When ARK for Hart was first formed, many people associated with the nonprofit group expressed a desire to have an animal shelter in Hart County, but when they realized how much money it would take to build one, they took a step back and began looking at what they could do immediately to help animals.

That's when they decided to start a spay and neuter program.

“Hart Countians have been very receptive,” said June King with ARK for Hart.

The organization offers spay and neuter vouchers for $25 at veterinary clinics in Hart County, and sets up five times a year at various locations around the county to sell spay and neuter vouchers.

In the three years ARK for Hart has been in existence, 1,087 low-cost spay and neuter vouchers have been distributed to pet owners, according to a press release issued by the organization.

The next spay and neuter voucher event for the organization will occur between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Aug. 17 at the Cub Run Volunteer Fire Station.

ARK for Hart also has a foster and adoption program through which about 71 animals have been cared for this year and 64 of those animals have found forever homes, the press release said.

The organization began its trap neuter release program in April and a small group of volunteers have trapped 132 feral cats countywide. The cats were spayed or neutered and then checked for other illnesses and injuries. They were also given a rabies vaccine and then returned to their original location, the press release said.

A majority of the funding for the organization's programs comes from fundraisers and donations. Its largest fundraiser is the 5K Doggy Dash, which is in its third year.

“This year we raised almost $24,000,” King said. “That's where a majority of our fundraising comes from.”

Hart County was one of several counties that had a contract with an animal shelter in the Bee Springs community of Edmonson County for the housing of its stray dogs and cats. But when the director of that animal shelter was charged with second-degree animal cruelty in 2016, Hart County entered into a contract with the Barren River Animal Welfare Association in Glasgow and with the Bowling-Green Warren County Humane Society for the housing of its animals.

Hart County is still working with the animal shelter in Bowling Green.

“They would like for Hart County to wean ourselves from being dependent on them,” King said, adding the idea of being weaned from the Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society is for them to be able to fend for themselves.

Officials with ARK for Hart are meeting and weighing all the options that are available to them.

There is still a desire to have an animal shelter in Hart County, but it will likely cost between $200,000 to $400,000 to build one depending on the size constructed, she said.

“What Hart County would like to do is replicate what Bowling Green-Warren County has on a much smaller scale,” King said.

How soon that will happen is unknown, since the organization is dependent on fundraising and donations, she said.

The organization has established a building fund with the goal of using money from that fund to construct an animal shelter and to help support its operation, the press release said.

While it has made a good start, the organization is still in need of funding, the press release said.

The Monroe County Animal Welfare organization is also wanting to build an animal shelter, but like ARK for Hart that is something that likely won't happen for quite long time.

“That is so far down the road. We hope that is in our future and that is absolutely one of our goals, but that is way down the road,” said Susan Turner, chair of the Monroe County Animal Welfare Organization, which is a subcommittee of the Tompkinsville-Monroe County Chamber of Commerce.

In June, Gary and Julie Bowman of Louisville, who also own a farm in Monroe County, donated $5,000 to the chamber of commerce to help get an animal welfare program started in Monroe County.

Since the Bowmans made their donation, the organization has elected officers and set committees for fundraising, education and promotions.

“In three weeks, we've saved 10 dogs. We've actually placed three in foster homes right now and we have sent four to the animal shelter in Allen County,” Turner said.

On Thursday, the Monroe County Fiscal Court agreed to enter into a one-year agreement with Allen County.

“We made an agreement for delivering our dogs to their shelter,” said Monroe County Judge-Executive Mitchell Page.

The fiscal court chose to work with Allen County because it was the only county willing to enter into an agreement with Monroe County.

“All of these counties are facing the same problem,” he said.

The fiscal court will pay Allen County $100 for each dog that is taken to its shelter, which Page said is twice what the fiscal court had been paying.

The Monroe County Animal Welfare Organization also has a working agreement with Page and the county dog warden.

“When he (the dog warden) gets a call, the animal comes to us first,” Turner said. “Right now, I'm housing animals in my pens at my house, but they are actually going to be constructing a kennel behind the old jail. As soon as it is done, the animals will go there.”

The organization will notify the public via the Red's Rescue Facebook page and local newspapers that they have the animals and that they need to be rescued, she said.

Anyone who wants to adopt the animal, the organization asks for a minimum donation of $50 to help cover the cost to either spay or neuter the animal and for its first round of vaccinations, she said.

Daneka Whitlow, a member of the committee, said she feels good about what has happened since the Bowmans' made their donation.

In addition to electing officers, setting committees, developing an agreement between Page and the dog warden, Page has also agreed to build kennels behind the building that was once the Monroe County Jail.

“They have already started on it,” Whitlow said. “We are going to hold them here for five days and if we can't find them a home we are going to send them on to Allen County.”

Medical procedures for for the animals, including spaying and neutering, will be done by a veterinarian in Clay County, Tennessee, she said.

Turner added that the committee does not have the authority to go to anyone's home to pick up an animal that is being abused.

“I cannot go to a parking lot or whatever. They need to call the dog warden,” she said. “If they see an animal that is being abused, like it's being chained and has not been fed, has no shelter, has no water or whatever, they need to call the sheriff's department or if it's in the city they need to call the police department and they will work with the dog warden to get that animal taken care of.”

Whitlow is also caring for animals at her home.

She and her fiance are putting up six acres of fencing next week to house the animals that she takes in, she said.

Whitlow stresses that people who find a stray dog should call the dog warden first.

“The ones that I take home are just some that we don't have no where to hold them yet because we don't have any kennels,” she said.

The committee is accepting donations, which are tax deductible, of food, collars and leashes.

“We can always use those items,” Turner said.

The committee will hold its next meeting at noon on Aug. 13 at the Monroe County Cooperative Extension Office along Commerce Drive.

“We've got a lot of stuff in the works so there is going to be plenty of opportunities for people who want to help be it with fundraising or if they want to foster an animal for a couple of weeks until we can see if we can find it a home,” Turner said.

For more information about ARK for Hart, go to www.ARK4HART.org.

To reach the Monroe County dog warden, call 270-487-5505. To report the abuse of an animal in the county, call the Monroe County Sheriff's Office at 270-487-6622. To report the abuse of an animal in Tompkinsville, call the police department at 270-487-6191. For more information about the committee or to volunteer, call Turner at 270-487-5504.