Animal Intake At Jefferson County Animal Shelter Suspended

According to the Jefferson County Humane Society, general intake of animals has been suspended. The announcement of the change in procedure was made public via the organization’s Facebook page on Wednesday, December 27, 2017. According to information provided by representatives of the shelter, it will take animals only when space becomes available through the placement or removal of an animal currently housed at the shelter.

Currently, the local shelter has 65 animals in house. A request was made for information on the shelter, including maximum capacity to house animals, as well as length of time the moratorium on intake will be in place. According to a representative of the shelter who consulted with the Board, the maximum capacity is whatever the Humane Society Board deems it to be and there was no information on the longevity of the intake hold. On Wednesday, three dogs and four cats were turned away from the shelter, though representatives confirmed that there was space available in the outdoor runs and those runs are used to house animals during cold weather months. The Board has determined that no outdoor housing is to be used at this time which is contrary to the historical policies of the shelter.

County Commissioner Randy Bales is the Chairman of the Animal Oversight Committee. Chairman Bales had no knowledge of the decision to halt the intake of animals at the Jefferson County Shelter. Recently, Bales and Commissioner McGraw, who also sits on the ACOC, lobbied the County Commission for additional funding for the shelter to cover a financial shortfall that would have potentially resulted in the closure of the shelter. A $30,000 one time contribution, in addition to their regular budgeted contribution, was given to the shelter in December but it came with the caveat that services were to remain intact until the end of the fiscal year 2017/18 which ends June 30th. The check for funding was tied to a letter of explanation of the expectations associated with the additional $30,000 in funds and it was received and acknowledged by Humane Society Board Chair Scot Lubas. With the most recent decision to alter their regular intake policies, despite physical room available at the shelter, the Humane Society/Animal Shelter is in breech of their agreement with the County Commission. Budget Committee Chairman Scarlett stated that Chairman Bales and Commissioner McGraw will report to the Budget Committee and the full body regarding the issue and will likely bring a recommendation concerning the additional funding. Though the shelter has already received the additional $30,000, as well as an additional $2,000 from the Town of Dandridge, the County has not paid out the third installment of the shelter’s regular funding which amounts to around $35,000. Should the County Commission rescind the additional funding based on the breech of agreement, it could elect to hold the majority of those funds for repayment.

Recent incidents at the shelter have resulted in a turn over in staff but according to shelter representatives there are enough personnel and volunteers to run the shelter at its former full capacity, which includes outdoor runs for animals. That may change by mid January, however, as two more staff members are expected to exit by that time. Changes in staff and upheaval with the Board over a several month period were touted as some of many reasons for the need in additional funding. The Animal Control Oversight Committee is charged as being the liaison between the County funding body and the shelter’s own board. Traditionally, the Committee would be apprised of policy changes at the shelter, especially those that were contrary to an agreement with the funding body, but as of press time the ACOC was struggling to find answers as to what precipitated the shelter board’s recent decision.

Shelter representatives have been told that a transport will likely be taking four dogs out for adoption within the next several days and those slots can be filled with animals awaiting shelter. As for the longevity of the current policy, it appears to be at the discretion of the shelter’s board and neither they, nor shelter representatives, have pin pointed a date that the regular operations of the shelter will be reinstated and animals can, once again, find shelter in Jefferson County.

Source: K. Depew, News Director

Jefferson Farmers Co-op 08112014