zoning codes and had until September to shut down or find a new home. The decision came after neighbors complained about barking dogs.

Fayette County Animal Rescue director Gina Thweatt plans to appeal the board's decision at a Fayette County Commission meeting next month.

Though the shelter has been operating in the same location for 10 years, neighbors didn't start complaining about the noise until last fall.

"We're not against animal rescue, but we can't stand the constant barking," says Marsha Baker, whose home is located a few acres away from the property. "There's a proper place for everything, and we just don't want this in our neighborhood."

Thweatt says the dogs, who are housed in outdoor kennels, only bark at feeding times or when a stranger is on the property. When this reporter visited, several dogs barked for a minute or so but stopped shortly thereafter.

"We've started making some changes to help with the noise. We've put bark collars on the dogs, and we planted some shrubbery [in front of cages] to act as a buffer," Thweatt says. "We changed our employees' schedules to make sure no one was feeding really early in the morning."

The group has served as the county's main rescue operation, but due to the zoning board's decision, it has stopped taking in new animals. All dogs are now being placed in Fayette County's official animal shelter, which can only house 10 canines at a time.

"I know that our animal control officers have called Fayette County Animal Rescue numerous times to aid in taking in abused animals," says Jim Gallagher, the only person on the four-member zoning board to vote in favor of the shelter. "They recently aided animal control officers in a puppy-mill situation, and they had room for 26 [cocker spaniels] that were seized."

Fayette County Animal Rescue is holding adoption events in Memphis nearly every weekend to make the move easier if the Fayette County Commission doesn't overturn the zoning board's decision. The next adoption event is scheduled for Petsmart near Wolfchase Galleria on Saturday, July 5th.

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