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Where passion and duty intersect

KAITLIN MULLINS / Animal Control Officer Roxanne Norton spends time with a horse she and her partner Peter Rabbit rescued from starvation and named “Rock,” for his solid, steadfast spirit to live. “Rock” has a new home thanks to the efforts of the officers and their Facebook page dedicated to raising awareness and saving abandoned, abused animals.

KAITLIN MULLINS / Animal Control Officer Roxanne Norton spends time with a horse she and her partner Peter Rabbit rescued from starvation and named “Rock,” for his solid, steadfast spirit to live. “Rock” has a new home thanks to the efforts of the officers and their Facebook page dedicated to raising awareness and saving abandoned, abused animals.

The Brookhaven pound is no normal pound. Animal control officers Roxanne Norton and Peter Rabbit know they are the last stop for many animals, but they have used their position to go above the call of animal control and attempt to save the lives of the animals they handle.

About a year ago, Norton started a Facebook page for the pound in hopes to spread awareness and try to get viable dogs placed in homes or shelters. The normal functions of a city pound generally do not exceed far beyond the process of euthanizing dangerous animals, almost exclusively dogs.

“I started it just to get people up here and get them interested,” she said. “I’ve got great dogs out here that have great potential and could benefit from training. They’re young dogs, between 6 and 10 months old. People get puppies and when they hit 6 months of age, they dump them.”

Norton explained that while most of the dogs they deal with on a daily basis are pit bulls and pit bull mixes, or feral, wild dogs that very well may be dangerous to the public, many of them have potential to be people-friendly and even pets. Rampant illegal dog fighting has meant that almost 90 percent of pound dogs are pit bulls, but contrary to popular belief, dogs that become impounded are abandoned because they are not the vicious fighters or violent guard dogs their owners wanted them to be.0416PoundphotoDog

Norton said there are many dogs that she is able to rehabilitate and train to be safe and even loving, normal pets, depending on how old they are and how long they have been in the wild or suffering abuse. The Brookhaven pound, Norton explained, doesn’t have to put animals down often, only when the pound is full or the animal is suffering, and only the ones without hope of rehabilitation.

The Brookhaven Animal Rescue League, among several shelters providing assistance to the pound’s rescue efforts, has been a champion for the abandoned dogs of Lincoln County, taking the youngest ones to be put up for adoption at their shelter and also donating medicines to treat the dogs Norton and her partner Rabbit take in. While it isn’t very often that these dogs find loving homes, Norton said her efforts through social media have stirred much more interest in these animals and has meant the difference between life and death for the largest friend of the pound, a young horse they call “Rock.”

Rock is a 3-year-old Tennessee Walker, a common breed of horse in rural areas, whose owner neglected to feed him even after multiple interventions by animal control including impoundment. Norton said under the advisement of Police Chief Bobby Bell, and after monitoring the horse’s condition, Norton and Rabbit rescued the sick animal.

“All of a sudden I couldn’t find Rock when I went searching for him,” Norton said, explaining that he usually answered her call. “I searched the property, and there he was in a little tiny shed, crammed in there with an old couch, and he was really sick. So I called my boss and he said ‘Get him out of there — we can’t keep playing these games. Just get him.’”

Norton said she and her partner use his personal horse trailer as the pound does not own one, but Rock could not afford to wait for fear of worsening his condition.

“I said to my partner, ‘We can’t stop with this horse — he’s trying to lay down and once he lays down he’s good as dead,’” she said. “So I said ‘Let’s walk him, lets walk him to the pound.’ I told [Rabbit] to get behind us with the animal control lights, and I was going to walk him all the way to the pound.”

Norton said the three-mile walk to the pound helped stimulate the horse, who was fighting colic, starvation and hooves in bad condition. Norton stayed with Rock each day soaking his feet and monitoring his progress until he came around.

She said they call the young horse “Rock,” because “He’s solid as a rock. He was struggling, but he knew how hard we wanted to make him live — and he fought.”

Norton said Rock has since found a perfect home and is remaining at the pound until his new owner’s barn is built.

For those interested in adopting a dog from the pound, or for more information, call the Brookhaven police station and ask to be put in touch with the animal control officers. There is a $30 adoption fee.