Ty Oppelt

New Monroe County Animal Shelter director Ty Oppelt and his dog Ellie May.

Monroe County’s animal shelter has a new director, a new driveway and a new outdoor fenced area as it aims for big improvements in 2019.

“To be honest,” said District 3 commissioner John Ambrose, “the shelter had been on the back burner for us. We’re finally giving it some attention now.”

Commissioners got that opportunity when a former shelter attendant was fired in 2018 for exercising at the gym on the clock, and they have now hired Ty Oppelt to be the director and manage animal control as its own department. Oppelt began as the director of the Monroe County Animal Shelter on Nov. 20, and is moving from Arkansas where he ran the shelter for the little town of Gruden, Ark., in the southwest part of that state. The county will pay him a $50,000 per year salary, but Ambrose said Oppelt will save the county money by supervising employees and cutting out the overtime the county had been paying shelter employees.

“We just had no management out there,” said Ambrose.

Oppelt is so devoted to man’s best friend that he takes his own Lassappoo, Ellie May, to work with him.

He said he’s very impressed by Monroe County’s shelter, located next to the sheriff’s office, saying it’s much nicer than the one he ran in Arkansas, which had no central heat or air. And he said the county has immediately made good on some promises to add a driveway from L. Cary Bittick Drive so that visitors don’t have to go through the parking lot of the sheriff’s office to find the shelter, and to add a fenced-in outdoor exercise area for dogs.

Oppelt said he’s found that Monroe County really loves dogs.

“This town is a little different,” said Oppelt. “People are a lot more animal crazy here.”

Oppelt said he’s already achieved one of his goals of adopting out more dogs rather than having to euthanize them. In the six weeks since he took over, he said they’ve only had to put down one dog, and he noted the shelter has only put down 10 dogs in all of 2018.

Oppelt has also created a new Facebook page for the shelter to encourage adoptions, which cost just $30, since his 23 slots are mostly full. Currently the county requires adopters to spay or neuter their new pets within 30 days, but Oppelt said he wants to require it before they can take the dog home. Oppelt said he also plans to do a Microchip Day at the shelter where people can chip their pets, which usually costs about $50, for just $10.

Oppelt said he owned a computer company in Las Vegas for 15 years until he learned 12 years ago that he could make a living taking care of animals. He said the Gruden, Ark. shelter was actually a pretty miserable place to work but he liked the animals so much he stuck with it. Oppelt said not only did he handle dogs there but also rounded up snakes and boars when necessary. 

Oppelt said Gruden, Ark. had attracted a lot more transient population in recent years and so wasn’t as friendly as when he arrived there. Oppelt said he’s found Forsyth to be very friendly, that when he comes to a 4-way stop the other drivers are always motioning for others to go ahead.

“I’ve felt so welcome here,” said Oppelt. “I’ve been blown away by that. It made me want to stay.”

To inquire about adopting a dog, call Oppelt at 870-406-0273 or at 994-7976.