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One of Paula Jo Mattingly’s goals as director of the Chilton County Humane Society is to reduce the number of animals in the shelter.

One way she hopes to accomplish this is by getting more dogs outside where they can run and play.

“If we can get healthy dogs outside and playing, people will go out and see the happiness in the dogs, and hopefully more people will adopt,” she said.

Controlling the flea and tick problem is one hurdle to clear before that can happen, however. She has enrolled the help of her husband, Joe, in cleaning up the outdoor area to make it more habitable for the resident dogs.

“We’ve been out here for hours just trying to clean it up,” she said yesterday.

While Mattingly is a dog lover, dogs are not her only concern at the shelter, which is currently taking in about 550 animals per month and placing only about 70 per month.

She wants to educate pet owners about their role in controlling the overpopulation problem, and make people more accountable for their animals, especially animals that are sick or malnourished.

“When they come in, they get sick so quick and they have to be put down because you don’t want to see anything suffer,” Mattingly said. “People should be held accountable for animals like that.”

Separating sick animals from healthy ones is another goal of Mattingly’s. She wants to install a ventilation system that will cut down on diseases such as kennel cough and upper respiratory problems. Healthy dogs, again, could be placed outside while healthy cats could be in a separate room from those that are sick.

“Ceiling fans work well to move air, but they are not pulling it out and making it better,” she said.

Another goal is to open up an area for a bathing room so each dog that comes in gets a bath. This, Mattingly says, would improve their appearance and increase the likelihood for adoption.

“I want to build a pavilion outside and make [coming to the shelter] a pleasant experience for people,” she added.

Mattingly, a Chilton County native and 1993 graduate of Verbena, originally studied law and earned a two-year degree from the University of Phoenix. Eventually, however, her compassion for animals overshadowed her love of law and she became a veterinary assistant so she could fight for the rights of animals and help low-income families learn low-cost ways of caring for their pets.

She runs a pit bull rescue group out of her home called Paws for a Moment. Many of the pit bulls have been used in illegal dogfights as “bait”; in other words they were thrown into the pen for other dogs to practice on.

Mattingly, however, is a firm believer that all dogs can be trained to be around other dogs.

The name of her rescue group expresses what she wants all pet owners to know:

“I want people to really stop and think what they’re doing. Having your animals spayed or neutered is so important,” she said.