It has been a month since Cathy Bissell, founder of the BISSELL Pet Foundation, and her team of half a dozen animal lovers traveled by private jet from Grand Rapids, Mich., and touched down at the Grenada Municipal Airport for a quick visit.
Staying true to one of the Foundation’s many mottos: “Our pack has your back,” Bissell and her team’s mission that morning was to tour the Grenada Animal Shelter to perform a needs analysis after learning of poor living conditions that the animals housed there were having to endure.
At the conclusion of her tour, Bissell announced that her Foundation would give a sizable donation to the Grenada Animal Shelter for repairs and upgrades to the aging facility.
“I work with a lot of shelters across the country, so my limit was $50,000,” Bissell said in an exclusive interview with The Grenada Star following her tour on
April 12. “Of course, there are volunteers that will come do a lot of work through sweat equity. In a community like this, that’s like getting $100,000. We can make a big difference here.”
The trip to North Mississippi was prompted by numerous concerns raised by organizers and supporters of the Friends of Grenada Animal Shelter after learning they had been banned from volunteering at the aging facility in mid-March.
“It was brought to our attention that maybe this shelter might need a little bit more space for some of the dogs that they serve and fixing up a little bit of the cat area,” Bissell explained. “So, I brought a team of shelter directors, veterinarians and good people to help look at the shelter to see how we can fix it. We’re willing to put a little bit of money into this community to make it better – no strings attached. We just want to make a difference for these animals here.”
Bissell went on to explain how she learned of the shelter’s needs.
“One of the volunteers at the shelter had contacted me almost a year ago and we’ve been working with her – Jenni Busby,” Bissell added.
Busby and her husband, Dennis, addressed city officials during the March 21 Council Meeting after learning that they, along with volunteers with Friends of Grenada Animal Shelter had been banned from volunteering at the animal shelter. Reasons for the non-profit group’s sudden ban have never been made public.
The Star livestreamed the tour from within the shelter’s walls, which revealed less than ideal living conditions for the rescued animals in addition to structural needs such as a new ceiling, improved drainage and heating and cooling concerns. However, Bissell has toured shelters in worse shape.
“It is OK, it’s OK,” Bissell said of Grenada’s facility. “It could use a little bit of love. Most importantly for me, the facility itself can be fixed up. What we would like to do is probably put some kennel areas outside, so that the dogs can get outside and run and stretch their legs. The kennel space is really small.”
Bissell launched her foundation in 2011. She added that it gained momentum six years later when she went “boots on the ground” in communities needing assistance.
“I travel around the country visiting shelters to see what their needs are, so this is in my sweet spot of a rural shelter that needs help,” Bissell said.
As for volunteers, Bissell said they are a must at animal shelters, adding that it is a “real burnout situation” for one individual to operate.
“Every shelter I work with has volunteers,” Bissell concluded. “This is a small shelter, but you still need support. Otherwise, it’s seven days a week for someone.”
BISSELL Pet Foundation exists to support animal welfare organizations and provide resources to underserved communities. This includes helping to reduce the number of animals in shelters and rescues through pet adoption, spay/neuter programs, vaccinations, microchipping and emergency support or “Until every pet has a home.”