Atmore/PCI shelter now open

Published 2:07 pm Monday, December 12, 2011

A crowd looks on as Jenny Avery cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of the Clifford and Margaret J. Smith Animal Shelter.

Thanks to a joint effort between the City of Atmore and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians, a functioning animal shelter is once again open in Atmore.

Monday morning the new Clifford and Margaret J. Smith Animal Shelter was officially declared open during a grand opening ribbon cutting event.

Atmore Mayor Howard Shell, along with members of the Atmore City Council and the Poarch Tribal Council, met with members of the Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce and other local residents for the event at the newly renovated facility.

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Just prior to the ribbon cutting, Shell said the City of Atmore could not be more pleased to be joining into the new partnership with Poarch.

“This is a joint effort,” Shell said. “Animal control is important and we’re glad to be a part of this with Poarch.”

Shell also thanked the family of the late Margaret J. Smith, who donated $200,000 to help make the new shelter possible.

Smith’s sister, Jenny Avery, attended Monday’s opening and said her sister always cared deeply for animals.

“She just loved animals,” Avery said. “She just always had them on her heart. I think she would be glad about what we have done.”

With funding in place and the new partnership solidified, Shell said the focus will now shift to the shelter’s main goal of finding homes for needy animals.

“We’ve got your picture and we’ve got your name and we will be sending dogs and cats to every one of you,” Shell joked as he addressed the crowd.

PCI Tribal Council Vice Chairman Stephanie Bryan said the council is also excited about the future of the new partnership with Atmore. Bryan added vast improvements have already been made to the new shelter.

“We’re very honored to be in a partnership with the city of Atmore,” Bryan said. “The transition that has taken place has been totally amazing.”

The new jointly run shelter replaces services once provided by the Humane Society of Escambia County in the same building now being used by Atmore and Poarch. The HSEC pulled out of Atmore, and later other cities in the county, earlier this year due funding issues.

The newly formed shelter’s management may be the first of its kind in the area, but Atmore and Poarch officials have made sure the staff is not lacking in experience.

Kristie McGhee and Susanne Sirmon have signed on as animal control officers for the new shelter and Sirmon has a history of working with animal control in Atmore.

“I helped build this building,” Sirmon said. “I was on the board before as an animal control officer.”

McGhee said the shelter is now fully functional and praised both Atmore and Poarch officials for the work that has been done. Both McGhee and Bryan said Atmore Director of Public Safety Glenn Carlee, in particular, deserves much praise for his work on the project.

“Without his heart and determination we couldn’t have done this,” Bryan said. “He has played an integral role in getting this started.”

The Clifford and Margaret J. Smith Animal Shelter is located on Cindebrand Drive, just south of Highway 31, and is already accommodating animals in need of a good home.